Archive for the ‘Company Blog’ Category

On the Road with the Hardware Team

By Andrew Dupree

Cisco Meraki ships a lot of hardware. In 2016 alone, we’ve sold millions of units to over 100 countries, and those numbers are only going up as Meraki continues to expand. For all of us Merakians, our continued growth is exciting and motivating.

The only downside—shipping this many top-quality hardware products is really hard! Each unit must be carefully designed, manufactured, and tested. Getting this gargantuan task done is the job of the Meraki Hardware team, and to do it we spend a lot of time on the ground with our development partners in Taiwan. While regular business travel isn’t for everyone, the prospect of time on the road was one of the most exciting parts of my new role as Hardware Program Manager at Meraki. Today—shortly after returning from my first trip to Taiwan—I’d like to share a little bit about the experience.

The Flight

When it’s time to travel, we usually catch a direct flight from San Francisco to Taipei. This flight is a solid 13 hours! Once you add in a few extra hours for travel to and from the airport, security, customs, etc., and you’re looking at roughly 18 hours on the road between our homes in the Bay Area and our hotel in Taipei. It’s a long day!

Map

SFO to TPE is 6500 miles (or about 13 hours) in the air.

Everyone has a different method of passing the flight time. We sleep, watch movies, play games, and read. It’s everything you do on a domestic flight—just a lot more of it. When several of us are on the same flight, we’ll banter over Google Hangouts using the onboard WiFi. And there’s talk of trying to get multiplayer video games working…

We usually leave SF in the morning or early afternoon and arrive in Taipei in the evening of the next day. That’s because—in addition to the flight time—Taiwan is 13 hours ahead of SF. Talk about jet lag!

The Work

When we’re on the ground in Taiwan, it’s time to get to work. That work may be any number of things, depending on the current stage of the product development process.

Early in the process, we’ll sit down with our manufacturers and communicate the vision for the new product. This helps our partners allocate their resources effectively, so they will be ready to manufacture when we want them to. We also clearly communicate our requirements for mechanical and electrical components, which helps us collaborate to define and set up our testing and measurement parameters early.

In the middle of the process, we will oversee small prototype manufacturing runs and check to make sure everything works as we expect. We’ll also help define the exact procedures for assembling and testing each unit to ensure maximum quality.

AssemblyLine

Ruby, Nick, and Nathan inspect an assembly line.

Further along in the process, we’ll check the progress of our large manufacturing runs, or troubleshoot any errors that have arisen.

One example of this occurred while inspecting plastic parts for one of our newest products. We realized that a thin strip of plastic was being bent somewhere in the manufacturing process, resulting in a poor appearance when the product was fully assembled. We inspected the parts coming out of the machine and the steps of the assembly process. Eventually, we realized that the assembly line operators were holding the parts too firmly when they were newly-made and still malleable. We changed the assembly process to allow the plastic components to cool fully before the rest of the product assembly process began, and the problem was solved.

When we’re not working directly with our manufacturing partners on our hardware products, we’re probably bouncing around the country building relationships with various other vendors and partners, like the people that manufacture our electrical, plastic, and metal components. Some of the technology we get to see is truly amazing! Metal stamping machinery so forceful that the building housing it needs a reinforced foundation, PCB assembly lines fully automated by high-speed robotics, hot plastic parts fresh out of the injection-molding machine; the tools that build modern electronics are truly impressive.


 

The Fun

It’s a lot of work to get to Taiwan, and there’s even more work to do once we get into the country. But it’s not all heads-down time. The Hardware team has a lot of fun in our spare moments abroad. We get to eat local Taiwanese delicacies, like beef noodle soup and the infamous stinky tofu. Additionally, we often spend some time visiting cultural landmarks—like an evening at one of Taiwan’s famous Night Markets.

NightMarket

The Night Market is a great place to buy souvenirs and sample Taiwanese street food.

Taiwan and its culture are vibrant and fascinating, and I feel privileged to get to experience a piece of it.

