Archive for the ‘Company Blog’ Category

Systems Manager: Part of the larger Cisco story

We don’t talk enough about Meraki Systems Manager’s role in the larger Cisco story. Being a part of Cisco gives our Systems Manager team access to a broad range of Cisco products and initiatives, from security to networking and collaboration. As Cisco’s endpoint management solution, Systems Manager strengthens Cisco’s position in endpoint security and enables smarter decisions about device access and policies on Cisco networks.

Earlier this year, Systems Manager played an important role in the launch of Cisco’s cloud-based endpoint security portfolio for managed security service providers. This portfolio offers scalable solutions for visibility and control of endpoint devices and highlights key products for service providers to deploy.

In another example of how Cisco and Meraki are leading the industry in endpoint security, Cisco announced that Cisco Security Connector (CSC) is now available for purchase! Cisco Security Connector is a powerful tool to help organizations with supervised iOS devices ensure compliance, block phishing attacks and malicious links, understand application and device behaviors, and investigate security incidents across deployments.

Building CSC was a collaborative effort between Apple, Systems Manager, Cisco Umbrella, and AMP for Endpoints. Only Cisco has been able to achieve this type of cross-product alignment at scale. Having access to and information about upcoming security initiatives gives us at Meraki the opportunity to find compelling ways to collaborate across products at Cisco.

There’s work underway to bring even more cross-product value to customers. Look out for future launches with our larger Cisco family!

Learn more about Cisco Security Connector here or contact us to get started using Systems Manager to deploy and manage this powerful iOS application!

Deploying a School Network in 4 Hours

1:00 pm: Students trickle back into class after a well-deserved lunch break. Eager to get started with their next lesson, they grab their school-issued laptop out of their emptying backpack, log on, and start their next assignment while patiently waiting for the teacher to bring attention to the front of the room. Unbeknownst to the students and teachers actively participating in classroom activities, the network deployment team paces the halls, double checking that each new access point has a home, and that each switch will be comfortable in its new closet.

3:30 pm: The bell rings. Students rejoice; jumping, dancing, and skipping out of the building, excited to get to their study group, sports practice, or friend’s house. Some stay behind to attend an after-school course, work on homework, or attend a teacher’s office hours. Behind the scenes, the deployment team sneaks inside empty classrooms and offices, unmounting old access points and seamlessly swapping them for brand new, inconspicuous access points to take their place. From the gym to the cafeteria, no space can be left unconnected. With great attention to detail and swift hanging capabilities, the team goes room by room, replacing and adding APs, making sure no classroom is left behind.

4:30 pm: The last of the students head home for the day, with tired eyes, full brains, and superb stories. Once everyone has left the campus, and the school buildings start humming in their normal emptied silence, the real fun begins. Operation: the complete switchover. The deployment team speeds through the remaining AP installation. They move onto the closets, and in a sea of cables, sweat, and servers, they unrack and uninstall the legacy switches, tossing them into a corner of their already forgotten memory. Installing the new switches is faster than a cheetah lapping the school, with an organized, lit up rack of switches foreseeable on the other end.

5:00 pm: Testing. Testing. 1, 2, 3, testing. The devices are online. The computers are connecting. The tablets are connecting. Even the phones are connecting! The intrusion detection system is working. The security cameras are on. We are a go! Network complete.

This nonfiction tale tells the story of Orange County Public Schools (OCPS), the 9th largest school district in the United States, with around 208,000 students spread across 200 schools. And yes, they continue to flip schools left and right in four hours, moving them off of their legacy equipment and onto a Meraki network of MR access points and MS switches. Originally a project that David Overton, Senior Director of Information Security, thought would take several years to finish, is on pace to finish in under two years, with the deployment team transitioning three schools a week. And, for the schools that have already moved onto Meraki, not only has student learning through their 1:1 device program continued to work without a hitch, but the simplified management through the Meraki dashboard has been a lifesaver for the IT team.

To learn more about OCPS and their Meraki deployment, attend a live webinar on April 24th at 10am PT with David and a Meraki product specialist. They will discuss why David chose Meraki, how they are able to install a new network in 4 hours, and why a robust network is imperative to supporting their 1:1 device program. Register here!

