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, watch a webinar recording with David and a Meraki product specialist. They discussed 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. Watch here!
We’ve all experienced it: you open up your laptop or phone and you’re greeted with a notification informing you that a new update is available, or better yet, that a new update has just been installed. While these can sometimes feel like a distraction, this is an amazing capability that most of us now take for granted. Gone are the days of downloading software packages, figuring out when to install them, and crossing your fingers while they install.
When it comes to managing firmware on enterprise networks however, IT teams still spend lots of time keeping the network up to date—TFTP servers, firmware downloads, MD5 hash checks, install scripts, maintenance windows…sound familiar? Wouldn’t it be nice if your network maintained itself reliably and securely? Enter Meraki: automatic firmware updates are just one of the many powerful and unique features you get with our rapidly growing ecosystem of products. Those of you familiar with our products know this well, and hopefully have to think about firmware less and less. Our cloud-based architecture means we can handle the complete process; all you need to do is provide a desired upgrade window, and we’ll handle the rest, from initiating the upgrades to verifying they completed successfully. The next morning you wake up to new features and, in some cases, a network that is even more secure. At the end of the day, our mission at Meraki is to reduce the amount of time our customers spend managing and troubleshooting IT so they can focus on what’s most important.
To support this powerful new approach, both our hardware and software have been uniquely designed to ensure a smooth upgrade each and every time. This starts with a dual-partition flash storage architecture, protecting each Meraki device from power outages and other failure scenarios while the upgrade takes place. Any time a new upgrade is made available, customers are notified two weeks prior to the scheduled upgrade window and have a choice to upgrade now, reschedule, or to proceed as scheduled:
These options add flexibility for both a hands-off or more custom-tailored approach regardless of the size and number of networks a team manages.
Before new firmware ever makes it to our customers, our engineering team expends a painstaking amount of effort scrutinizing each and every feature, both new and old, to ensure no issues or bugs get introduced. This happens in Meraki Labs, a state-of-the-art 5,500 square foot testing facility based in our San Francisco headquarters. Meraki Labs serves as our global quality assurance center for all new software releases. Take our MS switching products for example; over the past five years, Meraki’s MS family of enterprise switches has grown from just 4 to over 24 different models, supporting a wide range of enterprise features and accessories. Our quality assurance (QA) team works tirelessly to keep up with this tremendous growth, adding new tests daily and working with the broader engineering team as well as our beta customers to address any issues that are uncovered.
Entrance to Meraki Labs, San Francisco, California
Once new firmware has passed our rigorous QA and testing process, it is made available to our beta release channel. Many customers choose to subscribe their test and lab environments to beta releases so they can have early access to testing the new firmware before it is made available to the rest of their organization. Thousands of our customers already help contribute to our new feature releases which provides for an amazing and unique new approach to building and improving our products, and we look at all feedback we receive. If you’re an existing customer, we’d love for you to be part of our beta community. Here is how to subscribe:
Choose the desired network from the drop down at the top of dashboard
Go to Network-wide > Configure > General:
Scroll down to Firmware upgrades and choose Yes for Try beta firmware
That’s it! We will always notify you prior to your network receiving a new upgrade, and we invite you to provide any and all feedback on your beta experience via the Make a Wish box, your Meraki contact, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!
If you don’t yet have Meraki products and you like the idea of Merakifying your next firmware upgrade, check out one of our webinars to learn more!