In Conclusion

There’s a common saying in the hardware world—“hardware is hard.” And it’s true—it takes a lot of time and energy to design, develop, and manufacture a great hardware product at scale. For the hardware team at Meraki, that means a lot of time on the ground in Asia. And while it can be tiring, it’s also fun and incredibly rewarding to see the world and play a big part in developing great new technologies.

If you love travel and creating great hardware, keep an eye on the Meraki jobs page for high-flying opportunities! 

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Go Beyond Guest WiFi

The hospitality sector is growing, and there is every indication that it will continue to do so throughout 2017 — driving hotels to find new, innovative ways to differentiate themselves and their services. To offer more unique, personalized guest experiences at scale, a robust technology platform is needed.

Enter Cisco Meraki. Our recently announced wall plate access point (AP), the MR30H, offers the latest wireless technology for in-room deployments. The MR30H’s built-in 4-port gigabit switch can be used to easily service nearby IP-enabled devices (like IPTVs). We’ve designed the MR30H to be sleek and discreet; for example, the LED has been engineered to shine through the front body plate, emitting a significantly softer glow that is less disturbing to guests’ sleep.

Like every piece of Meraki gear, the MR30H is viewable and manageable via our web-based dashboard — an intuitive, graphical interface that enables global control over devices and that displays digestible metrics about clients, applications, access points, and client behavior.

Meraki MR30H dashboard view

An example dashboard view of the MR30H.

 
In addition, our completely refreshed MS225 line of access switches are the perfect complement — providing reliable connectivity and Power-over-Ethernet (PoE+) for up to 48 rooms per switch. This, along with the MS switches’ built-in network topology feature, port isolation and security, power scheduling, and expansive troubleshooting capabilities make for a complete IT solution that is unrivalled in capabilities and usability.
 

Going beyond guest wireless

 
When you combine guest wireless with location analytics, Bluetooth beacons, and mobile applications, you get powerful options for creating memorable guest experiences. All Meraki MR access points provide out-of-the-box location analytics at no additional charge — and the MR30H sports an integrated Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) radio that provides both beaconing and scanning functionality, enabling seamless integration with location-aware mobile applications.

This means, for example, that you can upload floor plans of your hotel into the Meraki dashboard and easily visualize trends in guest foot traffic over time to make better staffing decisions in hotspot areas like lobbies, front desks, pools, and gyms. You can even use it to determine where you might want to place your next access point, given client density!

See trends in guest density over time with integrated heat maps and floor plan views.

 
You can also use our built-in location analytics to see how many guests use your spa facilities, or how many in-house diners spent longer than one hour in your restaurant, or whether certain guests come back to the same property frequently. And best of all, you can compare all of this data across networks, properties, or even down to the individual access point level (using AP tagging).

Location Analytics

Comparing foot traffic between our San Francisco and London sites over the past month.

 

When you combine these out-of-the-box features with the power of Bluetooth BLE, the possibilities for personalized guest experiences grow even more. If you have a mobile app to help promote guest loyalty that responds to BLE beacons, you can generate context- and location-aware events using guests’ mobile phones: for example, offering special promotions on your house wine if they are near the lobby bar, or a VIP pass to a fitness center yoga class if they have visited your gym facilities at least twice in the past week. We partner with a wide array of vendors to help make these use cases easy to realize and frictionless to deploy.

You can even drive adoption of your mobile app directly from your Meraki guest wireless deployment by taking advantage of our hosted splash page functionality, or even promote your organization’s Facebook page by allowing guests to sign-on with their Facebook credentials and check into your property.

These are only a few of the use cases that Meraki APs, combined with Meraki switches, make possible. To learn more, please check out our solutions for hospitality page and join us for one of our upcoming product launch webinars (where we will dive into these new products in greater detail): Dec. 13th at 8am PST, Dec. 13th at 11am PST, or Dec. 13th at 5PM PST.

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“H” is for Hospitality

‘Tis the season, so they say. We can think of no better way to end this amazing year and ring in 2017 than by introducing some exciting new Cisco Meraki products. Today we’re thrilled to announce a significant refresh of our access switching portfolio and two sleek, new access points.

