Archive for September, 2018

Bringing location awareness to Cisco’s Global Sales Experience

Every year Cisco brings its entire sales team together for an annual kickoff meeting called Global Sales Experience (GSX). Attendees are immersed in what’s new, and trained on the technologies and products they need to understand, over three long days. This is how Cisco account managers and technical sales teams are educated and enabled to go out into the field and help customers develop their own businesses while staying relevant in the fast-moving world of technology.

As a technology pioneer, Cisco naturally likes to make use of its own technology to enhance the experience at GSX, which is attended by up to 18,000 salespeople, hungry for knowledge. Solutions cover a variety of real-world challenges that apply to running an event on this scale, and easily translate to other scenarios:

  • One of the concerns when managing a large event like GSX is security. The operations team need to ensure that only authorized personnel are accessing restricted areas. The safety of attendees is also of paramount importance, so knowing they are present once registered is one practical step.
  • Every year many sessions are developed and delivered at the event. For better planning for the next year, the events team needs to know which attendees spend time at which sessions. It’s helpful to know which sessions are more popular or in which areas attendees spend more time. This helps with staffing needs for future events.
  • Attendees also have some mandatory trainings that they need to attend and there’s a need for an automated way of tracking attendance. This use case is similar to universities where they are hoping to track student attendance in classrooms.
  • Beyond the sessions, it’s helpful to know which attendees are at a specific demo and for how long they stayed. A survey can be sent to those who spend time in a given area to better understand how useful a demo was to them. Location-driven engagement can be applied to many different situations.
  • Attendee tracking enables the delivery of personalized messaging on Cisco Vision digital signage or in the mobile app, and can also recommend other related activities and sessions based on what the attendee has participated in. For example, this technology can be used to congratulate sales winners as they walk by a monitor display. Or a notification could be sent to a mobile app along the lines of “Thanks for attending the Meraki breakout! You might like the Meraki demo in the Hub as well. It’s right around the corner, so use the wayfinding tool below to get there.”

At the event this year the GSX team made use of Meraki APs with integrated BLE radios to address these needs, by leveraging the BLE beacons built into every attendee badge. The APs’ BLE radios are complemented with directional external antennas to provide a high degree of location accuracy: in this case, helping to distinguish location data for one booth from another at the show. The technology proved highly effective, helping the team build a comprehensive picture for the event, as this collection of statistics illustrates.

The visualization of this data is an aggregate of Meraki and partner technology, leveraging our APIs for access to the data collated by the Meraki cloud.

There are many use cases for the location capabilities built into Meraki APs, especially when extended via our APIs and third party apps like the ones highlighted above. Location-based services offer multiple opportunities to improve services, engagement, planning, security and more. To learn more and begin your location services journey, please sign up to attend a Meraki wireless webinar, or simply reach out to your Meraki partner.

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A Forward-Looking Network for a Fashion-Forward Retailer

Eileen Fisher’s strong commitments to female empowerment and sustainability set the high-end women’s apparel brand apart from others in the fashion space. Yet despite the uniqueness of its brand image, Eileen Fisher for a long time had to contend with many of the same issues that plague retailers everywhere: high network deployment costs, costly on-site management, and little to no visibility into disparate stores’ networks.

Nelson Diaz, Eileen Fisher’s Senior Manager of IT Infrastructure, had had enough. He sought to simplify network management in order to save time, money, and his team’s sanity. No longer did Diaz want to deal with unreliable off-the-shelf wireless or time-consuming troubleshooting tasks — he just wanted a network that worked.

“When it came to managing the previous infrastructure or pushing out firmware updates, we pretty much just crossed our fingers.” – Nelson Diaz, Sr. Manager IT Infrastructure

After evaluating a number of vendors that all promised to make things easier, Travis Laird, the lead architect for Eileen Fisher, suggested Diaz take a look at Meraki. Thanks to the simplicity of the Meraki dashboard, Eileen Fisher has increased visibility and control over their distributed retail stores in a way they had never had before.

Having implemented the new network in just a few months at all 70 store locations, Eileen Fisher was able to reduce its deployment costs by 40% and estimates that it will have saved 50% in WAN costs by the end of Q1 2019 with a full Meraki stack.

Watch the webinar recording to learn firsthand how Eileen Fisher was able to achieve these results with just a three person infrastructure team. Diaz and Laird discuss:

  • The network devices they’ve decided to deploy at every store
  • Their infrastructure plans to support growth, including an AWS migration
  • Their experience piloting and evaluating SD-WAN through the Meraki MX
  • How Eileen Fisher plans to leverage wireless solutions for marketing use cases

All is revealed with Systems Manager!

The Meraki dashboard is well loved by customers for its easy reporting and visual display of network and device information. In our ongoing efforts to improve this interface, the Systems Manager (SM) team has recently released a new Overview page that provides a quick, graphical look at the health and status of end devices! This page is now available to opt-in for all users.

Opt-in using the prompt at the top of the Devices page in your SM network!

