Archive for June, 2017

Notes Day: A Glimpse Into Meraki’s Engineering Culture

Written by Adam Berman

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Just over two years ago, in March of 2015, I signed my offer letter to join Meraki. I was overjoyed to join the company; it felt like a great fit from the moment I’d set foot in the office, and I was chomping at the bit to get started. Little did I know, I was about to walk right into a grand experiment that would demonstrate our leadership’s trust in the team.

Meraki was going through a major transition. The company had recently been acquired by Cisco and our founders had moved on, leaving us wondering: if we were no longer a startup, what were we? Would different leadership lead to different values? The new leads taking over for the founders were working hard  to identify and resolve problems brought about by this transition.

Around this time, several of our new engineering leaders read Creativity Inc: a book on management by Ed Catmull, the founder of Pixar. One section of the book resonated: the chapter describing an event called Notes Day. The book recounted that after a few successful movies, Pixar leadership realized there were a number of problems at the company they didn’t know how to solve. Rather than having managers develop and announce changes, Pixar’s leaders decided to open the floor, allowing those closer to the problems to offer up solutions.

Inspired by Pixar’s approach, Meraki’s leadership decided that the engineering team itself was better positioned to understand and solve many of the problems related to the acquisition and changes in team membership and structure. So, like Pixar’s leaders, Meraki’s engineering leaders made the nerve-wracking decision to put their trust in the team, step back, and let us run with it. Everyone in the engineering department was tasked with figuring out what we wanted to fix and how to fix it. Ideas would succeed because other people on the engineering team bought in, not because a manager approved it.

Designing the first Notes Day

The decision to create a Meraki Notes Day created a new set of challenges. How would we make sure that Notes Day would be a good use of engineers’ time and effort?  Meraki’s leaders needed to figure out how to empower the team to tackle challenges outside of their regular job description. The team needed to feel ownership of the problems facing the company, and they needed to feel like they had the means and authority to propose and execute solutions.

With these goals in mind, engineering leaders went about designing Meraki’s first Notes Day. Leaders made it clear that while they would help by organizing the event, they would not actually participate. Any member of the engineering team could propose problems for the team to tackle. An inspired engineer consolidated the list of topics and spun up an internal Reddit-style forum to post them on so that people could begin drilling down to root cause of each problem.

Since anyone on the team could suggest a topic, the compiled list of topics was quite broad. Some issues were highly technical, like challenges with our deployment process. Others addressed broad cultural issues, like how to best integrate new hires. Some issues came up time and time again. For instance, many people noted that we need to address problems with our interviewing process. Many people also brought up the importance of managing our technical debt. The bottom-up topic proposal process also brought some issues that hadn’t been obvious to leadership to light. For example, a number of people pointed out that our work from home policy was unclear, yet the Engineering leads had been unaware of that until Notes Day.

The Off-site

After a few weeks of discussion, Notes Day arrived, and the engineering team headed off site. Each engineer signed up for three sessions: my sessions were Mentorship, Mission, and Culture. In each session, 10-15 people discussed a specific problem. Each group analyzed the problem, came up with actionable solutions, and then decided who would take responsibility to move the solutions forward. Before we started with our sessions, one of the engineering leads addressed the team, reiterating the importance of thinking critically and building toward solutions. He then instructed us to power down our laptops and phones and get to work.

As I walked toward my first breakout session, I was nervous. I had only been at Meraki for about six weeks, so I was uncertain about my ability to contribute. But as our moderator asked us to think about our experience with mentorship, I realized that I didn’t need to worry. The room was filled with people who had been successful mentors, but far fewer had been mentored recently. I was mere weeks into being onboarded, so I had direct insight into what it felt like to be mentored. Our discussion was more fruitful because of the diversity of perspectives, and we ended up exploring some important gaps in our mentorship story. For example, as a new hire, I had a lot of questions, but I didn’t want to prevent my mentor from getting his own work done. I had no idea that mentors were instructed to spend at least 50% of their time early on getting their mentee comfortable working on their own. We realized that mentors needed to do a better job of communicating expectations to mentees so that they would feel more comfortable asking for help.