We will be posting additional information here on our blog throughout this week detailing each of these new products — so stay tuned! — but the full lineup in this latest launch includes:

  • MR30H: a new wall plate access point with integrated switch ports designed specifically for hospitality and certain multi-dwelling use cases, like university dorms
  • MR33: an 802.11ac Wave 2 access point that is half the size of an MR32
  • MS225 & MS250: A new generation of Meraki stackable access switches with 10G SFP+ uplinks and field-replaceable power options

 

Wireless

MR30H

 
Why a wall plate access point? We’re glad you asked. The MR30H’s form factor —  which sports four integrated gigabit switch ports — has been a heavily-requested wish, particularly from the hospitality industry. Wall plates are perfect for use cases where aesthetics matter and extra ports are needed to service IP-enabled devices like VoIP phones or IPTVs in the immediate vicinity of the AP.

Meraki for hospitality

The new Cisco Meraki MR30H wall plate access point.

 

The MR30H is built on a 2×2:2 802.11ac Wave 2 architecture, so can take advantage of Multi-User MIMO to simultaneously service two client devices. This makes the AP more efficient than an Wave 1 AP with equivalent specs.

 

MR33

 
The MR33 is an 802.11ac Wave 2 update for those who want robust wireless but don’t need support for high density scenarios. Like the MR30H, the MR33 is a 2×2:2 802.11ac Wave 2 access point, and it is one of the smallest we manufacture (the MR30H is smaller).

Meraki MR33

The new Cisco Meraki MR33 wireless access point.

 

Switching

We are also announcing a major update to our access switching portfolio, with the addition of stacking and 10G SFP+ uplinks on all new models – at the same price point.

MS_stack

The new Meraki MS250 switches.

 

The MS225 and MS250 are both designed for branch & campus deployments while the MS250 offers field replaceable power supplies and Layer 3 features.

 

MS_shots

 

Stay tuned

As we mentioned earlier, we’ll be posting more details about these products throughout the week. We also encourage you to join us next week for one of our customer product launch webinars (here, here, or here)!  While you wait to attend these awesome webinars, please check out our hospitality page, or our  MR30H, MR33, or MS225 product pages.
 
 

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How one company slashed IT costs with SD-WAN

Liberty Behavioral Management

Liberty Behavioral Management operates both inpatient and outpatient facilities across New York state, providing rehabilitation and behavioral health services to adults and adolescents. In a special Meraki webinar on December 7th at 11AM PT, Chris Smith, CTO, will share his experience managing an entire network across 13 different sites with a lean IT team of two.

Over time, Liberty Behavioral Management’s network infrastructure became insufficient for their basic business needs. Smith would receive complaints that the Internet was too slow for web surfing or file sharing, or that there wasn’t enough bandwidth for hosted medical information systems. It was time to either increase their MPLS network speed or find an alternative solution. And when Smith was notified that increasing their MPLS usage would drive up costs, he knew he had to find a different option.

Smith looked for ease-of-use, data security features, and ways to improve site-to-site connectivity without increasing internet costs. Meraki fit the bill.

With Meraki MX Security Appliances, SD-WAN (that’s “software-defined WAN” for those who haven’t come across this acronym) enhanced existing internet connectivity at each of the branches by dynamically sending traffic between locations based on set policies, defined types of traffic, and optimal performance. By leveraging MPLS at the main hospitals and the MX SD-WAN capabilities for the branch sites, Liberty Behavioral management saved $1,127,170, or 76% of costs, over five years.

Savings with SD-WAN

Find out more about how Liberty Behavioral Management deployed and saved with Meraki cloud-based solutions in our upcoming webinar on December 7th at 11AM PT. Register today! Eligible attendees receive a free AP.

What: Liberty Behavioral Management: Savings, Security, and SD-WAN

When: Wednesday, December 7th, 11 a.m. Pacific Time

Register Here: [Link]

Video on the Go

During the months prior to launching Meraki MV, our extensive user experience testing for the new product spanned everything from the layout on the dashboard to physical installation of the security cameras. In doing so, we realized just how difficult it is to stand at the top of a tall ladder while holding a laptop (often the unfortunate reality of IP camera setup). That’s why we’re excited to announce that the Meraki mobile app for iOS and Android now supports MV security cameras.

