Step anywhere on Butler University’s campus and you’ll see students swaying in hammocks in the outdoor quad, collaborating in large lecture halls, and cheering on the Butler Bulldogs at Hinkle Fieldhouse, all with a cell phone or laptop in hand. Butler was founded on the idea that everyone deserves access to a quality education, so it’s no surprise that the University’s leaders strive to provide equal access to all students and faculty by supplying campus-wide Wi-Fi. With more than 1,300 Cisco Meraki indoor and outdoor access points (APs) deployed across the campus, students can seamlessly connect wherever they are with no interruption to their education. The wireless upgrade also provided many unforeseen benefits to the IT team, directly impacting how they spend their time to improve everyday student life including ease of deployment, providing reliable connections, and gaining access to actionable insights.
Connecting 100,000 devices with the cloud-managed Wi-Fi
To the IT team’s surprise, the group who installed the cloud-managed access points didn’t need to have deep technical knowledge. The team deploying the APs comprised of both full-time IT staff and student workers, who together were able to deploy all 1,300+ APs across the campus in less than two weeks. This was made possible because of the cloud-managed Meraki dashboard, which allowed IT to preconfigure the devices before they arrived. They also used configuration templates, allowing the team to apply the same configuration to hundreds of devices and install them for immediate use. This enabled the student workers to simply plug the devices in and they were ready for use. In the last year since the deployment, over 100,000 devices have traversed the network, which has worked seamlessly for users.
High density with automated assurance
Once the deployment was complete, it was immediately apparent that connections were more reliable, there was better coverage, and more robust troubleshooting tools were available for faster time to resolution. Students now have the same experience using their laptops in their dorm room as they do in the outdoor quad, ensuring they can stay connected no matter where they are on campus. With higher density APs, the IT team has seen hundreds of students seamlessly connect in a lecture hall and use the devices they need to without issue. They can also see where the most bandwidth is being used and on what application, and can limit the amount of bandwidth certain applications or devices are using to improve connection reliability and speed across campus. Instead of acting reactively to issues affecting the wireless network or running complicated scripts to verify wireless performance, the IT team now uses automated assurance with MerakiWireless Health. They can quickly see the number of failed connections, obtain automated performance metrics, and provide root cause analysis of client connection issues. Different wireless needs exist across various environments on campus, including lecture halls, dorm rooms, stadiums, and outdoor spaces, and it was traditionally challenging to meet their different configuration needs. With Meraki, the IT team was able to create pre-defined and customizable RF Profiles to apply RF settings across all of their diverse environments.
The network as a platform
While providing reliable wireless access was the original IT team’s goal with their AP deployment, they quickly realized there was so much more they could do with their new solution. The information and tools already made available in the Meraki dashboard can inform how to design the campus moving forward, help improve student safety, allow them to personalize student experiences, and more. With Bluetooth beacons, they can send personalized communications to students that are connected to an AP in the dining hall, student center, or science building. By leveraging the Meraki API, they can pull data out of the dashboard and use it in other systems and tools to continue improving the student experience. With the vast amounts of data available at their fingertips, the IT team is continuing to explore new ways to take advantage of these insights and apply them to the University going forward.
Butler University is a pioneer in deploying innovative technology in the higher education industry. To learn why they chose Meraki wireless, how they were able to complete their deployment so quickly, how they leverage non-technical staff to manage and troubleshoot the network, and how they are thinking about using wireless data to do more than just provide access, watch the on demand webinar. Peter Williams, Associate Vice President of IT and Chief Information Officer, and Michael Denny, Network and Security Architect, at Butler University walk us through their Meraki deployment, including a live demo of their Meraki dashboard. Watch now.
Last week, several members from the Meraki product management and product marketing teams huddled in the webinar room at our SF headquarters to present the Meraki Quarterly. The Quarterly takes place every three months and highlights new product innovations that took place over the last quarter. The intent of the Quarterly is not only to keep customers informed about the latest and greatest updates from Meraki, but also to provide customers with an opportunity to get their questions answered by Meraki product experts.
While we were thrilled to see over one thousand registrants for last week’s webinar, we recognize that not all those who registered were able to attend and that some people would prefer a written summary over watching an hour-long webinar. For these folks, here’s a recap of what we discussed.
1. Meraki MV: Small improvements, big impact
The MV smart camera line took a major step forward in April when we introduced the MV32 — our first fisheye camera with the capability to capture 180° of footage — and Motion Recap 2.0, which helps IT admins see motion at a glance by capturing motion in a single image. In the last few months, we’ve made Motion Recap more useful by making the images it captures available in Motion Alert emails and by providing admins the option to disable Motion Recap for bandwidth-constrained networks.
But Motion Recap isn’t the only thing we’ve been working on in the world of MV. We also introduced export checksums, which helps admins ensure that exported footage hasn’t been tampered with, and we extended the retention of exported video to 12 months. Admins now also have the ability to retain captured video when moving a camera from one network to another — e.g., from one office location to another. Finally, a small but useful improvement in the Meraki dashboard is that users no longer lose the tab they’re on (e.g., “Quality and Retention” or “Analytics”) when paging through different cameras.
