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Meraki vs Cisco Wireless Solutions

Can anybody out there share any information on company called Meraki? We currently have a Cisco wireless solution but our administration has suddenly been looking into Meraki as a replacement. Any info would be greatly appreciated.



Also would like to add. I am very satisfied with our current wireless network (CISCO) we have had very few issues the last 6 years and I zero hardware failures.

I have had some exposure to the Meraki product set, in my opinion if your requirement is for wireless for geographically spread small sites (2 to 3 APs per site) with no on site IT staff then consider Meraki.  Meraki does not have the feature set or flexiibility of a true enterprise WLAN solution.  The cloud controller is a nice feature, basically as long as the AP can obtain an IP address and register to the internet based controller you can administer it.

If your organisation has in house IT/networking skills then I would look at the Flex 7500 solution with lightweight Cisco APs, this is a more enterprise focused solution.

Thanks for your reply. We met with Meraki reps yesterday they took notes on what we already have and needs to provide a quote. I'm not sure I will be very happy if the decision is made to go with this solution, I'm one that is currently partly managing our Cisco wireless. I was able to see a demo of their controller interface, lots of stuff but not sure if I would need most of it in my day to day. Our Cisco 4400 controller has the same features but I believe a better focus on security. Plus being on campus and not out on the cloud I felt speeds were quicker floating from one screen to another. One big worry is Cisco has a decades plus more experience in the business than 3 year old Meraki. We have an entirely Cisco enviroment from IP phones, switches to our wireless. This being said everything works well together

I was able to see a demo of their controller interface, lots of stuff but not sure if I would need most of it in my day to day.

Remember, demos are geared up to make the vendor look good.

You want a real "demo"?  Prepare a list of what you want to see in a wireless network and give it to both vendors.  Trial them and this is where you make your decision.

I've been in your situation before.  We've never seen a demo where the vendor goes, "Oops.  I don't we can do that".   This only happens when we get the vendor to do a blind "cookout" and then we can determine who's telling the truth.

A blind "cookout" is when you give the vendor a list of what you want them to prepare for.  It's like an exam or a pop quiz.  For a wireless network, for instance, I'd like to see the following setup:

1.  802.11 a/b/g/n;

2.  The ability for the wireless network to identify interference;

3.  Inter-WAP roaming;

4.  Rogue WAP, Rogue client detection;


They set this up then you start doing testing.  Aside from testing what is in the list, you test for some other stuff that's NOT in the list.

Like, you have the WAPs on.  Now turn on a Bluetooth headset and/or a microwave oven.  What is the reaction?  Turn on a wireless VoIP handset and test what is the reaction.

By the way, we have vendors pull out when we told them that we want to do a blind cookout/cookoff.  He he he ...

I'm curious about Ibadman response in regards to the 3000 Cisco AP's on main campus and the 16 Meraki's at the London site. If the price was right would you trade in your 3000 Cisco AP's for a complete Meraki solution,,, or is it too early to tell? Just wondering your thoughts and comfort level of replacing everything if this was an option. Thanks...

I'd answer you, but evidently I've pissed in someone's cornflakes with my posts and am not interested in contesting censorship.

Your posts are working!

Wow- I'm not allowed to reply.


I actually have both product sets running- our main campus network has over 3,000 APs (Cisco) and we have a 6-month old Meraki installation on our London campus with 35 MR16 APs. While our lightwieght Cisco deployment has been mostly fine on the client-facing side of life, we have had a lot of angst with controllers (we've been in the game since 2006 on LWAPP/CAPWAP, with hundreds of Aeronet fat APs prior) and various code versions through the years. I also follow the industry pretty closely as an IT writer, and so have watched the likes of Aerohive get more interesting (also controllerless) and architectures like Motorola's WiNG 5 greatly de-emphasize the controller. Personally, I've become a lot more open-minded about the cloud and cynical about the expense and grief of controllers. But it's far from black and white- there is no "this is clearly better than that", especially when you've got a wild mix of client devices that just want the network to work and could care less whose label is on the AP.

Bake-offs have validity, but more so (to me) on the "how easy is it to administer" perspective than "will it work for clients?" front. Both our Meraki and Cisco environments nicely serve our clients in dense environments- if they didn't, they wouldn't stay in business. The interference detection and reporting is somewhat overmarketed (again, my opinion) as often interference sources are fleeting and you can't possibly react to every one. Meraki has provided a lot of for things like rate limiting, firewalling, a great guest portal (I can't speak favorably of Cisco's guest portal at all, and BlueSocket has the absolute best I've seen yet) that our Cisco controllers don't do without help from outside boxes- but if you already have those boxes you may not care. I do take Cisco to task on really clunky debug in the CAPWAP world, and there are often gaps between what you can do with WCS/NCS and what you have to do on the controllers directly. The point? Again, it's just not black and white.

For me, I would certainly go with Meraki again for deployments up to a certain size- like a few hundred APs- as one who is living the Meraki life currently and cringes at the price controllers fetch. It does flawless with 802.1x and has a pretty robust feature set in it (not sure why someone above is saying it doesn't)- if you need it. I've had zero problems since putting Meraki in where as I can't wait to get rid of my WiSMs in favor of 5508s (but really wish cisco would provide a VM-based controller like Bluesocket does), but both products have warts at times on the UI. Things I've griped about Meraki was quick to address or put on the short road map, Cisco not so much but eventually they resond to enough grousing. (Yes- my opinion only)

Enough rambling- I'd say visit customers that have both, and don't discount either until you do. Cisco has market share, Meraki is part of the interesting new guard that dares to do things differently. They both work, but you have to find what's right for you.

Leo Laohoo
VIP Community Legend

Thanks for the input.  Very helpful. 

Not allowed? Sorry if I created any trouble with my question, just been thinking about this for awhile. But now I'm a little confused over the censorship and wow I can't reply? But will end this discussion today unless someone has anything more to add.

Let me try it this way- the web will not let me post anything so trying from email:

Will try again. Would I trade 3000 Cisco APs for Meraki? I don't see that as a realistic question, as I'm not looking to trade anything out. Circumstances and what vendor had what product available as we evolved led us to our current topology and swapping out what we have on our main WLAN for any other vendor at this point is not in play. At the same time, I can try to brush up against the question. I approach each one of our situations differently. As I mentioned before, if I had a new greenfield environment or was at a juncture where I was migrating from fat APs, I would seriously look at controllerless solutions as hard as I looked at anything. Though Cisco's wireless solution has gotten better in the last year or two, I spent a number of painful years after the Airespace aquisition wondering what planet the developers and QA folks for this product set lived on, and even though Cisco is legendary for rapidly Cisco-izing their aquisitions, it still feels to me like this is someone else's gear with a Cisco logo on it at times. Perhaps that comes from years of enjoying the robustness and reliability of the IOS-based fat APs from Cisco, but the code underneath the LWAPP/CAPWAPP set is pretty exotic by comparison and debug can be a bit to frequent and simply horrific. I will likely proceed with other Meraki sites, and am also following Aerohive and Motorola for specific situations. There are different best fits for different circumstances. Again, though it has been better of late, if at the time of our switch from fat to thin I had the benefit of knowing that there would be the pain experienced in early Cisco thin to the magnitude that we suffered through it, we may be an Aruba shop now. As a technologist, I say don't be afraid to look past the vendor that you're comfortable with- you owe it your organization. You may find that the grass is no greener, or find wild vivid shades of green you didn't even know existed. There are options. Right now for us, because of our own circumstances and factors, Cisco is right for our big deployment and it makes me happy that code quality seems to be improving - but that doesn't mean that other solutions are wrong. In London, where we have 35 Meraki APs (MR16 is the AP model number) and a Meraki-enable very impressive wired network environment, we've had zero issues in almost 6 months. In that setting, we also made the right choice. It's just not cut and dry.

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