Getting to the (data) point

As the needs of our customers and the capabilities of our products have grown over time, so too has our deliberate approach to making the Meraki dashboard as useful and delightful as possible. The Meraki engineering team has been hard at work refining the list pages where you can view all Meraki devices of a particular type (e.g., wireless APs or switches) as well as the detail pages for individual Meraki devices.

We’ve already rolled out most of these changes over the last few months. By May 14, users will see the full set of updates when they log in to the dashboard. Keep reading to see how we’ve enhanced these pages.

Device list page

The device list page now displays a useful summary pane, which gives you an instant look at the status of all of your Meraki devices on the network. For example, you can see how many APs are online and offline, how many are alerting, and how many of your APs are repeaters. This is a small change, but one that we think a lot of customers will quickly appreciate.

Device details page

On the device details page, the map showing the location of the Meraki device is now always visible, no matter which tab of the page you’re on. You can confirm which AP you’re working on without having to toggle to the Location tab. This is especially useful for multi-site deployments.

We’ve also made it much easier to find the RADIUS and VLAN request status on an AP’s details page — it’s right on the summary tab. You can quickly narrow down a connectivity issue to RADIUS, DNS, DHCP, or ARP, or you can click on the LAN tab for more granular information.

Tools tab

Old Tools tab on the left, new Tools tab on the right

Finally, when clicking on the Tools tab, you’ll see all the tools available at one time instead of a dropdown selector. This way, you’ll be able to run and view the results of multiple tools at once.

Please note that after May 14, you’ll no longer be able to revert to the old version of the pages.

Do you have any suggestions for improvements? Feel free to “Make a wish” on the bottom right of any page in the dashboard to get your feedback directly to our engineers!

Ni Hao! Meraki Brings Simple and Intelligent IT to China

Last summer, we celebrated as the millionth Meraki network came online. Today, less than a year later, we’ve hit 1.4 million networks. It’s hard to believe, but in just 12 years, Meraki has completely changed the face of networking and helped hundreds of thousands of organizations connect people and ideas better than ever before.

Bringing intelligent management and a simpler IT experience to organizations everywhere has always been our mission. That’s why I’m excited to announce today that Meraki is launching in the world’s biggest Internet market: China.

Why China? Many of our large enterprise customers in such verticals as retail, hospitality, education, and manufacturing have already entered the Chinese market. They love using Meraki to manage their networks in other countries, and now they can use Meraki to manage their Chinese networks as well. At the same time, we look forward to bringing the Meraki magic to organizations born and bred in China and show them how Meraki can help them seize new opportunities while reducing operational costs.

It’s hard to overstate the role that pervasive Internet connectivity has had in shaping China’s society and economy. China has nearly 800 million online users, most of whom access the Internet exclusively through their smartphones. App developers, local merchants, and everyone in between need fast and reliable networking to function smoothly. Entire platforms like Alipay and WeChat have changed how Chinese consumers interact with friends, family, and organizations of every type.

Having visited China a few times myself, I’ve been astonished every time I’ve paid for a train ride using my phone, borrowed a shared bike through an app, or ordered food at a restaurant (and paid for my meal) without having to leave the table. It’s clear to me that the increasing sophistication of China’s digital economy demands a stronger IT and networking backbone.

Over the last many months and years, we’ve worked hard to understand the needs of customers in China and to build an experience ideal for this market. We’re launching in China with our flagship networking solutions: MR (wireless access points), MS (switches), and MX (routers).

At Meraki, we believe that IT has a pivotal role to play in every organization. In years past, organizations would often treat IT as a separate appendage, consulting the IT team only when the Wi-Fi went down. Today, organizations work hand-in-hand with their IT teams, relying on them to deploy and manage forward-thinking solutions that can give organizations actionable intelligence about their customers, prevent production downtime, and much more.

What makes Meraki the leader in intuitive, intelligent IT? Our centralized management model minimizes the need for expensive, complex on-site infrastructure like wireless controllers, and allows us to rapidly deliver features that unlock new capabilities. All of our products are managed through the web-based Meraki dashboard, a simple interface for configuring and controlling Meraki access points, switches, and routers. Advanced capabilities, from a network topology view and virtual switch stacking, to Layer 7 application visibility and extensible APIs, minimize the time IT administrators need to deploy, configure, and manage the network.

The Meraki team has invested countless resources to build a comprehensive networking solution specifically for the Chinese market:

  • We have invested in two data centers in China, used exclusively for the management data of Chinese organizations.
  • The Meraki dashboard has been translated into Chinese and is physically separate from the dashboard used to manage networks outside of China.
  • We’ve opened up a China headquarters in Shanghai and will be running all of our Meraki China operations from there, including dedicated sales and marketing teams.
  • A support team dedicated to our Meraki China customers (and fluent in Mandarin!) sits in our Shanghai headquarters, ready to proactively help our customers build the best and most powerful networks.

Whether in San Francisco or Shanghai, our ethos remains the same: simplifying powerful technology to free passionate people to focus on their mission. Meraki is all over the world, with over 1.4 million active networks (and counting) in offices, classrooms, coffee shops, restaurants, manufacturing facilities, hospitals, hotel rooms, and everywhere in between. We can’t wait to see how our Chinese customers will build out new networks and how Meraki will help shape the future of IT in China.

Meraki Insight is accelerating IT

Last month we announced the latest addition to our portfolio of easy-to-manage IT products, Meraki Insight. This advanced new troubleshooting tool will be of interest to any organization working across a wide area network, whether they’re connecting sites together or accessing resources in a remote data center. With more and more IT services migrating from on-site servers to virtual machines running in private or public clouds, it’s never been more important to be able to quickly and easily troubleshoot the WAN and application server performance.

Meraki Insight combines the deep packet inspection capabilities inherent to our MX platform with a robust, mature cloud-hosted architecture to analyze WAN traffic and server response times. By inspecting both the network and application layers, a picture soon emerges, enabling network administrators to quickly identify potential performance bottlenecks that may be leading to a diminished user experience. With IT support tickets being one of the most critical data points for measuring IT effectiveness, anything that helps to accelerate the closing of those tickets and even prevent them is welcome. A better network experience translates to happy users and customers who are more likely to return.

We’ve been delighted with the feedback we’ve received from early customers of Meraki Insight, and not just for the great user experience in the dashboard either. Real issues with real revenue implications are being resolved more quickly already, thanks to the capabilities unlocked by this new tool.

In one case, a well-known retailer with operations around the world was able to use Meraki Insight to rapidly identify and resolve a point-of-sale issue that was impeding sales during its busiest time of year: the holiday season. Another renowned storage company with over 1,500 locations was able to look at WAN performance data to help pinpoint a latency issue that was impacting business-related VoIP calls between branch sites.

Even if alerting isn’t being used to draw attention to an issue, one may be lurking. One of our Meraki partners was about to deliver a demo using their own company’s network when they stumbled across a custom application with a low performance score. All clues pointed to a network layer issue, and sure enough the app was experiencing packet loss severe enough to affect user experience. After a call to their ISP, a support team was dispatched to fix interference on the line.

Real world issues, impacting real business: these are the challenges Meraki Insight helps to address, thereby helping our customers increase revenue and reduce operational costs. For the first time the outstanding LAN troubleshooting tools that have helped build our success at Meraki are looking out to the WAN and the application servers we rely on every day. To gain better insight into issues that may be impacting your network and end-user experience, just click here to initiate a free trial.

4 Reasons to Say “No” to Your NVR

Watch your back, NVRs.

IP cameras undoubtedly represent a huge leap over the analog security camera setups of yesteryear: newer cameras bring significant ongoing cost savings and simpler operation to the table. But one area where traditional IP cameras don’t improve on their analog predecessors is in the way they store camera footage.

Where analog cameras transfer footage to VCR-based solutions, traditional IP cameras usually store footage on NVRs (network video recorders). The need for an NVR in typical IP camera setups presents some critical downsides in terms of costs, reliability, and complexity.

