Cisco Expands Meraki's Reach Into Communications

Cisco's Meraki cloud software already manages networks, mobile endpoints, security systems and IT infrastructure. Now it includes voice.


Since buying Meraki almost four years ago, Cisco Systems officials have expanded the reach of the technology beyond its cloud-based WiFi management roots.

The giant networking vendor has grown the reach of Meraki's software to include the ability to manage networks, IT infrastructure, security systems and mobile devices using the same cloud-based solutions and single-pane-of-glass management dashboard. CEO Chuck Robbins has said that Cisco is working toward using the Meraki model for all of the systems in its portfolio.

Now the company is bringing communications into the mix. Cisco officials announced May 24 that it has developed a communications platform for Meraki that includes a new phone, the Meraki MC. It's the result of demand from Meraki customers who wanted to include enterprise voice in the mix of what the company's software can manage, according to Todd Nightingale, vice president and general manager at Cisco Meraki.

"A rapidly growing number of IT teams depend on the Meraki Dashboard to manage their infrastructure," Nightingale wrote in a post on the company blog. "More and more of them have been asking if we could do the same thing to simplify their voice networks. Meraki users can be incredibly persuasive."

The Meraki MC offers a simple design that includes a screen on the base. It's managed through the same Meraki dashboard that customers can use for their wireless, security, switch and mobile devices, he wrote. It also uses a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)-based architecture and includes the endpoint, cloud license and SIP service from service providers. In addition, Meraki engineers are planning to integrate the new communications platform with Cisco's collaboration portfolio, including Spark platform.

Cisco officials have grown the Meraki business since buying it in 2012, and the unit now has more than 120,000 customers worldwide, according to Nightingale. The draw for customers is the single-pane-of-glass management capabilities of the Meraki software for multiple types of hardware, and its ability to work in the cloud, he wrote.

"All of this technology is really just a means to an end, and that's where simplicity comes in," Nightingale wrote. "Instead of sending someone to a branch office to configure a network or change a security setting, an IT manager can simply log in to the Meraki dashboard and make the changes remotely. Need to troubleshoot a network remotely? No problem. Need to set up a new branch office? Easy. Trouble with remote security posture? Piece of cake."

During a conference call May 18 to discuss Cisco's latest financial quarter, CEO Robbins noted the double-digit year-over-year revenue growth of the Meraki business and how it is an example of the company's success in moving its business to the cloud.

"As I look to the future, you will see us expand the approach we have taken with the success of Meraki, collaboration and security and apply it to our data center and core networking for both enterprise and service providers," Robbins said. "Our Meraki business, which really shows the evolution of networking to cloud-based management and policy, is over a $1 billion now and growing double digits and I think the thing I am most excited about longer term is we see a path to deploy that model across the rest of our portfolio and again that work has begun."

Along with the Meraki communications platform, Cisco also added two new high-end and high-density indoor wireless access points and Ethernet networking switches that can handle the access points' traffic.