It’s hard to believe, but IFSEC 2018 is just around the corner, and the Meraki team will be back for a second year. From 19 – 21 June, stop by Booth D520 at ExCeL London to chat with the team, ask for a demo, and see some of the newest MV security camera developments and feature releases in action. Get hands-on with MV12 hardware and see the tiny camera that’s shaking up the surveillance and video analytics worlds with built-in computer vision and machine learning.
The Merakians staffing the booth will be happy to answer all your burning questions about the rest of the Meraki portfolio as well!
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.
While numerous technologies are involved in helping manufacturers embrace the possibilities of Industry 4.0 — in essence, the “smart factory” — simple network management and top-notch network security are at the core of next-gen manufacturing. That’s why CIOs and COOs alike have prioritized establishing rock-solid, easy-to-manage and simple-to-scale networks.
Here a few ways deploying Cisco Meraki technology in the factory and beyond can help manufacturers drive process improvements and become more competitive.
Minimize Production Downtime
Every manufacturer recognizes the damaging impact that production downtime can have on manufacturing operations. Just a few minutes of downtime can cost large enterprises thousands or even millions of dollars, making constant uptime a key priority for decision makers in both the IT and OT departments. Meraki helps minimize downtime by simplifying remote network management, helping admins respond quickly to potential issues, and by staving off dangerous security threats.
Traditional networking infrastructure relies heavily on on-site management. And a solid network is key to preventing downtime, especially with so much production equipment being interconnected. Since maintaining an on-site IT staff at every location can be cost-prohibitive, the ability for a central IT staff to manage networks from anywhere can make a huge difference. With Meraki, admins can use real-time tools built into the dashboard, such as remote packet capture and cable testing, to identify and diagnose issues before they cause major network problems.
Additionally, as Internet-connected manufacturing equipment is increasingly embraced by IT and OT staff, a constantly updated unified threat management (UTM) system is crucial to keeping malicious cyber threats from infecting production equipment. Other features available with the Meraki solution, such as Auto-VPN and SD-WAN, help manufacturers achieve 24/7 uptime and connectivity at all sites.
Enable Mobility — Without the Headaches
In the manufacturing world, mobile technologies present an amazing opportunity to modernize production by giving plant managers and executives immediate access to real-time production information, such as production output and inventory numbers. While manufacturers absolutely should embrace these opportunities for greater information sharing and collaboration, it’s crucial to provide the right infrastructure for mobile devices. Centralized management helps ensure that devices are used to their fullest potential, without interfering with the production process. This requires deep conversations between the IT and OT departments.
Such collaboration may, for example, reveal the opportunity to integrate certain apps with production equipment. Company executives can use the resulting data to meet customer demand. Pushing the app to the right devices, configuring it correctly, and training employees on how to use the app are shared responsibilities of both departments. Meraki Systems Manager, Cisco’s enterprise mobility management (EMM) solution, can help IT seamlessly push apps and keep them updated. Systems Manager can also help manufacturers meet certain requirements for mobile device usage, whether by disabling mobile device cameras on confidential production line environments, locking devices to a single app, or preventing access to confidential data if a mobile device is taken outside of the production facility.
In many ways, manufacturers share the same opportunities and challenges as any other company when it comes to mobility. The BYOD (bring your own device) phenomenon has allowed all kinds of enterprises to make their employees more productive, even though security concerns are always present. Similarly, manufacturers can benefit heavily from enabling mobility, but using the right management tools is crucial to maximizing the benefits while minimizing the headaches.
The bane of every manufacturer’s existence is waste, whether it’s wasted time, wasted effort, or wasted materials. Even though eliminating waste entirely is a utopian ideal, the prevalence of automated machinery and other advanced technology that provides insight into production activity serves as evidence of manufacturers’ deep interest in minimizing waste. Making further progress on minimizing waste requires IT and OT to collaborate.
Why does IT-OT integration matter for waste minimization? Because waste — like many of the challenges manufacturers face — is too large of an issue for a single department to address. While waste in manufacturing occurs mainly on the OT side, expecting OT to wave a magic wand and minimize waste on its own is unrealistic in the interconnected factory of the 21st century. In fact, OT needs IT to deploy the right technology and connect the right teams with the right information to properly address waste. From a network connectivity standpoint, IT can minimize energy consumption using Meraki switches by applying schedules to certain switch ports. For instance, IT can automatically turn PoE devices off at specific times if 24/7 operation isn’t required. The aforementioned ability to centrally manage multiple networks through a single dashboard also helps prevent waste by minimizing the need for on-site maintenance.
Perhaps the most interesting application of Meraki technology in manufacturing from a waste minimization standpoint is the use of Meraki MV cameras as a sensor to intelligently monitor processes on-site. The ease of deployment and simple monitoring capabilities of the Meraki MV cameras are just the start; the cameras also allow IT and OT personnel to use motion heat maps to see movement on the factory floor and eliminate the need for an NVR (network video recorder) to save costs. Noosa Yoghurt, a leading manufacturer of yogurt in the United States, deploys the Meraki MV to mitigate product loss and help employees keep track of activities across the factory floor. (Check out Noosa’s story here.)