Here are four reasons to say “no thanks” to your NVR and adopt a camera solution with a modern cloud-managed architecture:

1. High hardware costs

The more components in a system, the more expensive that system is to maintain and update over time. As organizations deploy additional cameras, more video footage is captured, necessitating greater amounts of space to store that footage. Though NVRs may not introduce too many costs for smaller deployments, the one-NVR-per-location model quickly breaks down when organizations have to deploy cameras across many different sites — a common scenario for customers in verticals like retail and hospitality. Storage requirements can also balloon with IP camera systems that don’t automatically delete footage that isn’t useful, like video in which there is no motion.

The need to augment cameras with NVRs doesn’t just add another line item to the BOM; it also makes it more difficult to scale because organizations need to determine in advance how much storage they’ll need per location. The result is often inadequate storage, a less cost-effective deployment, or both.

2. Restrictive remote access to video footage

Organizations with old-school CCTV setups typically don’t think twice about remotely viewing video footage; they’re all too used to the idea of someone having to be physically present in a control room on-site to watch video (after all, the first two letters in “CCTV” stand for “closed-circuit”). But one of the promises of Internet-connected cameras was that video footage would be easier to access from anywhere.

Alas, the requirement for video to be transmitted to and stored on an NVR in typical IP camera deployments limits the possibilities for remote viewing. That’s because accessing videos stored on an NVR from outside the network requires cumbersome and complex VPN configuration. Plus, all computers will need to download a separate, often unintuitive VMS (video management service) — yet another thing to install, configure, and learn how to use. It’s no wonder that most organizations using typical IP camera systems have adjusted their interaction style such that they are only using cameras locally. Unfortunately, this means there’s often a frustratingly long gap between when video is captured and when it’s been retrieved, converted, and ready to view — not an ideal scenario.

3. Potential data loss risks

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and the same holds true for security camera deployments: if one piece of the system fails, the entire system is at risk. If for some reason camera footage can’t be sent to the NVR from the cameras (due to a network outage, for instance), footage is lost forever. Even worse, network administrators frequently don’t realize that part of the system has failed until they try to watch footage that was never properly transmitted to the NVR. The risk of losing critical footage due to a network issue is a basic failure of NVR-reliant camera systems.

4. Security vulnerabilities

Since NVRs are often nothing more than old computers running outdated software and collecting dust in the back of a closet, keeping them up-to-date with the latest security updates is a difficult and oft-forgotten task. This means NVRs can serve as an entry point for cyber threats looking to find their way into a network. Once they’ve infiltrated the network, cybercriminals can do anything from stealing corporate data and holding a business hostage to compromising sensitive financial information.

These aren’t just theoretical threats: in October 2016, thousands of cameras and video recorders were infected by malware and initiated a DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attack against services like Amazon, Spotify, and Reddit. Unfortunately, even a single weak point in the network could open a company up to significant security issues.

By removing the NVR from the equation, organizations stand to gain a more efficient, reliable, and secure camera system. That’s only possible with a ground-up reinvention of the traditional IP camera architecture.

Cisco Meraki MV eliminates the NVR by introducing a unique cloud management model. With MV, there’s no single point of failure; footage is stored and encrypted on the cameras themselves, creating a distributed system (and consequently distributing the risk). Video is streamed securely to the Meraki dashboard for monitoring, where the cameras can also be configured and managed. And all system components stay protected from security vulnerabilities, thanks to standard end-to-end encryption and regular, automatic firmware updates. The result: a streamlined, simplified security camera solution.

Learn more about Meraki MV by signing up for a webinar.

More Analytics, Less Infrastructure

In keeping with the age-old Meraki philosophy of empowering our customers to do more with less, people-counting analytics on MV12 has finally arrived!

We’re excited to see this new set of tools build on top of an already impressive (and necessary) security product. Now, MV12 can act not only as a great security camera, but also as a sensor for businesses big and small — no servers or extra infrastructure needed.

Sound familiar?

If you’re already familiar with our wireless product line, this rollout might feel reminiscent of our WLAN Location Analytics tool, and it should! At Meraki, we love the notion of providing our customers more intelligence with less infrastructure, an idea especially apparent with MR and now MV.

