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Meru Guarantees WLAN Uptime, With Strings Attached

Wireless vendor Meru Networks has introduced a new service assurance program that guarantees 99.99 percent uptime using its enterprise WLAN architecture. Meru's professional services group will be tasked with evaluating, architecting, and monitoring customer networks under the program. While Meru makes aggressive claims about service levels, the conditions that need to be met to achieve these metrics may give pause to some customers.

Large, mission-critical enterprise wireless networks are the focus of Meru's new service assurance program. For those qualified customers, the Meru program will guarantee three things. First is 99.99 percent uptime, which translates to approximately one hour of downtime per year. Second, Meru promises voice-over-WLAN call quality will be on par with traditional land line services. Third, the company claims an enterprise's capacity needs will be met with 30 percent fewer access points than competing products. Meru cites its virtualized WLAN architecture and its recently launched Service Assurance Manager products as the key factors to deliver this level of service.

Unfortunately, not every Meru customer will qualify for the assurance program. Meru has set guidelines for the size and scale of deployments that it will support under the program, such as at least 100 access points covering an area of 100,000 square feet on a single campus.  Furthermore, to be included in the program organizations must allow Meru to perform a no-charge pre-assessment of the current deployment, with a follow-on engagement to make any necessary architecture changes.

In other words, an enterprise essentially needs a network designed, architected, and monitored by Meru to achieve the service guarantees. In addition, the company makes no mention of what customers are entitled to if Meru can't meet the level of service it promises. The company does say customers involved in the assurance program would receive a rapid response from Meru engineers in the event of an outage.

Meru's public claim of four 9s is bold, but the details of the program are ultimately designed to shine a spotlight on their services organization, rather than any differences in its products compared to other WLAN competitors. It's likely that Cisco or Motorola could achieve similar levels of uptime and performance quality if given carte blanche to architect a customer's wireless architecture.