Within a few months, plans from Notes Day began to come to fruition. From the mentorship discussion, a few people ended up writing documentation that clarified the process for team leads to help train first-time mentors. Other discussion groups proposed broader changes. For instance, the discussion group on geographic diversity discussion resulted in a rotation program in which engineers from the SF office work with the infrastructure team in our London office for 6-8 week stints.

Iterating on Notes Day

Since that first Notes Day, we’ve continued to experiment with the structure of the off-site. This year, our UX team helped to introduce design thinking methods into the process. The UX team partnered with engineering leadership to help rebuild the process around our stated goal of solving hard, not-strictly-engineering problems. As they examined the past two Notes Days, they noticed that while some groups successfully narrowed down the topic to a specific problem, many groups got stuck discussing the problem, or discussing the first idea proposed, and didn’t get to exploring ideas or developing actionable items. The goal for this year was to use design thinking methods to help groups get to the core of a problem and prototype solutions.

The first major change was that instead of having a single discussion about each topic with everyone in the room, each session broke up into groups of three or four. The second major change was that discussions were structured into time-boxed steps. Each group spent predefined periods of time analyzing the underlying causes of a problem, choosing a root cause to address, generating solution ideas, choosing an idea, and determining how to test that idea out on a small scale.

These strategies helped us uncover problems that were not visible at surface level. My first session of the day was supposed to tackle whether or not Meraki needed a web focused testing team. Following the design process, we dove deeper into the issue and asked ourselves why we might need a testing team. We reasoned that people didn’t have a lot of confidence in our current testing environment, so we focused on figuring out ways we could build confidence that our tests catch bugs and prevent regression. Our primary takeaway was that we were missing integration tests, so developers had to manually test whether systems worked together. We decided to spin up an integration testing environment and start writing integration tests. Instead of merely answering the original question posed to us and then leaving it for management to figure out, our group came away with an actionable plan we could start to follow through on as soon as we returned from the off-site.

Results from the new process were immediately noticeable. In smaller groups, people who might have been hesitant to speak up became active participants. The added structure prevented groups from getting stuck on analyzing the problem, or bike-shedding the first idea someone proposed without considering others. Moreover, Notes Day overall produced far more ideas to try out, and far more people excited to invest in those ideas.

Though we only recently completed our last Notes Day, the organizers are already considering possible improvements for next year. Is yearly the proper interval for Notes Day? How should we group people who work together on a problem? Should we reevaluate the amount of time we spend on each topic? These are open questions that we will attempt to answer over the coming months. To figure this out, the organizers are following up one-on-one with people who participated to understand their experiences of Notes Day. We want to build on what worked well, iron out areas of confusion, and try new things.

Notes Day and Meraki culture

Notes Day exemplifies a key aspect of Meraki culture: trust. Our leadership team trusts the engineering team to find the best solutions to technical and organizational problems. We trust our coworkers to put ego aside, engage in tough conversations, and listen when say we think something could be better. Trust is at the core of Meraki culture, and each Notes Day is a reminder of how truly powerful that trust is.

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The Meraki Quarterly Returns

Four times a year the Product Marketing team assembles in our webinar room to share what the Meraki team has been up to over the past 3 months. We all live fast-paced lives in the world of technology. We recognize this and so created this webinar series specifically to give our customers and partners an excuse to take an hour out of their day, sit back and ensure their Meraki knowledge is as up to date as possible.

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The format is simple. We go through each of the six product families and provide an update on any new hardware or features we’ve introduced on each platform. The smaller tweaks we’re continuously making are easily missed, but each and every one has been carefully thought through with the aim of simplifying the lives of our customers. Simpler IT means more time to focus on what really matters.

