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Cisco Meraki Portfolio Is ‘Intentionally Or Accidentally’ A Winning Platform For MSPs

Gina Narcisi

‘Maybe by accident, 10 years ago with Meraki, we designed something that is a perfect fit for the managed service provider,’ says Cisco Channel Chief Oliver Tuszik.

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Cisco Meraki is leading the tech giant’s managed services charge and the portfolio is supporting managed services providers and end customers as they evolve their businesses, according to Cisco executives and channel partners.

“Maybe by accident, 10 years ago with Meraki, we designed something that is a perfect fit for the managed service provider,” said Cisco Channel Chief Oliver Tuszik. “And we’re seeing this now in production.”

The best way to deliver an outcome is through a managed service, according to Alexandra Zagury, vice president of partner managed services and as-a-service sales. Cisco’s portfolio of managed-ready solutions began with Cisco Meraki, the company’s cloud-managed portfolio of wireless, switching, security and mobility products that it acquired in 2012. Since then, the most future-facing Cisco partners -- A.K.A. MSPs -- have been building outcome-focused solutions and solving customer pain points using the Cisco Meraki portfolio, Zagury said.

Cisco’s fastest-growing route to market today is through Meraki, she said.

[Related: The New Leaders Who Joined Cisco Systems This Spring ]

“Cisco Meraki really is a boon to managed services. Whether intentionally or accidentally, Cisco created a platform that is software-first and that’s really where managed services providers are going in order to scale, and it’s been a huge win for us,” said David Hines, managing director, multi-cloud managed services for solution provider giant and Cisco partner SHI International.

SHI is going big with Cisco Meraki as its leading offer within the firm’s managed services practice, especially for SMB customers, Hines said. On the partner side, Meraki has been a “huge” help to MSPs for day-to-day monitoring, troubleshooting, and configurations changes and software updates that can be done through the cloud, he said.

Cisco Meraki supports many businesses’ organizational goals to move to a centralized management platform that can scale easily and support hybrid IT environments. Clients are becoming less attached to technical solutions as long as it enables their business goals, so Meraki’s cloud-first approach is a perfect fit, Hines said.

“Customers need to able to bring their IT into a connected ecosystem that’s secure and well-managed, so Meraki fits very well with their needs,” Hines said.

Customers, more often than not, are asking for IT solutions based on a cloud-first model right now. That’s why Cisco is seeing MSPs “leaning into” the Meraki platform to deliver the business outcomes their clients care about, while earning more revenue through their own solutions that can be added on top of the platform, said Lawrence Huang, vice president of product management for Cisco Meraki.

“We see that when customers start with a Meraki platform, that value of that customer increases over 3x in 24 months. That is something that is not lost on our MSPs and our sellers,” Huang said. “This is something that excites [partners] because it is a very sticky solution that they can bring to market.”

MSPs need a platform that they can build on, all wrapped in a financial offer that makes sense for the customers and can change over time, such as the as-a-service model, Huang said. Businesses need a platform that’s flexible enough to support the “unexpected,” he added.

“The beautiful thing with the Meraki portfolio is its breadth and depth, starting with secure, reliable connectivity, whether it’s wired or wireless, to connect to those private and public cloud infrastructures with our SD-WAN portfolio or our cellular gateway portfolio,” Huang said.

Building out campus and branch networks is an evolving practice that now includes supporting users regardless of their location. Going a step further, said Huang, it’s also about supporting connected devices. Meraki’s flexible wireless and switching portfolio has been “key” for MSPs deploying new IoT use cases and integrating those use cases into existing systems that power a business’s operations. “This is an area that I think is ripe for continued innovation,” he said.

Solution provider CDK Global is focused on the automotive industry. Consumer have been pushing auto dealers to become more mobile, which has been fueling CDK’s Meraki deployments, said Dave Tibbils, principal product manager for CDK Global.

Cisco partner CDK Global has been a Meraki partner for a decade, just before the company was acquired by Cisco. The firm has been using Meraki’s wired and wireless solutions for its automotive and heavy equipment customers. The portfolio can be easily integrated into existing technology and gives customers the visibility they need to solve problems and prevent downtime. Because it’s cloud-based, upgrades and refreshes can by pushed automatically down to the users, which eliminates the problem of aging IT equipment for customers, Tibbils said.

Cisco Meraki technology has also been key in enabling brand-new IoT use cases and better experiences for end customers, he said.

Consumers coming to a car lot like to be greeted right away, Tibbils said. “The workflow is, I come out and greet you my tablet and I start the process of getting your car serviced right away. Meraki has provided us not just the ability to do that workflow in-service, but also expand that out to the campus, where a consumer can be better dealt with during the sales process and go out on the lot and find the inventory they want.”

Cisco’s Tusizik said that the company is taking a page out of Meraki’s book and leveraging the success it’s had with Meraki in the managed services space to inject the same “logic, procedures, and processes” into the company’s remaining core portfolio of products.

CDK would love to see Cisco follow-through. Many classic Cisco product lines, such as the Catalyst portfolio, has the same functionality compared to Meraki, but its approach is very different, Tibbils said.

“Cisco has definitely signaled to us that for folks like us who were predominantly classic Cisco service providers, cloud is a route they want to go down,” he said. “Cisco wants to provide an orchestration and visibility platform for those products like they have with Meraki.”  

Gina Narcisi

Gina Narcisi is a senior editor covering the networking and telecom markets for CRN.com. Prior to joining CRN, she covered the networking, unified communications and cloud space for TechTarget. She can be reached at gnarcisi@thechannelcompany.com.

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