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Meraki Beefs Up SD-WAN Portfolio
When the name Meraki comes up, most industry people think about Wi-Fi, as that's how the company got its start. Meraki was one of the first vendors to simplify the process of deploying wireless in a business environment. What many people don't know about the company, however, is how sizable its security and SD-WAN business is.
Meraki's MX series comprises cloud-managed appliances that offer a wide range of security, networking, and application control features including next-generation firewall, SD-WAN, switching, Wi-Fi, intrusion prevention, VPN, and other features. The current customer count for the MX series is at 140,000, with 14,000 using it for SD-WAN. In most recent fiscal quarters, MX revenue is close to or on par with Wi-Fi revenue, showing how far Meraki has come in this area.
Integrating Meraki into Cisco has enabled the company to beef up its security capabilities with Cisco technology. The Intrusion Protection System (IPS) and next-generation firewalls are from technology via Cisco's Sourcefire acquisition; it includes Cisco AMP (advanced malware protection) and embedded threat intelligence from Cisco Talos. This gives Meraki customers the same state-of-the-art security that large Cisco customers get.
This week Meraki announced six new MX appliance models, as well as a new Z-series teleworker product: MX67/68, MX67W/68W, MX67C, MX68CW, and Z3C. I won't go through all the technical details of each product, as those can be found on Meraki's website. The major differences in these new products compared to the MX64(W) and MX65(W) are as follows:
- Firewall throughput of 450Mbps compared to 250Mpbps
- VPN throughput of 200 Mbps compared to 100 Mbps
- 802.11ac Wave 2 versus Wave 1
- Embedded LTE in "C" models instead of requiring a dongle
The throughput improvements and Wi-Fi upgrades are interesting but somewhat expected given the evolution of silicon. The two appliances that I find most intriguing are the MX67C and MX68CW with integrated LTE modems. The back of these appliances have SIM ports so businesses just need to pop in a SIM card and up comes the network. This can be configured as a backup link or the primary connection if no wired option is available.
The use of cellular as a WAN connection has been discussed for years, but most carriers kept this as a metered service, making it cost prohibitive to do so. Now, most carriers offer a flat-rate service, or at least better corporate pricing, enabling enterprises to make part of the WAN wireless if one so chooses. As 5G comes online, the use of LTE as a WAN technology will accelerate quickly.
The Z3C is a teleworker gateway that includes an embedded LTE SIM port, similar to the C model of the MX series of appliances. The primary use case for the Z3C is for home workers to use to instantly connect them and make them a secure node on their company network. It's a small device that includes a PoE port to connect a VoIP phone, making it an "all in one" home box.
The LTE connection makes the product much more versatile, as a worker could toss it in their briefcase and regardless of where they are, have instant connectivity back to the company. Professional services firms such as consultations, market research analysts, and others would be the "low-hanging fruit" for such a use case.
Another interesting vertical for the Z3C is retail, as this could completely replace the in-store network gear. Many retail locations are effectively branch offices, so the computer could be connected to the appliance instead of having to deploy multiple devices. The LTE capabilities make it easy to connect a kiosk or remote endpoint such as at a tradeshow or other venue.
Making Things Easy
As good as the Meraki devices are, what has made the company successful is its intuitive portal. With these models, the dashboard will enable IT administrators to monitor current traffic and historical performance as well as problem solve and configure their LTE service. For example, through the portal, an administrator can reset the cellular connection with just a couple of mouse clicks.
Meraki's stated mission is to "simplify powerful technology to free passionate people to focus on their mission." In other words, it wants to make all this networking and security stuff easy so companies can work faster. Meraki has done a masterful job of this with Wi-Fi and is now bringing that expertise to the areas of security and SD-WAN.
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