2. Systems Manager: Playing games and taking names
Customers in every industry use Meraki Systems Manager (SM), Cisco’s official endpoint management tool, to manage devices of all stripes. But there’s one industry that’s particularly excited about SM: education. To help IT admins in education, teachers, and students get excited about SM, we hosted an escape room game at ISTE 2019, the largest K-12 technology show in the US. SM was a key part of the game, with players using SM to solve various puzzles by performing common tasks, like deploying apps and documents to devices.
This past quarter, we also announced a couple of enhancements to SM on the dashboard side. Building and deploying custom profiles is now a lot more scalable and simpler than before thanks to the ability to automate custom Apple profiles with variables; admins no longer have to manually build these profiles one by one. Additionally, end users who want access to corporate email can now upload their own identity certificates through the Self-Service Portal, so IT admins no longer have to create certificates for all their users. These certificates will appear in the Meraki dashboard, so admins will continue to be aware of all the end users with access to corporate email.
3. Why-Fi 6? We’ll tell you
One of our most exciting product launches in recent memory took place this past quarter as we debuted the newest Meraki wireless access points, the MR45 and MR55, equipped with Wi-Fi 6. The new wireless standard is far from a mere spec bump; Wi-Fi 6 is a meaningful step forward that enables higher throughput, higher density, and greater energy efficiency. With features like Target Wake Time, MU-MIMO, and dual 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz radios, the MR45 and MR55 set the standard for the next generation of wireless.
Of course, talking about Wi-Fi 6 isn’t as fun as seeing it deployed live. To that end, during the Quarterly, we highlighted a few real-life deployments of the MR45 and MR55. One of the first deployments of Meraki Wi-Fi 6 was McLaren, the automotive company, where the new APs proved so popular that different teams were moving the APs around to serve their own high density and high throughput purposes. Wi-Fi 6 also proved a popular draw at the US Open, where over 350 of the latest Meraki APs blanketed the course and allowed players and spectators to share, tweet, post, and communicate to their heart’s content.
4. A switch in time saves nine
As any IT admin knows, switches are a crucial part of any network deployment. In the Quarterly, we started by discussing a few key trends we’ve recently observed that are shaping the world of switching: live video streaming & video-first services, more PoE-capable devices, a steady evolution of always-on, power-hungry IoT devices, and inadequate uplink capacity. To address these needs, we just introduced the MS125 access layer switch, which helps admins future-proof their networks by offering 4x10G SFP+ uplinks.
Here’s how the MS125 compares with the MS120 and MS210:
5. Getting Cloudy
Meraki was, of course, born in the cloud, so this is an area of intense excitement for us. First up, this last quarter, we introduced the Meraki Developer Hub and APIs Marketplace, one-stop shops with everything you need to build or buy solutions on top of the Meraki platform. Second, we announced new partner integrations with PagerDuty, Ansible, and OneLogin to help customers make the most of their Meraki deployments. Third, we highlighted action batches and several new endpoints. Finally, we announced that Meraki will be included in a few brand new DevNet certifications coming in early 2020.
That’s a lot of cloud and API announcements! To get a full sense for the Meraki APIs story, sign up for our next Cloud Services and APIs webinar.
6. Security and SD-WAN
Over the last quarter, the Meraki MX team has been hard at work to make our security and SD-WAN appliances more flexible and easier to manage. One of the ways we’ve done that is by debuting a whole new host of API endpoints so developers can use other applications to configure and manage an MX, whether they want to update the MX Layer 7 firewall rules for an MX network or view and update content filtering settings for group policies.
Something we know lots of our customers will be excited about is the news that HTTPS inspection is now in beta. We haven’t yet announced a final release date, but if you’d like to give this feature a try on your own network, contact your sales engineer, sales rep, or Meraki support!
7. Insight into Insight
With Slack and Office 365 recently suffering server outages, we published a couple of blog posts in the last few weeks about Meraki Insight, our network assurance tool. That doesn’t mean our product team wasn’t making Insight better; over the last quarter, we’ve enhanced Meraki Insight with some great new UI improvements designed to make it easier to use and navigate. First, a new Web App Health Details interface improves the troubleshooting experience and helps admins make correlations quicker:
Second, in the WAN Health section, two new fields are available: % capacity, which shows what percentage of upload and download capacity are being used on a particular uplink, and a notes field, which admins can use to take any notes they want about one or more uplinks.
7. Last, but not least
Aside from product updates, we’ve focused on improving the customer experience in a couple of new areas this past quarter. If you haven’t heard already, we have a new podcast, Meraki Unboxed, to give you an inside look at our company. Additionally, the always-thriving Meraki Community recently announced its first set of All-Stars, ten outstanding contributors to our community forum. Congrats to these winners — keep the conversations flowing!