The Overview page was built to give users the ability to quickly glean relevant information about their SM network, from device health, to OS breakdown, app and profile status, and security compliance. This helps users easily pinpoint issues that need attention or validate that recent updates have gone through — answering the question “what do I need to care about today?” for your SM deployment.

At launch, the Overview page allows dashboard administrators to:

Track Updates: Keep track of the latest app and profile changes and monitor how many devices have been updated

Sync Status: Quickly view sync status with Apple and Google services (VPP, DEP, ASM, Android Enterprise)

Security Compliance: Easily monitor security policy compliance to track devices that haven’t checked in in a while, have old OS versions installed, have been jailbroken/rooted, have exceeded data usage thresholds, etc.

The page is also updated in real time, eliminating the need to refresh the page for live information!

Here’s what people are saying about the Overview page so far!

It is amazing! It’s very clear which devices are violating a policy and it provides a very nice panel to see it. I love it!”

“This is much easier to read than the list!”

“Really like the new page and the fact that you can filter directly into each compliance within the device list.”

We hope you’ll share your feedback in the “Make a Wish” button at the bottom of the page. If you’re not already using Systems Manager, contact us to learn more!

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Auto VPN Meraki

Por Leonardo Sambrana

VPN ou Rede privada virtual, é uma rede de comunicações privada construída sobre uma rede de comunicações pública (como por exemplo, a Internet). O tráfego de dados é levado pela rede pública utilizando protocolos padrões, não necessariamente seguros. Em resumo, cria uma conexão segura e criptografada, que pode ser considerada como um túnel, entre localidades remotas.

As VPNs usam tecnologias de tunelamento e criptografia que fornecem confidencialidade, autenticação e integridade aos dados tráfegados. Apesar de ser uma tecnologia amplamente adotada, a tarefa de realizar a configuração desse tuneis, com todas suas fases, e em larga escala pode ser uma tarefa demorada e desafiadora. É nesse ponto que a Meraki oferece o recurso de AutoVPN.

Cisco Meraki Auto VPN

A funcionalidade AutoVPN é um recurso único da Meraki que permite estabelecer tuneis IPSec VPN entre localidades que possuem equipamentos MX (desde que em uma mesma organização) com um unico click. E nas próximas paginas vou abordar uma visão geral de como o AutoVPN se diferencia de outras soluções do mercado.

Inicialmente, antes de se pensar em realizar um tunel VPN os MX precisam saber onde seus peersestão, e mais importante como vão se comunicar com eles. Para isso a Meraki utiliza um serviço chamado punch, e isto é usado porque não necessariamente o MX vai estar conectado direto a internet, mas pode estar atras de um NAT, firewall, etc. Cada MX usa o punchpara se conectar a nuvem da Meraki.

VPN registry

Uma vez conectados a nuvem da Meraki cada MX passa para a fase de registro, chamado Cisco Meraki VPN registry com esse serviço, cada MX informa a nuvem da Meraki seus endereços IP. Endereços das interfaces internas, externas e IP publico fazem parte do VPN registry. Após esse registro a nuvem da Meraki age como um orquestrador e entende qual a melhor maneira de criar um tunel ponto a ponto entre os MX. Existem basicamente 3 opções:

  • Se o IP publico da interface do MX e o IP configurado na interface for o mesmo, o MX está diretamente conectado a internet, e esse enderçamento será usado para estabelecer o tunel
  • Se o IP publico da interface do MX e o IP configurado na interface forem diferentes, o MX está atras de um NAT e nesse caso há duas opções
    1. Se a localidade remota em questão for alcançavel via L3 por endereçamento privado (rede MPLS por exemplo) o IP da interface do MX será usado para estabelecer o tunel
    2. Se a localidade remota em questão não for alcançavel via L3 por endereçamento privado, então o IP publico do MX será usado para estabelecer o tunel.

E então a mágica da Meraki

Nesse ponto o dashboard sabe como rotear o tráfego entre os MX, sabe quantos caminhos existem entre os MX (o que é importante caso usamos SDWAN num próximo passo), e pode estabelecer tuneis ponto a ponto, usando o conceito de UDP hole punch quando aplicável. Portanto aqui temos:

  • Quais MXs devem estabelecer tuneis entre si e mais importante, como um deve alcançar o outro
  • Quais redes remotas são acessiveis por quais MX
  • Como rotear o tráfego para redes que não estão diretamente conectadas
  • E todo processo com ambos os lados da comunicação estando totalmente autenticados, autorizados e confiáveis atraves do dashboard.

Tradicionamenteo o processo acima descrito pode levar dias ou semanas para ser cuidadosamente planejado e desenhado. Após isso ainda muitas horas e linhas de configuração serão necessárias para se fazer a implementação de diversos routers ou firewall suportando VPN.

O AutoVPN da Meraki tem diversas vantagens com relação a abordagem tradicional. A configuração dos tuneis demora não mais de 30 segundos para ser feita, os MX atualizam constantemente suas chaves de criptografia, isso significa segurança constante e sem maiores esforços para sua rede alem claro da integração com diversos outros produtos através do dashboard.