MV-android

The Meraki app makes it easier and quicker than ever to set up your cameras. View live video feeds and adjust focus, zoom, and aperture, all from a smartphone. Simply download the Meraki dashboard app on your phone, login with your standard dashboard credentials, and then navigate to your cameras in the left-hand navigation menu. Click on the camera you want to view, and then click “Live” in the lower right hand corner. The live video feed will automatically start to stream, and, if needed, you can make any necessary camera adjustments. For video walls and enhanced video monitoring functionality, MV also works with mobile browsers in Android.

MV-iphone

Kiss the days of climbing onto a ladder with a laptop goodbye, and say hello to security camera configuration and management from your phone! Whether onsite or halfway around the world, the mobile app will help to keep tabs on what’s important to you and your organization.

As always, our engineers are keeping their ears open for requests through our Make a Wish tool. It’s hard to believe MV just launched a couple of months ago, and MV engineers have already added full disk encryption and support for the mobile app since then. Just imagine what could be coming next!

To learn more about MV, sign up for a webinar or get in touch with a sales rep.

Support Employee Spotlight: Working Parents

Written by Tom Eldridge

Meraki strives to provide a flexible work environment for working parents. On the Technical Support team, shifts can be arranged to help cater to working parents’ needs, and dialogue between individual contributors and managers is encouraged. Our management teams take the time to understand individual personal situations.

Deepti Padhye and Ana Voilo-Bolos, two key members of our US and UK Tech Support teams respectively, took time out of their busy schedules to discuss themselves, their reasons for choosing a Network Support role with Meraki, and how they manage their day-to-day responsibilities as working parents.

Our Support Engineer Subjects

Photo L-R: Deepti Padhye, US Network Support Engineer, and Ana Voilo-Bolos, UK Network Support Engineer

Tell us a little about yourself!

Deepti: I came to the U.S. 9 years ago, primarily for my Master’s in Telecom. I returned to India for a short while, and then came back to the U.S. and got married! I pursued my CCNA, and got a job in Houston, where I spent 4 years. I then received this job opportunity! My son and my family are here with me, and it’s been a month and a half since we relocated from Houston. I don’t drive now, and don’t need to use my car anymore! It’s a different life, and I am liking it.

Ana: I am from Lithuania, and received my degree in IT there. I then went directly to the Czech Republic, as there was a new IBM Global Delivery Center that opened up. I worked mainly on Windows platforms, but I then switched to networking which made more sense for me. In University, I was studying a Cisco Academy course and it was very useful. I spent some time in the Czech Republic at AT&T and IBM, and then moved to the U.K. as a NOC Engineer at a small MSP Company, where I provided support for Windows and networking. Prior to my move, I married and had a son, and decided to move to London, as my sister lives here. Initially, I struggled to find a role that gave me the opportunity to have a flexible work schedule like Meraki provides.

Why did you choose Meraki?

Deepti: A lot of reasons really! I worked in Houston at a service provider, and I worked with lots of products. When Katelynn (Support recruiter) connected with me, I gave it a shot. I really wanted to be closer to my family. I read really good reviews of Meraki on Glassdoor!

Ana: I spoke with many Merakians during the hiring process, which made me feel comfortable and inspired to work with joyful and smart people. I also loved the concept of Meraki and the company values. Meraki was very flexible in providing me the kind of shift that worked for my personal life, too. Managers can be approached freely and are very understanding of personal situations.

How do you balance your personal life with your working commitments?

Deepti: Where I worked before, I was on-call every few months, and I didn’t like it. I worked a lot of maintenance after-hour windows, and it took away from my personal life/family time. This was one of the main reasons that prompted me to take this role. Balancing work and life commitments can be challenging, but Meraki provides good flexibility for working hours; and here we are supporting the product, which doesn’t have maintenance windows like I was required to do in my previous company. On weekends, I dedicate 100% of me to my family!

Ana: When I am out of the office, I cherish time with my family. It’s good that I have weekends free to spend time with family, and if there are any problems, my manager is always understanding of what comes up for me. We have a lot of offsite events at Meraki too, which is good for interacting with our team here!