IT and OT may previously have been content to occupy two mindsets (and two different parts of the building), but Industry 4.0 requires that they come together to address key challenges manufacturers face today, including downtime, mobility, and waste. With Meraki technology, manufacturers can decrease costs, reduce waste, improve efficiency, and increase visibility of operations across the manufacturing plant. Ultimately, Meraki aims to simplify powerful technology and help IT focus on more strategic goals — which in manufacturing includes close collaboration with the OT team.
Meraki’s AutoRF technology performs automatic cloud-based, system-wide network optimization to ensure peak network performance in any environment. Each AP on a Meraki network continually monitors its environment for interference from other APs and feeds this information back to the Cloud Controller. Last month we added Spectrum Analysis, mitigating interference from non-WiFi devices like microwave ovens and Bluetooth headsets.
AutoRF has always run quietly in the background. But now, our new Radio Settings page gives you more visibility into what’s happening behind the scenes, and exposes new controls for advanced configuration.
The new Radio Power selector either allows the Cloud Controller to automatically dial back transmit power if it detects adjacent access points stepping on each others’ toes, or allows you to maintain full power for all APs.
The Channel Planning Report sheds light on how AutoRF is tuning your network, providing visibility into the current channel and transmit power settings for each AP, as well as the interference sources that were avoided. If you click on the “Details” link next to each row in the table, you will find a detailed report for all of the APs in your network on a particular channel.
Regular users of the Cloud Controller will notice that some settings previously found under Network Wide Settings have moved to this page, where they fit naturally.
We hope that you find this Radio Settings page helps you better understand how the Cloud Controller is optimizing your network, and helps you to make more informed decisions about how to use the Cloud Controller’s RF controls. Please let us know what you like, what you don’t, and what you’d like to see next!
Last month we announced our new Traffic Shaper feature and gave administrators unprecedented visibility into the wireless traffic on their network, providing the ability to see what might be bogging down their network, be it YouTube, BitTorrent or too many users uploading pictures to Facebook. Now, with the new Traffic Shaper page in Dashboard, administrators finally have the tools to not only see what kinds of recreational applications are taking over their network but to do something about it!
Administrators can now create application-specific shaping policies for total control over their wireless bandwidth. Let’s say your Sales team needs snappy access to Salesforce.com at all times, but most of Engineering is streaming World Series games and consuming all of your bandwidth. With Traffic Shaper, shaping policies can be created that apply per user bandwidth limits for specific applications such as video streaming sites, as well as apply QoS priority levels at both Layer 2 and 3 to make sure your Salesforce traffic gets prioritized across the network.
To make setting up new shaping policies fast and simple, we have created pre-defined groups of applications that administrators most commonly want to shape:
Administrators can also create more specific policies for particular applications using HTTP hostnames (eg. salesforce.com), IP and port numbers. Here is an example of a typical shaping policy that you would see in an office setting:
In this example, a rule has been created to apply a 1 Mbps bandwidth limit to all users on the Meraki-Corp SSID for Peer-to-Peer and streaming video and music applications. A second rule has also been created to provide Layer 3 QoS prioritization to applications that are critical to this business, Salesforce.com and Dropbox.com, as well as to provide unlimited bandwidth to these applications.
Since Traffic Shaper can leverage the intelligence of over 16,000 customer networks through the Meraki Cloud Controller, Traffic Shaper’s database of application signatures is always updated. As new P2P and social media applications appear on the scene, they will be quickly fingerprinted and added to the Cloud Controller database for our customer networks so that administrators are never caught unaware by the next BitTorrent.
Traffic Shaper can now be found under the Configure tab in Dashboard. If you are interested in learning more about how Traffic Shaper works, we invite you to join us for a webinar that we’ll be conducting about Traffic Shaper on November 2nd. Details can be found here:
TEDGlobal 2010, themed “And Now the Good News”, wrapped up with some good news for Meraki and TEDGlobal attendees using the conference WiFi. As part of the British Telecom Sponsorship team, fellow Meraki engineer Robert Shanks and I were on site to deploy and support the wireless network for this 4-day conference. To make a long story short, the wireless network performed flawlessly, with just over a 1,000 people connecting throughout the conference and transferring over 250 gigabytes of data.
The conference venue, located in Oxford, UK, had its fiber backhaul brought in by BT. The backhaul was then distributed to wireless users in the two main venues of the conference, the Oxford Playhouse and the gala rooms of the Randolph Hotel, through fifteen MR14 dual-radio access points.
We leaned heavily on the Cloud Controller to quickly deploy the network with a small team. Rogue AP detection and automatic channel spreading maintained performance while TEDsters blogged, tweeted, browsed and streamed all at once. While we trusted the Cloud Controller’s real-time alerts to let us know about unexpected changes (there weren’t any), we also kept tabs on the network’s summary report, giving us a good understanding of the overall usage and performance of the network.
Along with performance and usage information, the summary reports confirmed that the device-of-choice for TEDsters was the iPad, with well over 100 using the network. In fact, hand-held devices accounted for over 50% of clients connecting to the network.