The Quarterly is also an opportunity to learn about any interesting features which have made it to public beta. We are eternally grateful to our beta customers, who help us ensure exciting new capabilities are thoroughly tested before being included in our stable releases.

We’ve been delighted about the success of the Meraki Quarterly and always strive to make this a good use of our audience’s time. Quarterlies are always recorded and posted on our YouTube channel, but attending live is always more fun. Sign-up to join us on July 6th here.

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Another day, another ransomware outbreak

A new and potent variant of ransomware is making headlines in a cyber attack that shares many similarities with last month’s record-breaking WannaCry outbreak. Hackers targeted out-of-date systems in Ukraine, but the threat quickly spread to Europe and North America, impacting several major global organizations. Although both variants share a lot of the same characteristics, several key differences to the anatomy of Nyetya1 suggest hackers are not making some of the same mistakes that led to WannaCry’s rapid demise.

Example of a system infected with Nyetya ransomware

Example of a system infected with Nyetya ransomware

Talos, Cisco’s industry-leading threat intelligence team, quickly got to work and produced a preliminary evaluation of the threat, confirming that Meraki MX customers are fully protected by Advanced Security features including Advanced Malware Protection (AMP) and IDS/IPS. Newly released support for AMP Threat Grid also helps identify malicious binaries and build protection into all Cisco Security products.

Since Nyetya uses the same EternalBlue exploit used by WannaCry to spread, it is imperative that inbound firewall rules protect against remote SMBv1 execution (Meraki’s security appliance firewall will defend against all inbound connection requests by default). It is also highly recommended that all Windows-based systems are fully updated to defend against further spreading of the threat.

Example of Meraki MX with Intrusion Prevention blocking Nyetya Eternal Blue exploit

We will continue to monitor and provide updates on the Nyetya outbreak. To learn more about the Meraki MX, please visit our website or sign up for an upcoming webinar.

 

1Originally identified as ‘Petya’, the current outbreak is a Petya clone with additional enhancements including stronger encryption. The new offshoot is being described as “Not Petya” or Nyetya and also “GoldenEye”.

 

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The Next Phase of the Apple Cisco Partnership

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Apple CEO Tim Cook and Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins took the stage at Cisco Live! this week to talk about the next phase of the Apple Cisco partnership. Part of this next phase will be the Cisco Security Connector, which will completely change the story when talking security on iOS. It can be deployed on enterprise supervised iOS devices using Systems Manager, Cisco’s enterprise mobility management (EMM) solution. See below for an excerpt from David Ulevitch’s Cisco Blog.

“Expected to be released in the fall of 2017, the Cisco Security Connector is designed to deliver the deepest visibility, control, and privacy for iOS devices. The Cisco Security Connector offers organizations the most granular view of what is happening on enterprise-owned mobile devices and provides the best protection for users, anywhere they travel. With the Cisco Security Connector, businesses will now have the ability to meet risk and compliance requirements from auditors and ultimately expand iOS adoption in new ways.”

With the Cisco Security Connector, organizations gain the following:

  • Visibility: Ensure compliance of mobile users and their enterprise-owned iOS devices during incident investigations by rapidly identifying what happened, whom it affected, and the risk exposure.
  • Control: Protect users of iOS devices from connecting to malicious sites, whether on the corporate network, public Wi-Fi, or cellular networks.
  • Privacy: Safeguard corporate data and users by encrypting internet (DNS) requests.

Signup for the beta and view requirements here.

Start an instant 30-day trial of Systems Manager here.

Apps are for Mobility and Mobility is for Apps

With the mammoth growth of mobile device availability and capabilities, virtually all industries have been affected. This includes the creation of new IT processes, new teams, and new categories of solutions like mobile device management (MDM) and enterprise mobility management (EMM). Mobile devices offer leaps in productivity and automation, but there are not many products that truly make it manageable or scalable for an administrator and end user. That is where Systems Manager comes in. Last month, we went over some of the overall benefits of using Systems Manager in EDU. Today, we will talk about some practical examples of mobility with app management.