How does it work?

Using the advanced processor on our recently launched MV12 security camera, and built-in, anonymized person detection (not to be confused with unique facial recognition/identification) software, video is stored and analyzed on-camera, at the edge. This metadata is sent to the cloud and aggregated into people-counting metrics independently of the video itself. Plus, over time this software will become more accurate using machine learning.

To see this functionality in action, just click on the ‘Analytics’ tab for an individual camera and select the time resolution (minute-by-minute, hourly, or daily) and timeframe of interest. The ‘People count’ section of this page shows an at-a-glance overview of your busiest time period, estimated peak occupancy over that period, and the total number of entrances. Remember that the ‘Total Entrances’ value will double count individuals if they leave a frame and then return, since this data is anonymized. Consequently, we encourage thoughtful placement of cameras intended for use as sensors to minimize both double counting (place them in an area with restricted traffic flow moving in one direction, like an ‘Entrance Only’ door) and occlusions (where two people or objects pass in front of one another, making it difficult for the camera to see what’s going on).

Clicking on the ‘Most Utilized’ and ‘Peak Occupancy’ results will jump directly to that moment in the camera’s historical footage so you can quickly analyze what events may have driven that spike in traffic. Drilling down into each bar in the people counting bar chart will also take you to the corresponding piece of footage, making it simple to investigate anomalies.

So what?

You’ll now be able to observe and quantify granular foot traffic patterns through a given frame.

For retailers: monitor the ebb and flow of customers throughout the day, optimize staffing headcount to make sure your customers get the attention they need, and increase the efficacy of marketing campaigns by targeting days of the week with the greatest or least traffic.

In schools: track general attendance patterns, see which areas of campus are used most frequently, and make a business case for updating facilities and equipment based on usage patterns.

At offices: figure out whether it makes sense to add more common spaces, or repurpose these areas based on popularity with office-dwellers. And are those pricey espresso machines actually getting used anyway?

Of course, these examples represent only a fraction of the uses cases now available with this additional functionality. Coupled with motion heat maps (available on all MV models), it’s never been quite so easy to see the big picture quickly.

Does this mean my MR Location Analytics setup is now redundant?

Definitely not! Think of these tools as complementary. Because MR access points count mobile device wireless signals throughout a wireless network, they provide a broad “macro” level view of foot traffic through, say, an entire store location. People counting on MV only tabulates traffic within that visual frame, making it more accurate on a “micro” level, like an individual product display within that store. By pairing these two features, you can quickly gain insights across multiple levels of your business.

Learn more and see a live demo by signing up for an MV webinar or get in touch with your Meraki rep to try MV12 out for yourself.

Who? What? Where?

Since Meraki launched the MV family nearly a year and a half ago, the wishes coming in from the Make a Wish tool in the dashboard have not stopped flowing. One of the most consistently requested features? Motion alerts. Today, this handy tool is available across all MV hardware models.

Whether for keeping tabs on valuable merchandise in a retail store, increasing the efficiency of a shipping and receiving dock, or keeping school grounds clear of trespassers, motion alerts have enormous business potential across all verticals. The engineering team behind MV has created an exceptionally straightforward way to implement alerts and we can’t wait to see how our customers use them.

Once a camera’s alerting schedule, minimum event trigger length, and alerting region have been selected, alert behavior can be configured on the Alerts page (alongside offline device alerting). The default alerting email(s) can be used, or add a motion-alert-specific email address for more granularity.

Each alert generated by the dashboard will link directly to the relevant video clip, no manual video scrubbing needed. Take a peek below.

Pro-tip: most major mobile carriers allow you to send emails to an SMS phone number (see the list of phone number “conversions” by carrier below). Take advantage of this “hack” in the dashboard to get motion alerts sent directly to a mobile device as a text.

  • Alltel: phonenumber@message.alltel.com
  • AT&T: [email protected]
  • T-Mobile: phonenumber@tmomail.net
  • Virgin Mobile: phonenumber@vmobl.com
  • Sprint: phonenumber@messaging.sprintpcs.com
  • Verizon: phonenumber@vtext.com
  • Nextel: phonenumber@messaging.nextel.com
  • US Cellular: phonenumber@mms.uscc.net

If you’re an MV user, take motion alerts for a test drive and let us know what you think in the Meraki Community. If you still haven’t gotten your hands on an MV, be sure to contact your rep today or sign up for a webinar to learn more.

