Wireless Infrastructure

06:47 PM
Lee Badman
Lee Badman
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Meru Network Embraces BYOD, Offers Beefy New Hardware

Lately, the solutions I've analyzed through the lens of BYOD have usually had something to do with smartphone and application management. But Wi-Fi vendors are also well aware of the procedural and technical complexities spawned by clients that show up with all sorts of gadgets that need to simply work on the WLAN. Meru Networks has recently introduced a new feature set for its WLAN product line that helps with BYOD and other aspects of today's changing wireless landscape.

Lately, the solutions I've analyzed through the lens of BYOD (or, bring your own device) have usually had something to do with smartphone and application management. But Wi-Fi vendors are also well aware of the procedural and technical complexities spawned by clients that show up with all sorts of gadgets that need to simply work on the WLAN. Meru Networks has recently introduced a new feature set for their WLAN product line that helps with BYOD and other aspects of today's changing wireless landscape.

Among the concerns that come with a high BYOD factor are questions of policy. Regardless of device type, if I’m in the corporate directory and I authenticate to the WLAN, chances are very good that the requirements for my device setup and my allowed usage behavior are covered by policy. If it’s a device issued by my employer, the equation might be different than if it’s my own. And if I’m a guest to the WLAN and policy allows for guest access, ideally I wouldn’t have to jump through hoops to use the WLAN. Nor would the network be at risk just because an outsider is being given a little connectivity. Meru’s latest offerings answer all of these challenges.

When you run secure, enterprise wireless networks, one of the biggest challenges can be getting large numbers of clients properly configured to work the way your network needs them to. Manually configuring wireless client devices is unctuous when lots of device types and hundreds or thousands of devices need to be touched. My own silver bullet is the widely used CloudPath configuration utility, which does a wonderful job of all but eliminating secure client configuration headaches regardless of what options are used. Meru now takes client configuration up a notch with SmartConnect. Based on magic acquired when Meru purchased Identity Networks, SmartConnect can configure both wireless and wired secure clients, and is nuanced enough to apply different profiles to a device based on whether it is identified as a corporate asset or a BYOD device after it classifies the device. Powerful.

Meru’s SmartConnect also solves the issue of wireless guest access. This is an area where even those of us with top-end super systems have gone outside of our systems’ built-in guest features because they disappoint. With SmartConnect (which non-Meru users can also leverage) guest access is easy, and actually comes with security delivered via a wizard for pretty much all major platforms. As cool as this sounds, and I think it’s great, guests that show up with corporate locked-down laptops probably won’t be able to make use of it.

Also new with Meru’s latest releases are enhancements to System Director 5 software that further the system’s ability to automatically recognize and apply traffic-handling priorities to the likes of unified computing and virtual desktop infrastructure apps. Now, given the size of the facility in question, Meru makes controllerless branch WLANs possible, as well. New high-capacity, 1U controllers have been added to the product line, and the MC4200 offers a welcome option for two 10 Gbit uplink ports. (Uh, Cisco, where are you on the 10 Gbit thing for your controllers?) Finally, new three-radio/three-stream access points (AP400) and integrated spectrum analysis in the AP433is either catch Meru up or move it ahead of the competition, depending on who the competition is.

Meru sees its new hardware as the key to "a completely wireless edge," and claims 50% higher capacity than any enterprise solution today. (I have to admit the voices in my head are mumbling something about "marketing math" as I write that).

Bottom line: Meru became famous for its unique single-cell wireless architecture, but the company shows it gets the whole picture when it comes to business-class WLANs. Meru has built a loyal customer base with its unique approach to the RF side of the wireless equation, but is also maturing the rest of its features in ways that keep it competitive, if not progressive in spots. And now, even non-Meru shops might benefit from Smart Connect for client configuration and guest access, both of which can be tough nuts to crack. No doubt Meru is banking on these offerings to open the door for more wireless infrastructure sales.

At the time of publication, Meru is not a client of and has no business relationship with Lee Badman.

Lee is a Network Engineer and Wireless Technical Lead for a large private university. He also teaches classes on networking, wireless network administrtaion, and wireless security. Lee's technical background includes 10 years in the US Air Force as an Electronc Warfare ... View Full Bio
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