Cisco is announcing a new managed service offering built on the Meraki product line that it acquired last year. The Cisco Meraki Managed Services Dashboard is a new option for those shopping for a Meraki system because now you can have a provider run your network environment for you via the cloud.
Managed service providers (MSP) can market the complete Meraki suite as an outsourced service to their customers. Providers use the dashboard to isolate customer accounts while providing personalized services. The offering manages both WLANs and wired networks, and includes simple WLAN services at small sites as well as complex, multisite interconnectivity with switching, security, WLAN, application control and MDM.
With the new services, customers go to their MSP for support. In turn, the MSP can tap Cisco for issues the MSP can’t solve itself. Whether this model is a success depends on a few factors, including the quality of individual MSPs and whether Cisco prices the service fairly without bloating the license costs.
There’s not much new here for Meraki customers who run their own environments, but those looking for new networking options will want to take note. Meanwhile, competitors such as Aerohive and PowerCloud will no doubt see Cisco's latest move as further validation of their own models.
As a customer of both Meraki and Cisco, I was worried that the acquisition might wreck some of the things I liked about Meraki. For example, Meraki makes a point of quick turnaround of feature requests from customers with its nifty Make a Wish tool. Cisco expects customers to funnel similar requests via a black hole that relies on local SEs as gatekeepers to a very murky process.
Meraki also keeps its dashboard interfaces and options simple, effective and mostly intuitive. Cisco’s own Prime Infrastructure and controller interfaces frequently present what I will politely call “navigational challenges.”
The WLAN community is watching to see how long the better parts of Meraki will remain in place. So far, Cisco has been true to its word that it wouldn’t ruin a good thing; Meraki has largely maintained its operational look and feel in the months that Cisco has owned it.
But this outcome isn’t a given. Cisco may decide it can’t support two paradigms and eventually morph the nimble Meraki goodness into the more bureaucratic and bigger corporate feel of Cisco proper. In the meantime, I’ll appreciate my current Meraki network as long as its stays just the way it is.