Cisco Meraki Adds Cloud-Managed Phone

Company also debuts new Wave 2 access points and a multi-gigabit access switch.

Marcia Savage

May 24, 2016

2 Min Read
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Cisco today expanded its Meraki product line into cloud-managed communications with a desktop phone. It also extended its Meraki wireless networking and Ethernet switch lines with two new 802.11ac Wave 2 access points and a multi-gigabit access switch.

Meraki has been a bright spot for Cisco as it shifts from its traditional focus on hardware to cloud services and software. Cisco bought the cloud-managed WiFi company in 2012. Since then, the number of customers has grown eight-fold to 120,000, Pablo Estrada, director of marketing for Cisco's cloud networking group, said in an interview. Cisco has expanded Meraki's cloud-management model to include Ethernet switches and security appliances.

The new phone, the Meraki MC74, is managed through the Meraki dashboard and features a big-touch screen display. It's designed for mid-market customers and distributed enterprises. The hardware sells for $599 and the Meraki cloud license costs $150 per year. Cisco is partnering with SIP provider IntelePeer to offer the telephony service at launch, and plans to add more SIP partners over time.

Cisco Meraki phone

Meraki Communications.png

Estrada said he doesn't see much overlap between the Meraki MC74 and Cisco's other unified communications products. "This will be a natural add-on for Meraki's customers," he said. Meraki's extension into communications fortifies its evolution beyond networking into cloud-managed IT, he said.

Lee Badman, a wireless networking profession and Network Computing contributor, told me in an email that he's interested learning more about the Meraki phone.

"As a user of Meraki in my branch settings, the phone is interesting as it may allow for a more complete solution. The voice component in remote locations can be challenging, and often ends up being a per-location legacy paradigm that can be tough to support," he wrote. "Depending on how Cisco-Meraki implements and integrates the phone, it could be very empowering. The devil is always in the details, though, and I’m looking forward to getting a first-hand operational look at the phones."

Along with the phone, Cisco introduced two new wireless access points. Both the MR52 and MR53 are 802.11ac Wave 2 APs. The main attraction of Wave 2 of the 11ac wireless protocol is multi-user MIMO (multiple input and multiple output), which promises to increase WLAN user density by supporting more clients simultaneously.

Cisco also launched a new stackable multi-gigabit access switch and a 10 GbE aggregation switch. The 24-port access switch is designed to work with the MR53 AP, which features multi-gigabit uplink options.

In a blog post, Todd Nightingale, a Meraki engineer, wrote that because the new APs provide higher capacity and connect more devices than ever before, they can't reach their full potential on a single gigabit link, hence the debut of the new multi-gigabit switch. The argument that Wave 2 requires multi-gigabit uplinks, however, is a point of debate in the WLAN community.

About the Author(s)

Marcia Savage

Executive Editor, Network Computing

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