Cloud-Managed Wi-Fi

Cisco Meraki Implementation


Recently, during the 2015 HIMSS Interoperability Showcase held at the HIMSS Annual Conference in Chicago, IL, I had the opportunity to implement the Cisco Meraki cloud-managed (or cloud-based) wireless solution. I have done a number of wireless installs using autonomous and controller-based wireless solutions, so I was eager to see how the cloud-based solution compared.

For the implementation, we were provided with the MR34 model of access point, which is recommended for high density and performance-critical environments. With thousands of visitors from across the country and the globe in attendance, it was very important to provide a stable and high-performing wireless experience for the clients that were showcasing their products and services.

I was impressed. From the ease of creating a Meraki account and registering our access points, to the user-friendly interface and out-of-the-box reporting features, the Meraki wireless solution looked very nice. Likewise, HIMSS was very impressed with the metrics gathering and reporting features. So impressed that they wished to use the information for marketing of the 2016 Showcase; they had 11,590 wireless visitors over the course of the event!

However, before jumping completely onboard the cloud-based wireless solutions, there are a few things to consider. For instance, the Meraki access points had to be trunked within the switching infrastructure, which requires a little more upfront work on the Layer 2 side of the networking house (as opposed to the controller-based solution in which the APs form a GRE tunnel, or CAPWAP in Cisco terms, back to the controller and encapsulates all VLAN traffic). This could be a significant amount of work when maintaining a wireless network consisting of hundreds or thousands of access points. Additionally, it could take several minutes from making a change in the cloud before the change is propagated throughout the environment; in networking, milliseconds matter!

In the end, the Meraki cloud-based solution is user-friendly, offers great metrics and reporting and does not require the expertise of a dedicated wireless engineer to implement and maintain (even patching is automated!) It is not as flexible, scalable or as powerful as the controller-based solution, but it’s definitely worth checking out!


Chris Browning

Network Engineer


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