We had a great time at TED, and were happy to see the Meraki network being used so heavily. Thanks to the team at British Telecom for including us!
It doesn’t matter how large or small the conference is, it seems like they always have WiFi problems. The networks are consistently slow, frequently fail, and usually require some arcane security measure that involve weirdly-small scraps of paper and bizarre usernames.
There’s no reason for WiFi to be this frustrating!
We’ve started a new project to loan our enterprise-grade WiFi gear to smaller tech conferences, meetups, BarCamps, WordCamps, Tweetups, whathaveyou … for free. You provide the Internet connection, and we’ll provide a rock-solid WiFi connection. All we ask in return is that if you like our products, tell your friends, and if not, let us know how we can make them better.
We’ve just gotten started with this project, but so far, meetups like SF Beta, WordCamp Boulder, and Hacks/Hackers NYC have had great experiences.
“One of the best decisions we made for our conference. Not only was the delivery and setup effortless, our network remained stable throughout the entire day. No matter your wireless needs, this experience alone tells me Meraki’s solutions are some of the best.” —WordCamp Boulder
As part of this project, we’re excited to be partnering with WordCamp.org. We’ll offer a streamlined signup process for the many BarCamp-style events that these organizations sponsor throughout the year.
If you run an event and would like to participate in our new Free Event WiFi project, we’d love it if you signed up! We’re looking for small to medium-sized events that have enough bandwidth to support that group.
If you’re interested, head on over to the signup page to learn more or take a look at our plug-and-play setup guide, or ask any questions below!
One of the most challenging aspects of managing large distributed networks is troubleshooting issues when the client is across town (or maybe even across the country!). Having on-site IT personnel 24/7 at even small satellite branch offices can require a very large IT staff and is too expensive for most organizations. Meraki networks offer a variety of “remote hands” troubleshooting tools, helping network admins diagnose and resolve many wireless connectivity issues without dispatching IT staff to the site. The ability to run diagnostic checks such as pinging an access point, running a throughput test from Dashboard, or reviewing detailed event logs have been integral to Meraki’s value for distributed networks and organizations with small IT staffs and large footprints.
We are now announcing a set of Live Client Tools that expose even more up-to-the-second information about who is on a wireless network, and further help troubleshoot connectivity issues. Administrators who log into their Enterprise network in Dashboard will notice several new and improved areas. On the Monitor > Overview page, there is now a new addition under the network name showing the number of clients that are associated at that moment:
If you click on the “More” link, you will see an expanded list with more information, including which SSIDs and channels the clients are using. This data is automatically refreshed as long as the “More” link is expanded.
Even cooler, Enterprise customers can change the access points map to show where clients are associated: click the “Options” menu on the map and select “Current clients.”
But the really interesting stuff is on the Access Point and Client detail pages. The Access Point detail page used to look like this:
Now, all of the live tools have been consolidated into a new, cleaner layout. Both Pro and Enterprise networks will benefit from the new layout. Enterprise networks now have two additional features in this area: Current Clients and Ping Client MAC. Clicking on the play icon next to Current Clients will pop up a list of all clients associated to that AP at that instant, including useful information about each client such as MAC, SSID, channel, signal strength, and how long they have been associated. Click on the name of a client to go to its client details page. You’ll even see clients that have associated, but not authenticated (they’re listed in grey). If you click the Ping link next to the client, you can actually ping that client in real time using ARP, as well as get additional information, such as RSSI changes over time and 802.1X identity (if appropriate).
The other new addition, Ping Client MAC, allows you to enter a MAC address and try to ping it. This can be very useful if you are trying to determine if a particular device is on your network at that moment.
There is also a new Live Tools section on the client detail page. From this page you can also ping that individual client, but there are a few additional new tools:
The Locate Client tool allows you to find out whether that client is associated on your network at that moment, and if so, where they’re associated and for how long:
Finally, the Packet Counter tool shows a real-time count of received and sent packets to that client. You can actually see the packet counters roll as you ping the client!
We think these new tools further improve Meraki’s uniquely clear approach to distributed, multi-site network management, a normally challenging task. Network administrators can more quickly resolve their wireless users’ connectivity issues and access accurate real-time data about the exact state of their network.
We’re excited to kick off the new year with a new webinar series. Over the next eight weeks, we will be discussing a variety of wireless topics – from enabling guest access to debugging client connectivity issues and more. We are particularly looking forward to giving each attendee a FREE Meraki Indoor access point with a 3-year Enterprise Cloud Controller license (a $450 value!).
We’ll have sessions every two weeks, covering the following subjects:
Deploying Guest Wireless Access
Multi-site Wireless Management and Remote Help Desk
Upgrading to 802.11n
Our first session – on deploying guest wireless access – kicks off next Wednesday, January 13. Guests increasingly expect wireless Internet access when they visit your organization, be it an office, campus or other facility. Learn how to get set up painlessly and inexpensively, as we discuss the requirements and options for guest wireless systems, including tips for deployment with minimal expense and complexity.
Sign up for next Wednesday’s webinar here (Update: if you want to sign up for upcoming webinars, go here), and check out the complete schedule below: