The cloud has been changing how many wireless networks are built and managed for some time now in the enterprise. Cloud-managed WiFi also has grown in the SMB market with a number of vendors offering features and pricing options tailored for small companies. One of those vendors, Open Mesh, has added cloud-managed switches to its low-cost portfolio.
Open Mesh has been around for about as long as Meraki (now Cisco), and many consider the CloudTrax cloud controller to be a “poor man’s Meraki” for what it offers and how features are presented in the management interface. Unlike the premiums charged by other cloud-managed WLAN vendors, Open Mesh gives CloudTrax away with the purchase of its low-cost access points, making it a profoundly good deal.
I’m currently kicking tires on the Open Mesh MR1750 3x3 802.11ac access point. It has a list price of $225, yet its form factor is identical to APs by Adtran/Bluesocket and Mojo Networks. When paired with CloudTrax, the APs are easy to appreciate for a number of network scenarios where budget seriously matters.
One strike against Open Mesh is that it always has been an AP-only company. CloudTrax is great for Wi-Fi management, but APs need power and a switch environment in even the smallest legitimate business setting. Open Mesh has addressed that shortcoming with the release of its first switches, and I’m also testing one of those. I have the 24-port S24 (8 and 48-port switches also are available), and the integration with CloudTrax couldn’t be more seamless and effective.
The S-series switches can provide 802.3at 30 Watt Power over Ethernet (PoE), but not to every port. They do provide legacy 15.4 W PoE to every port, and that’s all that most Open Mesh APs will likely need. This is where critics might argue that Open Mesh doesn't compete with Cisco on spec, but it doesn’t try to be Cisco or any other true enterprise WLAN vendor. The company is about value and effective basic features, not about winning bake-offs against the big guns. It’s just in a different part of the market, and the price-versus-capability paradigm is compelling.
Pretty much all of the typical Ethernet switch trappings are included in the new Open Mesh switches, and configurable through CloudTrax. My 24-port switch has a list price of $750, and even the 48-port model is only $1,399 list with no additional license requirements for full management and monitoring through CloudTrax. I'm not aware of any other vendor providing this low of TCO.
As impressed as I am with Open Mesh’s new switches when paired with its latest APs and CloudTrax, I can’t help but lament the lack of a gateway/router component to round out this fascinating product set. As it is now, you have to provide a third-party router and manage that separately.
If Open Mesh can bring that missing piece to market, it will become even more interesting to customers and VARs tired of crushing licensing costs that come with cloud-managed WiFi from the bigger players.