On February 9th we announced the launch of the latest access point (AP) to join the Meraki wireless portfolio, the flagship MR42. The MR42 is a 3×3:3 802.11ac Wave 2 AP that ushers in a new era of high performance, more efficient WiFi thanks to the inclusion of Multi User – Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO).
In addition to this, the MR42 continues our strategy of completely integrated beacon and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) functionality. This sees the MR42 becoming our most technology advanced wireless platform, with four integrated radios and the latest 802.11 wireless standard, yet all in a sleek low profile design.
MU-MIMO allows wireless networks to more efficiently service the increasing numbers of phones, tablets, and other personal mobile devices. MU-MIMO does this by allowing the AP to communicate with multiple devices concurrently, rather than consecutively.
With Single User MIMO (SU-MIMO) the AP can use the multiple spatial streams to send a large amount of data to clients that can receive all these streams. Devices such as laptops could support two or sometimes three streams, allowing for high speed connections. Unfortunately smaller mobile devices like phones can typically support only one stream, and thus can’t take advantage of this capability.
MU-MIMO solves the problem of devices being unable to use all these spatial streams. The AP can use the individual spatial streams to send separate transmissions to distinct clients simultaneously. This increases the total network performance and improves the end user experience, especially when large numbers of devices are connected.
The addition of MU-MIMO complements Single User MIMO (SU-MIMO) rather than replacing it. An AP can choose the best way to transmit: simultaneously to multiple devices as efficiently as possible, or consecutively to individual devices as fast as possible. It is now time to wave goodbye to slow WiFI.
Are you looking for a next generation wireless solution that can future proof your network against the growing demands of your users? Then there is now one clear choice, the cloud managed Meraki MR42 AP. To find out more details you can visit the product page or listen to one of our launch webinar recordings.
Systems Manager Sentry offers a range of features that make the life of IT administrators easier. By providing simple, automatic security that is context aware, Sentry dramatically simplifies previously complex configurations. To be able to take advantage of Sentry functionality, devices need to be enrolled in Systems Manager. There are a variety of ways this can be done, but one of the simplest is by using Sentry enrollment.
Sentry enrollment is available with Meraki MR Access Points (AP) and not only automates deployment of Systems Manager, but ensures policy compliance by requiring Systems Managers installation. Sentry enrollment is an option within the wireless access control page of the Meraki dashboard. By choosing the radio button that enables Systems Manager Sentry enrollment, all devices connecting to this SSID will be checked for Systems Manager.
With Sentry enrollment enabled and a Systems Manager network selected, the administrator then has a couple of options to choose from. The strength option allows the level of compliance to be tailored to suit your environment. With the strength set to ‘Focused’, only the system types you have chosen will be forced to enrol in Systems Manager. A good example of why this may be desirable, is if you only want mobile Apple devices such as iPhones and iPads under management, not Windows laptops. This can be achieved by choosing ‘Focused’ and selecting iOS as the only system type you wish to force to enroll.
When a user connects to an SSID with Sentry enrollment, they must have Systems Manager to be able to access the network. If a user removes Systems Manager from their device, they will be forced to install it again if they want to access the network. Watch the video below for a full dashboard and end user demonstration of this feature in action.
Users are guided through the enrollment process with the necessary settings pre-configured for them. This eliminates the need to pre-stage devices before they are delivered to users and allows enrollment as and when devices connect. Think of it as your fast lane to pervasive mobile device management.
Sentry features highlight the power and simplicity of the Meraki cloud architecture that provides native integration between different product families. Typically such enrollment or onboarding processes require additional servers, appliances, or licences. Even if this is not needed, integration between the MDM and the network (often from different vendors) can be complex to configure. With Meraki, enrollment becomes a couple of clicks and a matter of moments to enable. Find out more by attending one of our focused webinars covering the Sentry features of Systems Manager in further detail.
All Meraki wireless products offer out–of–the–box, easy to use location features as part of Cisco’s location analytics technology, Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX). With CMX location analytics it’s possible to determine important business metrics such as how many people enter your location, how long they stay, and how frequently they visit.
Adding no additional cost, thanks to the Meraki all-inclusive licensing model, this data has become available to many organizations that could not typically justify deploying when there was an additional cost. This has led to innovative uses of the location data that has enabled smart city initiatives, and allowed educators to understand student movements.
An important component of empowering this creative use of CMX location analytics was the release of an Application Programming Interface (API). This lets organizations have access to the raw data used by the Meraki dashboard. With access to the raw data there are some major benefits. The first is that no data is summarized and full device identities are included, facilitating lookup by other applications, like CRM. The second is that the data is provided offered with only a short delay between it being created and presented to the API.
Thus the API allows for highly advanced software systems to be developed that are location and identity aware. User identity can be linked to devices, location awareness becomes bound only by the geographical dispersion of your access points (AP), and software systems can make decisions within a time span that is relevant to a device’s location.