Mobility – Apps are one of the major ways end users interact with devices. They are also one of the ways businesses provide their products to customers. Imagine everything from mobile websites and Gmail to the SalesForce or even a calculator app. There are three main considerations when venturing into mobile application management. How to push apps, how to manage app licensing, and how to implement containerization. In the following three sections we will show more about each of these contemplations.

Pushing Apps – Nothing makes it as straightforward as Systems Manager in regard to pushing apps. If it is a public app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, then search for the desired app and push it to managed devices. If it’s an installer or private application, then upload it to the Meraki cloud or point to where it is hosted. With the steps being 1) pick an app, 2) select a group that needs the app, and 3) push the app, it is literally as easy as 1-2-3. See below for an example of some of the top apps customers are pushing to their devices today.

Mobility App Top 10

Manage App Licenses – App licensing and software inventory are critical in managing a successful app deployment, but they can be tedious without the right solution. The right solution is something that greatly increases visibility while streamlining the entire process. To accomplish this, Systems Manager not only removes complexities by combining inventory over many devices and device types (e.g. Windows, iOS, Android, etc.) but it also integrates with Apple’s Volume Purchase Program (VPP) and Google’s G Suite in order to simplify bulk licensing and distribution. In addition, Systems Manager alongside these solutions provides the ability to silently push apps to iOS and Android devices. This means easier management for administrators and less disruption for end users.

Containerization  Finally, there is a great need to decide on a strategy for containerization. This may sound complicated, but it comes down to one simple question: should managed apps and data be allowed to talk to unmanaged apps and data? In the Systems Manager world, if you don’t want private apps like an unmanaged Dropbox application or personal file storage to communicate with managed apps like a managed Box app or even a managed email account, then you want containerization. For an example of how simple something this powerful can be, see the configuration options for containerization in iOS below. It only takes deciding on checking or unchecking two boxes.

Containerization in iOS

Hopefully this provided some insight into the simplicity Systems Manager brings to mobile application management (MAM).

To start an instant 30-day trial and see things first hand, click here.

Introducing Threat Grid for Meraki MX

Whenever a file is downloaded through a Meraki MX with Cisco Advanced Malware Protection (AMP) enabled, that file’s signature will be looked up against AMP’s extensive cloud database; however, the file’s evaluation may return as “unknown”. AMP is capable of retrospectively alerting administrators if such a file is later determined to in fact be malicious with the help of the global AMP cloud. This provides security teams with the necessary insight to take action to quarantine a threat before it spreads.

With our newly released support for Threat Grid, administrators now have the powerful option to send these unknown file types directly to the Threat Grid cloud for immediate analysis. Once received, Cisco Threat Grid will execute the file in a virtual environment and will then analyze the file for over 825 behavioral indicators that may suggest whether or not the file is malicious. If a file is in fact determined to be malicious, Threat Grid will immediately alert all network administrators, and armed with a new signature, AMP will also block any new attempts of the threat from being downloaded. What’s more, if the file is malicious, Threat Grid’s analysis results will also be distributed via the global AMP cloud so that all other subscribers around the world receive the new threat signatures. With record-breaking threats like the recent WannaCry outbreak, this is an important, powerful tool to have in any organization’s arsenal, and instrumental in contributing to the prevention of zero-day exploits around the world.

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Example of a downloaded file that was initially permitted, but later determined by Threat Grid to be malicious

 

Example of a downloaded file that was initially permitted, but later determined by Threat Grid to be malicious

 

We’re incredibly excited to announce the availability of Threat Grid on the Meraki MX as it provides the absolute latest in dynamic malware analysis and a deep, beneficial integration with Cisco’s broader security services. Threat Grid for MX is available as an additional subscription to any Meraki MX* with Advanced Security license. To find out more, please contact your Meraki sales representative and ask about Threat Grid sample packs.

To learn more about this exciting new capability please visit our website or view our product video.

 

 

*Threat Grid is not currently available on MX400 and MX600 models.