If you made it all the way down here, a sincere thank you for reading all about the latest developments at Meraki. Make sure to tune in to our next Quarterly in October. We don’t want to spoil anything now, but we promise that we’ll have lots more news to share then!
Organizations are rich with information sources, from point-of-sale solutions and IoT sensors to camera systems and wireless access points. This data promises to optimize workplace processes and improve services by offering insights into customer behavior. But to truly take advantage of these benefits and make data-driven business decisions, organizations must find a way to connect their various data sources, presenting a complex challenge that can be difficult to execute in reality.
Miami-Dade Public Library System (MDPLS) is one organization that has figured it out. MDPLS started with an ambitious goal — to provide personalized, relevant, and timely experiences to more than six million annual visitors across their 50 library branches in Miami-Dade County, Florida. To do this, MDPLS needed to understand unique differentiators about each library, such as how many guests they served, when the busiest times were, and what services were the most popular. By using APIs in combination with data and analytics, they were able to collect this valuable information and turn it into actionable insights.
In order to identify the personalized services and content required at each library, MDPLS needed to determine what data sources to pull from. The wired and wireless network was one clear choice to gather insights into how the different libraries were being used. However, with a lean IT team and tight government budgets, a complex networking solution that required additional analytics tools and resources couldn’t be justified. The small team needed a comprehensive, easy-to-manage solution that could provide the reliable connection visitors expected, while also providing data and analytics to improve library experiences. The MDPLS team was able to meet these requirements by implementing Cisco Meraki cloud-managed access points and switches. The browser-based Meraki dashboard enables complete visibility and control with the entire network being managed from one place, simplifying day-to-day maintenance and troubleshooting.
However, collecting network data was just the first step. The IT team then needed to decide which other IoT or connected devices they wanted to implement to collect additional data. The MDPLS team started this next phase with Meraki MV smart cameras. Like the rest of their Meraki products, the cameras are managed through the same cloud-based dashboard, streamlining the management of all their IT devices. The added benefit of on-camera storage also eliminated the need for a network video recorder (NVR) and its associated software, greatly simplifying the deployment and ongoing maintenance for the IT and facilities teams.
Above all, the most important element of the smart cameras for MDPLS is the built-in machine learning-based analytics. This enables the cameras to anonymously detect and count people, find incidences faster and with more accuracy, and understand where people are moving throughout specific areas, without additional software, servers, or complex configurations. By setting up a camera at each library entrance, the MDPLS team can better understand the number of people entering and exiting throughout the day and learn the overall number of library visitors. Additional cameras throughout the libraries help MDPLS understand what library services are being used and what content is the most popular based on where people are moving and congregating.
In addition to their Meraki access points, switches, and cameras, MDPLS had additional data sources to consider, including book checkout machines, library-owned computers, and more. In order to take advantage of these different data sources, they needed to find a way to collect the data in a digestible format. Using the Meraki API, the team pulls relevant data from the access points, switches, cameras, along with library data, into a cohesive, custom-built dashboard that shows important information about the library system. By having insight into this data, including how many people are visiting each library, the number of people that are using the Wi-Fi on their personal devices versus the library computers, what types of books are being checked out, and what other library resources are being used, the MDPLS leadership is able to determine what additional services and resources their visitors may need. This, in turn, helps to inform them where budget adjustments or additions are needed. With 50 different libraries spread across a very diverse area, being able to ensure the needs of each branch are being met is key to the library system’s success.
To learn more about theMDPLS Meraki deployment and how they are using data and analytics to make decisions, watch the webinar recording with Julio Campa, Systems Support Manager for MDPLS. You will see a live demo of their Meraki dashboard and hear some great insights into their deployment. Watch now.
On Friday afternoon, you might have experienced Slack running (a lot) slower than usual. If so, you were not alone. Many people on the Internet noticed that Slack messages and notifications were slightly delayed.
Slack is half-down, so I still have to work, but only half as hard. That's how this works, right?
As always, Meraki Insight detected this issue in real time. Network engineers who were using MI could easily identify the root cause of the problem (hint: it was not the network).
The first sign of trouble was an alert.
If you click on the alert link for further information, you will see that the response time for Slack exceeded 30 seconds (!!) several times during the day.
Finally, MI makes it really simple to identify who is affected. In this case, it turns out that only a few Slack servers were affected, and one domain was especially slow. As a result, not all clients/users were affected, and even those that experienced slowness likely only saw some features working slowly, while the others worked as expected.
Sure enough, later in the day, Slack came out with more details.
In particular, Slack noted that “During this time, approximately 10-25% of jobs resulted in errors or failure. By 10:00 a.m. PDT, we fully restored message delivery and reduced the error rates to less than 5% as the team continued to work on a full recovery.”
An engineer that was using MI would have easily diagnosed this problem in real time and identified why some users were affected while others were not, before Slack posted details of their outage.