Latest Cisco Access Point Arms Partners With Greater Services Play


Cisco on Tuesday rolled out a new wireless access point that allows solution providers to deploy and manage end users' wireless infrastructures entirely through the cloud.

The new Meraki MR34 access point, generally available later this year, was built from "the ground up" to be managed via the cloud, Cisco said, meaning partners can install, manage and monitor the access point, along with customers' broader wireless infrastructures, in a managed services-based model.

"[The MR34] gives partners the opportunity to go from simply selling boxes to having a recurring revenue business," said Sanjit Biswas, vice president and general manager of Cisco's Cloud Networking Group and founder of Meraki, the cloud-managed networking startup Cisco acquired for $1.2 billion last year.

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The Meraki MR34 can be managed by partners through the Cisco Meraki Managed Services Dashboard, a software offering for partners that provides managed services tools such as an MSP Portal, which allows partners to monitor multiple end-user networks' from a single pane of glass.

"We can use [the dashboard] whether we are doing an installation for customers or if customers want us to manage and monitor their environments," said Scott Alexander, president of wireless at Alexander Open Systems, an Overland Park, Kan.-based Cisco Gold partner. "We can use the dashboard to gain access to the customer's network and we can have alerts triggered and sent to us, or we can use it just as a deployment mechanism."

Cisco said solution providers also can embed their own logo or brand with the Meraki Managed Services Dashboard, and can use the tool to receive or send support-ticketing requests to Cisco staff.

In addition to offering partners a greater services play, the new MR34 access point is one of the first out of the gate from Meraki to support 802.11ac, the next-generation wireless standard. This, Biswas said, allows the MR34 to reach data rates of 1.75 Gbps, nearly double that delivered through prior-generation 802.11n access points, and makes it more suitable to support the high-bandwidth applications and mobile devices that are bursting onto enterprise networks today.

"We are seeing a couple of themes that we wanted to align with, the first of which is device growth," Biswas told CRN. "Bring your own device [BYOD] is really fueling this, but there are also just more and more devices being sold with wireless [capabilities] in them."

Biswas said the new MR34, like most Meraki products, is targeted at both the enterprise and midmarket space, but also includes a third radio dedicated to security that makes it ideal for the financial services and healthcare industries. This third radio is meant to scan surrounding Radio Frequency (RF) environments to better identify and protect against both interference and potential security threats, Biswas said.

While the MR34 supports the latest 802.11ac standard, Biswas said it also has backward compatibility to support legacy 802.11n devices. It also can support both PoE plus and legacy PoE switching architectures, meaning users won't have to upgrade their existing infrastructures to get the MR34 up and running.

This, according to Alexander, is another feature that makes the MR34 a win for both Cisco partners and customers.

"The product gives us the opportunity to work with a lot of customers that have infrastructures in place today that can support it, and not have to be concerned with ripping and replacing current infrastructures," Alexander said. "It's something that can work with what they have."

PUBLISHED AUG. 13, 2013