Do you have a role model in your life?

Deepti:  I met Amanda (a recent Network Support Engineer new hire) who has a 4-month old son, and she is working. I look at all working parents as good role models, they are working hard and giving their best—if they can make it work, I can too!

Ana: My sister is a good role model for me, and I look up to her. She has been a great support for me in my life and she also combines her family/work commitments well, even with two kids. It can be hard to manage a career and family life, but essentially, compromise is important. My current environment and surroundings enable me to work efficiently.

Thanks to Deepti and Ana for sharing their personal stories.

Browse open positions at meraki.com/jobs and apply today!

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One-to-one and Shared iPad: Support to the Rescue

The fine people at Cisco Meraki are always looking for even better ways to help customers as they configure and manage their IT environments. Offering 24/7 phone support and giving guidance is merely one of the many avenues used to help create the best experience possible for users around the globe. Below are two videos the Meraki support team created to show how to most effectively manage one-to-one and Shared iPad deployments with Systems Manager–just in time for the holiday break here in the U.S.

The first video is a breakdown of setting up Shared iPad in six simple steps. This includes all the configuration needed in the Meraki dashboard using Systems Manager as well as configuration for Apple School Manager at school.apple.com. Shared iPad provides a way to manage iPads in the classroom where they can be shared with multiple students. Students can log into an iPad from a cart or classroom for a personalized experience, and the student’s work (data) gets saved back to their account.

For more information about Apple School Manager, check out the Apple help article here.

Up next is a video which similarly shows how to configure an iPad for use in the classroom, but focuses on a one-to-one environment. ‘One-to-one’ is used to describe a program where there is one computer, or in this case iPad, per student.

Meraki customers are encouraged to give real time feedback by submitting a wish at the bottom of any page in the Meraki dashboard. This feedback, called ‘Make a Wish’, is one of the many tools Meraki uses to keep in touch with current customer needs. See below for an example.

Screen Shot 2016-11-21 at 2.23.03 PM

For those new to Meraki or Systems Manager, start a free trial.

Salut!, Hallo!, こんにちは, ¡Hola!

One of the most popular aspects of the Meraki approach to IT is undoubtedly our dashboard: the name we give the management interface that’s used exclusively to monitor and configure the full Meraki stack of networking, security, communications and mobility management products.

dashboard

This 100% GUI-based dashboard is very visual, making it both easy to learn and navigate. But ultimately, the text supporting all those beautiful graphics has always been in English, and it turns out that English is spoken by only around 11% of the world’s population, leaving a substantial majority out in the cold.

At Meraki our vision is to spread our message of simpler IT worldwide. Our mission statement even includes the goal to “…free passionate people to focus on their mission and reach groups previously left in the darkness.” We take these words seriously in our daily work at Meraki, and so to help illuminate the darkness for more customers around the world we’re thrilled to be announcing the addition of dashboard localization in French, German, Japanese and Spanish.

Salut Dashboard

Hallo Dashboard

こんにちは ダッシュボード

¡Hola Dashboard!

Our dashboard localization project has been in the works for several months now, taking advantage of our highly talented international systems engineers, who possess the technical know-how to be able to accurately translate each and every term found on the interface. Here, for example, is a section of the wireless access control page in Spanish.

Screen Shot 2016-11-16 at 5.49.31 PM

In addition to the dashboard itself, when assistance is needed Meraki support is also available in each of these languages, just a phone call away.

At this time we’re putting the final polish on this complex project. We’d love to have Meraki customers who are keen to try out multiple language contact our support team to have it enabled for their organization. Once enabled, a simple dropdown menu item will appear in the administrator profile page to select the desired language.

Screen Shot 2016-11-16 at 3.32.56 PM

The more eyes we can get on our work, the more sources of feedback, and the better the final outcome will be for all before we push this out as a generally available option. We’re very excited to be announcing multiple language support and can’t wait to bring the legendary dashboard to more network admins around the world.

