CRN Exclusive: New Integration Bridges The Gap Between Traditional Cisco, Cisco Meraki Cloud Environments

Cisco Systems is making it possible to have single-pane-of-glass management for Cisco Meraki and its traditional on-premises offerings through new integration with DNA Center, the compay’s centralized network monitoring and management dashboard.

"This is bridging the gap between Cisco traditional and Cisco Meraki cloud environments," said Todd Carriker, founder and managing partner for Rhino Networks, an Asheville, N.C.-based solution provider and Cisco partner. "It's more of a simple, single-pane-of-glass management for your core network – from security and firewalls to your switching to your wireless, then on to software. They're trying to refine the integration and components together as a collective whole. It's great news."

San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco unveiled the integration of Meraki with DNA Center at Cisco Partner Summit 2017, being held in Dallas this week.

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Cisco said a significant number of enterprise customers use both Meraki and traditional Cisco products in their networks. Approximately 173,000 customers have purchased some Meraki products, generating more than $1 billion in annual sales for the company, according to Cisco Meraki leader Todd Nightingale.

Nightingale, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco Meraki, told CRN that the DNA Center integration will give customers one place to manage and visualize all of their Cisco networks.

"It's the first time we've done anything like this," said Nightingale. "As more customers transition to Meraki, this gives them the power to really manage and visualize hybrid networks in a much easier way. It's an enormous opportunity for partners."

For example, Nightingale said one of Cisco's largest hospitality customers has Meraki in its hotels globally but a traditional Cisco network inside its headquarters, including Cisco Catalyst switches and Aironet access points.

"This is going to allow partners to have a tool that can monitor that whole combined network in a single platform. DNA Center is able to manage both sides of the portfolio. It's a huge step forward," said Nightingale.

The first integration of Meraki into DNA Center will become available later this year and will provide visibility into integrated networks, according to Cisco. The integrated management capabilities will be available with future updates of DNA Center.

Nightingale said partners are the ones building high-level architectures and integration between systems and different sites for customers. "This will be an amazing tool for them to bring best-in-class networking technology to every site and still be able to visualize it and manage it from one place," he said.

Rhino Networks' Carriker, who said the solution provider’s Meraki customer base is doubling every year, said some customers need large internal IT teams and many experts to manage various on-premises or cloud products, platforms and interfaces, making it hard for smaller business or startups to keep up.

"What this allows them to do is to have better management and expertise cohesively and not necessarily have to increase their headcount," said Carriker. "You can have better management and control of the solution because it’s integrating it into a nice clean centralized interface. … This is a way for a partner to go in and say, 'Here's how we can save you money.'"

Cisco acquired cloud networking startup Meraki in 2012 for $1.2 billion. The networking giant has since expanded the Meraki portfolio into areas such as security and data center, driving new recurring revenue opportunities for partners.

Last year, approximately 13,000 Cisco partners were selling Meraki, according to Nightingale.

"We really try to focus quite a bit on enabling partners to find new customers because a customer that makes an initial purchase of Meraki, with all the partner services that come with it, that customer tends to quadruple their spend over the next two years," he said.