Conclusão

Cisco Meraki AutoVPN transforma a complexidade tradicional de configuração de VPNs em simplicidade gerenciada em nuvem mantendo a segurança e garantindo performance e alta escalabilidade. E é inclusive a base para o recurso SDWAN da Meraki que é tão simples de ser implementado quanto o AutoVPN.

 

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Public Libraries: Going Beyond Just Books

Parents gather as children set up their LEGO robots in the competition ring. The task is simple: navigate the robot to help in several natural disaster situations. The first contender makes a few finishing touches, and the robot is off. It flawlessly makes its way through the scenario of delivering food to people who are stranded. The next teammate places their robot into the competition area, and it smoothly removes a fallen down tree from the middle of the road so cars can get by. All of the robots are impressive, and members of the Brooklyn Robotics Team cheer on their teammates as they continue to solve staged disastrous situations.

Scenes like the one above are all too common at one of Brooklyn Public Library’s (BPL) 59 branches across Brooklyn, NY. Serving 2.6 million residents, the libraries offer a vast variety of services and programs for library visitors beyond just checking out books. The Brooklyn Robotics League goes beyond just building cool robots — they teach kids ages nine to 14 how to code, work as a team, and practice core values. “Ask a Tech Day” provides drop-in technology services to patrons. Whether it’s a broken computer or a question about how to FaceTime, anyone can come by and get the technology help they need. At the central library, meeting rooms are available for people to conduct small business meetings, host DIY classes, or run community programs. Classes for all ages are available on topics including resume building, job readiness, basic computer and email skills, art, podcasting, and more.

The sense of community that the libraries provide would not be possible without the robust network and endpoint management system that BPL has built. Reliable Wi-Fi at every branch ensures that people can easily view entertainment, complete homework, and manage their businesses, on top of supporting the classes and programs the libraries offer. With a cloud-based endpoint management system, BPL is able to provide iPads, already configured with the applications and information they need, for library programs. Thanks to time saved from not having to manually configure iPads or be on-site to troubleshoot the network, the IT team and library staff can focus on providing the best services for library visitors.

This breadth of programs and technology resources was not always the reality at BPL. The IT team has worked diligently to turn a once consumer-grade, limited visibility network into a streamlined, cloud-managed technology solution that has allowed BPL to build the thriving community it has today. Watch the webinar recording to hear Rawle Jackman, Manager of Technology Services at BPL, explain why he chose Cisco Meraki as the network backbone for the library system, and how it has enabled them to provide new experiences for patrons. Watch it today!

 

Ready, Set, Meraki Go

Readers of this blog will be excited to learn that Meraki has recently launched a new WiFi solution for small businesses in single-site locations. Today, we are introducing Meraki Go, a set of WiFi access points tailor-made for small and home businesses, with features to get a business going, all managed by a new easy-to-use app.

Meraki Go enables small business owners to manage their own WiFi needs. With a simple guided onboarding process, users can configure multiple WiFi networks in minutes. This allows shops, restaurants, and cafes to segment their guest and corporate traffic for added security. Meraki Go users can also quickly set usage limits on applications, and block clients from accessing certain websites. This way, small offices with limited bandwidth can prioritize business traffic, and make sure video streaming doesn’t get in the way of work.

As Meraki expands our product offerings, we want to make sure that we’re listening to the needs of our users. This is why we have built the Meraki Go experience from the ground up. With features made for business but an app designed for humans, Meraki Go has the best of both worlds, and we’re excited for you to try it.

All Meraki Go access points will require a subscription (1, 3, or 5 years), which provides access to in-app support, as well as security and app updates.

Check this out on meraki-go.com today, or watch our launch video below.

Building the College Campus of the Future

When Dr. Ken Russell joined the Pfeiffer University team as VP of Digital Transformation, his goal was clear: provide 21st century learning opportunities to all Pfeiffer students. The first order of business for the Digital Transformation and Technology (DTT) team was to replace Pfeiffer’s aging network infrastructure. After attending a Meraki webinar, Dr. Russell and the DTT team knew just what to do. The advanced and reliable technology, robust troubleshooting capabilities, and easy-to-use dashboard helped them decide on Meraki access points, switches, and security appliances.

 

“We wanted something that was built for the future: something we could easily implement and maintain. The fact that the Meraki dashboard can tell us where things are going great, where things might have some trouble, was perfect.” — Dr. Ken Russell, VP of Digital Transformation and CIO

 

With high-density access points deployed across Pfeiffer University’s campuses, students and faculty can seamlessly access online learning resources. Meanwhile, rich network usage statistics, traffic analytics, and heatmaps are all available in the dashboard, providing the DTT team with valuable student and client data. Using the remote troubleshooting and management features on all Meraki products has been extremely simple. Scott Perry, Operations Manager for the DTT, shared that the team is “thankful” to have Meraki: “We’re able to log into the dashboard and see everything in one spot. You can make changes on the fly, whereas with our old technology we had no centralized management.”
 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNwVYcc77sU]

 

To learn more about Pfeiffer University’s Meraki deployment and how the university is supporting student success, read the full case study and watch a video featuring Dr. Russell and the DTT team. If you’re interested in attending a Meraki for Higher Education webinar, register here.

 

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