3 Steps to Start Your Smart City Journey

Becoming a “smart city” is something that towns, cities, states, and even countries are striving to achieve. But what does it actually mean to become a smart city? Where do you start? How do those initiatives benefit your community?

To find out, I spoke with Stephen Dawe, CTO at The City of Opelika, Alabama. Stephen is on a journey to make Opelika a digital city, and he takes a systematic and thoughtful approach in deciding which projects to take on and which ones to leave on the sidelines. The conversation highlighted three steps that state and local government IT teams can take today to launch their own smart city projects:

Step 1: Determine if the Project Supports Your City’s Mission

It is easy to get wrapped up in wanting to implement the latest shiny and flashy technologies. But will those technologies support the goals of your community? To get buy-in from the mayor, governor, or city manager, and to see the most success, focus on projects that will help you deliver on your city’s mission. Citizen demand can also be a good starting point: if citizens are asking for it, and it supports your city’s mission, the technology is worth exploring. Make a list of your top five projects, and move on to the next step!

The City of Opelika’s mission focuses on three things: to improve the quality of life for citizens, provide jobs through economic development, and be good stewards of citywide resources through sustainability. Stephen will only evaluate smart city projects that support one of these three areas, making his smart city strategies much more tailored to the city’s needs.

Step 2: Identify Technical Feasibility

Let’s say you want to implement sensors in every street to monitor and reroute cars because traffic is problematic in your community. But what if half of your streets are windy mountain roads, making it challenging to run end-to-end cabling? Does it still make sense to deploy sensors as well as a network to support them? When evaluating smart city projects, remember that the goal is to deliver outcomes that will deliver on your city’s mission, not necessarily to have the technology everywhere. Select the technologies that will be feasible to implement and will drive the biggest impact.

Stephen wants to work towards closing the digital divide in Opelika. But when he realized that covering the entire city with public Wi-Fi would be extremely difficult due to vast forested areas throughout the city, he determined this was not technically feasible. Instead, he is focused on rolling out public Wi-Fi in underserved areas, public libraries, and all government-owned buildings and areas, so that people can access the Internet when and where they need it. This will not only help bridge the digital divide, but will deliver on the city’s mission to improve quality of life and provide more economic opportunities for residents.

Step 3: Don’t Do it Alone: Find the Right Partners  

When exploring smart city projects, it is easy to quickly become overwhelmed. Even after narrowing down the projects you want to work on, and determining their technical feasibility, how do you actually get started? Find the right community and technology partners to help you on your journey; it is impossible to do it all alone. From your prioritized list, start thinking about who you can tap to help you plan out and execute your projects, from local universities to technology partners.

Stephen identified a handful of partners to work with to plan and launch his smart city initiatives. The short list includes various Cisco solutions, including Meraki, CIMCON lighting, and Auburn University, in addition to his collaboration with the Mayor and Government office heads. Each of these partners plays an important role in delivering on his smart city goals.

Now that you have a framework, what are you waiting for? Start planning and strategizing your smart city projects today. Still feeling a bit overwhelmed? Listen to this webinar recording to hear Stephen explain firsthand which smart city projects he chose to start with, how he plans to develop and install the technologies, and how he thinks the projects will benefit city residents.

Auto RF

By Steve Harrison

 

Introduction

This is the sixth in a series of blog posts that focus on wireless technology and security at Cisco Meraki.

The frequency spectrum that wireless networks operate in are shared frequency spectra; this is one of the reasons that Wi-Fi networks are so polite with one another. However, there are many more potential sources of interference, such as Bluetooth and microwave ovens in the 2.4GHz spectrum or medical scanners and radar in the 5GHz spectrum.  

These sources of interference can have a detrimental effect on the usability of wireless networks. Meraki AutoRF is a powerful and automated RF optimization solution that ensures that Meraki APs create the best possible environment for the clients served.  

