Cisco Meraki shows 802.11ac managed access point


(The Cisco Meraki M34)


When Cisco Systems Inc. bought managed wireless LAN service provider Meraki late last year the startup only offered access points running 802.11n.

This week the company said its cloud networking group will soon release an AP that uses the nascent 802.11ac standard, which offers significantly higher throughput.

The Cisco Meraki M34 promises a 1.75 Gbps data rate under ideal conditions.

Like all 802.11ac devices, it runs on the 5 GHz band. But the unit also includes two other radios: One that runs on the 2.4 GHz band for connectivity to laptops and smart phones that only run on that frequency, and another dedicated for security whose sole job is to scan for wireless attacks and RF interference.

It can use the data to tweak network performance, said Sanjit Biswas, vice-president and general manager of the cloud networking group.

Like all Meraki products, the M34 will only be sold as a package with managed service. When released later this month it will cost US$1,300 plus US$300 for a three year licence, including support.df

Cisco also sells standalone Aironet APs, which include 802.11ac models.

The managed service means IT departments don’t have to look after these devices, which can be added to existing networks. It looks after RF optimization, network monitoring and alerts. It also automatically sends software updates, although customers can also schedule updates to be installed in off-hours.

Cisco [Nasdaq: CSCO] says the service can scale up to 10,000 APs.

At the time of the acquisition one IT reporter wrote that Meraki — which also sells cloud managed switches and security appliances — is aimed at medium-sized enterprises. However, Biswas said Canadian customers include school districts and a financial institution.

“We’re trying to find ways to make networks easier to deploy and easier to manage,” Biswas said.

However, Gartner analyst Paul DeBeasi wrote in a blog that Meraki’s solutions at the time of the acquisition didn’t have all the features that a product made for large enterprises has. That, he added, is what makes it easier to deploy and manage.

The M34 will be the first Cisco Meraki unit to be released since the US$1.2 billion acquisition.

Cisco Meraki solutions are sold through Cisco resellers. Cisco says its channel partners can gain subscription-based revenue through sales.

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