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How Meraki Uses MC

Here in our San Francisco office, Meraki MC74s are all over the place. There’s one in every conference room—from our small meeting rooms to our large executive briefing center. MC74s are on employee desks, in test facilities, marketing labs, partner training labs, employee on-boarding labs, and more. We have about 350 MCs in our deployment, some of which are in the field with our sales specialists and engineers, but most of which are right here in the office.

hw-desk-mc

This phone belongs to one of our hardware engineers, Nick. Our hardware team made and tested over 80 prototypes of the MC74 before deciding on this form factor. Did you know, the MC has an infrared sensor on the front to dynamically change the screen brightness based on the brightness of the room?

conference-mc

Eric (left) and Murray (right) giving a customer demo in one of our conference rooms with the MC74 in speaker mode. MCs also come with their own mounting kit, and can be easily mounted onto a wall in any environment when needed. Just push the hinge back on the stand, and it is ready to go.

lab-mc

A snapshot of one of our test lab phone racks. These phones run automated tests of new development software every day.

pm-desk-mc

MC74s can connect to headsets through USB, 3.5mm or Bluetooth. For a full list of all of our supported peripherals, check out our documentation. On my desk, I use the USB port on the side of the MC to charge my phone and Kindle.

large-conference-mc

In a room designed for larger groups, an MC74 with a USB speaker plugin is a great solution. Here our design team discusses ideas with a coworker who is currently out of the office.

There’s a multitude of ways to use Meraki MC, request a trial from your Meraki sales rep and try it for yourself!

Cisco’s Mobility Management Now Includes Cellular Data

Managing cellular data plans can difficult and expensive. The cost of exceeding data plans and the lack of visibility into managed devices’ cellular usage has made it challenging to have company cellular policies, let alone maintain them. Meraki Systems Manager has provided tools to manage and increase the visibility of mobile devices, as well as the likes of desktops and servers, since 2010. Today, we are happy to announce yet another big step in the evolution of Cisco’s mobility management with the addition of cellular data management.

Systems Manager customers have cellular data management functionality now, and they have it for no extra charge. It was made automatically available–like all updates to Dashboard. At Meraki, there is a lot of pride around offering the best tools possible while maintaining a rapid feature trajectory that redefines the industry’s status quo.

Practically, cellular data management enables the ability to do three important things;

  1. Track data usage on managed devices globally and individually
  2. Automatically take action on devices going over data limits
  3. Generate reports

Firstly, to view tracked data usage over all managed devices, simply navigate to Monitor > Clients and click the ‘+’ button in the top right hand corner, then add ‘Cellular data’ to the table. Next, enter a plan reset date on the Configure > General page–the default is the first of the month. This will specify when the monthly counter should restart and will allow for easier data usage tracking over time and on-the-fly. Current data usage can also be tracked individually on a specific device’s client page as shown below.
Cellular data usage
The first selector allows for a quick view to show data for the past day, week, month, or 3 months. The second selector toggles between different policies and thresholds.

Secondly, single or multiple data caps can be set using policies in Systems Manager by navigating to the Configure > Policies page. Check the box for ‘Device cellular data usage’ and enter the amount for the maximum data allowance in MBs. Policies can be used to manage, monitor, and create reports for many different actions. Below is an example policy which is configured to track a cellular data usage limit of 10GBs*.

Cellular Usage Data Policy

Security policies in Systems Manager become even more powerful when used to automatically take action on devices. Changing the scope of devices with tagging provides the ability to control profiles or add and remove apps based on security posture. If a device exceeds a data limit or violates security compliance, Systems Manager can be configured to automatically lock it into single app mode, disable settings, or even remove company data, access, and apps. To get more information on tagging in Meraki Systems Manager, check out the documentation article here.

Last but certainly not least, all good security policies should be accompanied by a report. Systems Manager makes is easy to enable daily, weekly, or monthly reports for any of the security policies created. Along with this is the option to select which kind of devices are important to each policy and whether or not only failing devices should be included.

Security report alerts tagged

Systems Manager legacy customers interested in these powerful features can find out how to take advantage of them here.

For those new to Meraki or Systems Manager, start a free trial.

Note: Data tracking requires the newest version of either the iOS or Android app be installed on any managed devices of interest.