Wireless vendor replaces costly on-premises WLAN controllers with a hosted alternative.
Meraki's Enterprise Cloud Controller challenges the thin wireless model espoused by Aruba, Cisco, Meru, and others by moving controller functions into the cloud. Its goal: Slash the cost of business-class wireless.
Where typical controllers take the form of pricey and specialized chassis switch blades or self-contained appliances, Meraki's Cloud Controller requires no data center space or power. Setup and maintenance are via a straightforward GUI, there's no need to tinker with controller patches, and security configurations are managed just as if the unit were on-site. Control resides in Meraki's multiple redundant data centers. Access points from Meraki's extensive product line simply plug into your local network, find their way to the Internet for system control, and join the Cloud Controller over an AES-encrypted secure tunnel. Local traffic stays on your network--only control packets travel off-site.
Meraki provided three access points for testing. We connected them at two sites 17 miles apart and within minutes had a secure 802.1x-based wireless LAN; an open, portal-based visitor WLAN; and a WEP-based WLAN. All delivered expected throughput levels given WLAN setups and Internet connectivity.
There are trade-offs to Meraki's system, including limited VLAN scalability, no rogue detection, and the need to contact Meraki for many advanced features. However, we were pleased overall with the Enterprise Cloud Controller.
Lee Badman is a network engineer at Syracuse University.
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