Listen and Learn

AutoRF is able to do this because all Meraki APs have a dedicated security radio that also provides visual spectrum analysis. The Meraki APs also share this data with the AutoRF algorithm to determine the optimal channel plan and transmit power appropriately. In addition to this, Meraki network administrators can also get access to real-time channel utilization scans from the live tools section of each and every AP, as shown below:

This gives the administrator both instantaneous and historical data about interference sources seen by that particular AP. This listening radio can also be accessed to provide information in an industry-standard format too, which has traditionally only been available on dedicated spectrum analysis tools.

For customers with older Meraki APs without dedicated listening radios, it is possible to configure the access radios so that they periodically stop serving clients and start listening to the RF.  

Automatic for the People

Meraki AutoRF is actually made up of two different elements, Auto Channel and Auto Tx Power.

Auto Channel

Auto channel is enabled by default on Meraki networks but can be turned off if desired. When enabled, the Meraki dashboard follows best practice for channel use, meaning that only the three non-overlapping channels in the 2.4GHz spectrum are available. In the 5GHz spectrum, the channels available to the AP depends on both the country and hence regulatory domain that the AP is installed in and the type of AP, i.e. indoor or outdoor. Additionally the network administrator can choose to exclude DFS channels, which will prevent the AP from having to roam away from a channel if a radar signal is detected. Finally, administrators can also select the default channel width for transmission in the 5GHz band, as 802.11n supports channel widths of 40 MHz and 802.11ac supports channel widths of 80 MHz and up to 160 MHz, although 160 MHz is not suitable for enterprise deployments or supported in the Meraki dashboard.

In order to tune the transmit channel, the APs track the following three things:

  • Usage Demand APs within the dashboard network are monitored for their usage demand, i.e. the number of clients and amount of traffic being served by the AP. These values are mathematically combined so that each AP has a weighted value. This value is then used to ensure that the cleanest channels are utilized in the most demanding areas.
  • Airtime Availability – Each access point listens to the contention and airtime availability, i.e. free time in the medium, for each channel and bandwidth combination. When this data is aggregated it can be used to maximize the available airtime for all APs in the network, also known as the Basic Service Set (BSS), and also minimizes contention and improves client roaming performance. All visible APs — even neighboring APs — are considered in this metric, with Meraki APs being weighted higher to optimize roaming and airtime usage distribution. As opposed to just being polite (i.e. presuming they have as high a priority to the airtime as the Meraki AP and they’re clients)  with respect to neighboring networks and APs, this metric ensures that the AP and its clients also have ample airtime availability.
  • Channel Utilization – This metric includes both 802.11 and non-802.11 (Bluetooth, microwave ovens, etc.) sources of spectrum utilization. These external sources of interference are detected and accounted for within this metric.

The dashboard uses this information to tell the APs to move to a different channel if, say, a new AP is added, a channel becomes jammed, or the network administrator clicks the “Update Auto Channels” button.  

Channel moves can also be triggered by the “Steady State” process, which runs every 15 minutes. The Steady State process will instruct the AP to move channels if a better channel, based on the above criteria exists. However, the Steady State process is aware when a channel is being used for point-to-point communications and it will not change the channels of APs acting as a gateway AP.  

Auto Tx Power

Auto Tx Power operates by sampling the signal-to-noise ratio of neighboring APs in the same network. These readings are compiled into neighbor reports that are sent to the dashboard for processing. All AP neighbor reports are then aggregated and the dashboard leverages that aggregated data to determine each AP’s direct neighbors — APs that clients being served by the AP are likely to roam to — and how much each AP should adjust its transmit power to optimize cell coverage. The dashboard completes this calculation and instructs the APs to adjust their respective transmit power once every 20 minutes.  

As with Auto Channel, Auto Tx Power is mesh-aware and the same Steady State process/algorithm prevents power adjustments for APs that are acting as a gateway for an active mesh repeater.

Conclusion

Meraki’s AutoRF technology auto-tunes the RF for all but the most particular RF environments, and it does so without any need for additional appliances, services or licenses, by leveraging the power of the power.

References