One of the downsides of providing raw data is that it can be complex to manipulate for the application developer. For this reason, the engineering team at Meraki developed a second generation API and open source example code. The version two CMX API can be selected in the Meraki dashboard and offers X,Y coordinates and latitude and longitude values. With the first API, radio signal strength values are provided for trilateration of a devices location. Further details on what is available in the API can be found in the documentation here.
To hear more about the development of the location API, and possible uses of the source code, then you can do so by listening to the above podcast with George Bentinck (Solutions Architect) and Nathan (Member of Meraki technical staff).
If you are interested in building an application with Meraki location information, then it is worth checking out our example code on GitHub here. This provides a great way of getting started with the CMX API and can form the base of your future projects. You can try an application based on this code, with live data from the Meraki offices in San Francisco, by following this link, or by viewing example output data here.
The end goal of any site survey is to ensure the most optimal configuration of the wireless network for the given requirements. These requirements can differ from physical location to physical location and can even vary within different areas of a location. Often the requirements have to be balanced against each other to reach the most optimal outcome. The requirements can include:
Specific support for high density or real-time applications like voice
Location services and positioning
Minimization of interference with other networks or RF signals
Designers of wireless networks have a number of tools in their armory to meet these requirements. Some of the areas a designer can control are:
The location of the APs
The number of APs
The transmit power of the APs
The channel the APs use
Site Survey – a Designer’s Best Friend
Due to the nature of radio waves, it can often be hard to visualize how aspects of your design will work when viewed as a collection of numbers and PDF specifications. The physical environment also has a major impact on how you design the deployment and how the APs will work. Enter the site survey and fantastic site survey tools such as Ekahau’s Site Survey and Fluke Networks AirMagnet.
These applications and others like them, allow you to visualize your WLAN deployment before, during, and after its deployment. Invisible radio waves become easy to understand with colorful heatmaps. Site surveys can be divided into three types that are typically carried out in order; predictive, pre, and post site surveys.
Predictive surveys use floor plans, estimates of building materials, and advanced algorithms to predict how the wireless network will look. This is based on the number of APs, their location, and their configuration.
Pre-site surveys allow the wireless designer to accurately record the reality of the physical environment where the WLAN will be deployed. This can then be used to prove, or disprove the validity of the design that is often created by a predictive site survey. The pre-site survey is typically carried out by placing an access point of the model you wish to use, with the configuration you think is appropriate, in different locations in the building. At each location the wireless is surveyed by taking readings using the site survey software. This then uses the information to update its model of the design.
Finally a post-site survey repeats the measurements taken by the pre-site survey but this time with all the APs for the final deployment in place. This survey is used to prove the design is correct or help identify adjustments that need to be made.
Although it is not essential to carry out all types of site surveys, it is generally recommended that at a minimum, a pre-site survey is carried out for any location with more than a handful of APs.
Listen to Ryan, a support engineer in the Meraki San Francisco office talk about the importance of surveying for your WLAN.
To perform a site survey with an AP, desired settings are typically configured before, then moving it between the locations that are being surveyed. The AP is often attached to a tripod or other type of stand to simulate the physical position it would have when deployed e.g. wall mounted or ceiling mounted. To make the movement of the AP easier, it is not normally attached to AC power and is instead powered by a portable battery pack.
Before the introduction of the dedicated site survey mode on the Meraki APs, it was necessary to include an additional equipment beyond just power. The reason for this was that the self healing auto mesh functionality built into every Meraki AP would try and repair the AP’s connection to the LAN. It does this by scanning for other mesh APs to communicate with when it can’t see a gateway. When this happened, it meant that site survey tools were not able get a reading.
The new site survey mode allows network admins to turn an AP into a dedicated device for site surveys. When enabled the AP will broadcast an open SSID named “site_survey-” followed by its MAC address. The AP can then have the channels and transmit power set for both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz radios.
To access the site survey mode, wirelessly connect to the desired AP and enter ap.meraki.com into your web browser. Alternatively you can access the same page by entering the LAN IP address of the AP into your web browser.
This local management page on the AP is used for basic setup, troubleshooting, or for when a specific manual configuration is required. Choose the ‘Configure’ tab and enter the credentials requested by the login box. Once logged in, you can access the settings for the site survey mode.
Completing a site survey is often an essential step on the path to an efficient, high performance WLAN. Ensuring your deployment is right from the start can save many hours of troubleshooting and associated costs later on. The new Meraki site survey mode will help make this process simpler and easier for anyone going through this activity.
PCI DSS 2.0 Compliance Reports are now available on Enterprise dashboards! You can check your network settings such as firewall rules and password policies against PCI WLAN requirements, and receive a summary report that can be archived or printed out. If something’s out of compliance, the report provides guidance on how to fix things. Centrally managed from the cloud, Meraki makes it easy and cost effective to deploy, monitor, and verify PCI compliant WiFi across distributed networks of any size. It’s no wonder retailers are turning to Meraki for their networking solutions. (more…)