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Wishing Everyone a Happy Pride

To celebrate Pride Month here in San Francisco — and the enormous progress made on LGBTQ rights since the momentous ruling on California’s Proposition 8 nearly a decade ago — we were thrilled to throw open our doors to the public for an in-house, private screening of The Campaign, a documentary about the fight against Prop 8 and the battle to defend same-sex marriage statewide.

Celebrating diversity at Meraki

Meraki’s main cafe transformed into a screening room, complete with surround sound.

 

Award-winning filmmaker, Christie Herring, who directed and produced The Campaign, was onsite to take questions and speak about the relevance of the film in today’s context. Christie’s strong interest in documenting issues pertaining to social justice and current events (she also produced and edited the film, Code: Debugging the Gender Gap, exploring the reasons and repercussions of the gender and minority gap in software engineering), has given her a front-row seat to historical occurrences like Prop 8 — so we thoroughly enjoyed hearing her perspective about what happened during that campaign.

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Christie Herring’s editing and producing credits include work with PBS, National Geographic, A&E, as well as nonprofit and corporate clients.

 

Ultimately, Pride month is an opportunity for all of us to celebrate our differences, our similarities, and what binds us together: our humanity. At Meraki, a core value is inclusion — and every day we learn from each other that there is more uniting us than dividing us, and that from our different experiences, opinions, and ideas spring a collective creativity we could not have harnessed otherwise.

Diversity, quite simply, is necessary to our success.

So, from all of us to all of you — no matter what race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, height, hair color, political affiliation, or professed sports team lover — you happen to be, we wish you a very Happy Pride, and celebrate that you are here today to contribute your unique points of view to the world.

We thank Meraki’s QFAM (Queers and Friends at Meraki) Club and our Software and Engineering team for co-sponsoring such a fun and fabulous event. To close, here are a few memories from the evening:

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Getting into the movie-watching mood.

 

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Some of the roughly 100 attendees who came to toast Pride with us.

 

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A few of our wonderful Meraki volunteers, wearing our fabulous Pride 2017 shirt.

 

 

 

 

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Meraki at Cisco Live! Las Vegas 2017

The Meraki team has been hard at work gearing up for Cisco’s biggest event of the year, Cisco Live! Las Vegas. A week from now, we will be in full force at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, NV, excited to show you our latest developments.

With 12 demos in our booth at the Cisco Campus, a myriad of speaking sessions including 2 Innovation Showcases, a full-blown presence and Developer Kit giveaway in the DevNet Zone, one-on-one meetings with our Product and Exec team and an awesome customer party, it won’t be hard to find us at Cisco Live!

This year, we are highlighting our newest product, the Meraki Security Camera. Come by the booth to take a closer look with our exclusive feature wall and live camera demo. Additionally, for the first time ever, we are debuting a brand new demo of our Meraki APIs! If you thought the Dashboard was cool, wait until you see what our APIs can do on top of it.

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Of course, don’t forget to sign up in the Session Catalog today for one (or more) of our presentations below!

INNOVATION SHOWCASE | Todd Nightingale, SVP Cisco Meraki

Tuesday, June 27
2:00 PM: Meraki Simplicity Driving Nimble IT
6:00 PM: Enabling Digital Business with Meraki

TECHNICAL BREAKOUTS

Monday, June 26
3:00 – 4:00PM: Next Generation Connectivity with Meraki SD-WAN

Tuesday, June 27
8:00 AM – 12:00 PM: Meraki Cloud Managed IT: Portfolio and Platform
9:15 – 10:00 AM: DNA Deep Dive: EN, Meraki, SW Lifecycle

Wednesday, June 28
3:45 – 4:15 PM: Camera As A Sensor For The Enterprise, Not Just A Tool For Security
4:00 – 5:00 PM: Cloud-managed Security For Distributed Networks With Cisco Meraki MX

DEVNET ZONE

*Calling all developers – be sure to stop by the DevNet Zone to see how you can participate in a Meraki mini hack or learning lab to enter to win a free Developers Kit!*

Monday, June 26
10:00 – 10:45 AM: Engagement With Meraki Splash API
12:00 – 12:45 PM: Rest Apis With Postman & Node-red
1:00 – 1:45 PM: Analytics With Meraki CMX Location API
3:00 – 3:45 PM: Cisco Meraki Developers: Cloud As A Platform
3:00 – 3:45 PM: Mobility Presence And Operational Intelligence With Splunk And Meraki
4:00 – 4:45 PM: Cisco’s New Bluetooth CMX Location

Tuesday, June 27
1:00 – 1:45 PM: Analytics With Meraki CMX Location API
3:00 – 3:45 PM: Mobility Presence And Operational Intelligence With Splunk And Meraki
5:00 – 5:45 PM: Programmability In Action: Government Analytics And Intelligence Platform

Wednesday, June 28
10:00 – 10:45 PM: Engagement With Meraki Splash API
12:00 – 12:45 PM: Rest Apis With Postman & Node-red
1:00 – 1:45 PM: Automation With Meraki Provisioning API
2:00 – 2:45 PM: Cisco’s New Bluetooth CMX Location
5:00 – 5:45 PM: Python Scripting With Cisco APIS    

Thursday, June 29
10:00 – 10:45 PM: {Meraki:Connect} APIs Configured Wi-Fi Hotspot
12:00 – 12:45 PM: Bluetooth Asset Tracking
1:00 – 1:45 PM: Automation With Meraki Provisioning API

We weren’t kidding when we said we were taking over Cisco Live! Las Vegas this year. We hope to see you at the show next week!

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Unboxed: the MR30H

If you haven’t had a chance to deploy one of our MR30H access points, you may not realize how easy it is to get them up and running. How easy, you wonder? We bet you’ll spend most of your deployment time unscrewing the faceplates of your ethernet drops; the actual AP installation takes only a minute or two.

Maybe you’re also wondering how large the MR30H is in real life and want to see some handheld images of it. Perhaps you have questions about how to securely lock the AP to its mount plate. Or maybe you’re curious about an upcoming accessory for the AP slated for release later this summer (hint: it rhymes with “racer”).

Regardless, take a few minutes to check out our latest video — an MR30H unboxing bonanza — for glimpse of the box-to-install experience.

For more information on the MR30H, check out our data sheet and blog post! As always, we welcome your feedback and encourage you to reach out to us via Twitter or Facebook and let us know your thoughts!

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We’ve launched… our Startup Kit in Europe!

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Meraki was once a startup too, and we understand the experience of growing pains: limited resources, scrappy last-minute projects, and staying at the office late into the night. Back then, we appreciated all the help we could get. Now, we want to support your network infrastructure and help you save time, resources, and money, so we’re giving you a chance to win a Meraki Startup Kit.

The Meraki Startup Kit promotion was a hit in the USA, Canada, and Australia, and this year we’re excited to be able to help European startups grow their business.

The Meraki Startup Kit is a full stack of free networking hardware and licensing that will power your day-to-day operations and let you focus on growing your business. It’s composed of:

We want to give these kits to organisations that will receive the most value from them, so to be eligible your startup must:

  • Have raised series A funding from VC firms and/or established angel investors
  • Be headquartered and registered, or incorporated, in the EEA
  • Have not previously received promotional Meraki gear
  • Submit the application form by 30 June 2017 at 11:59pm CET

The Meraki Startup Kit for Europe is a limited-time offer. Enter between the 15th and 30th of June 2017 for a chance to receive your own Meraki Startup Kit!

If you’re reading this but are not part of a startup, please share it with a friend who is!

If you’re not eligible but want to try our products for free, sign up for a webinar in your language and get a free Meraki device to try in your environment.

Learn more about Meraki, our products, and/or the Startup Kit here.

If you have any questions about this promotion, please email [email protected].

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