With today’s announcement of the Cisco Meraki MR34 wireless access point, an 802.11ac cloud-managed product, coupled with Cisco’s June introduction of the Cisco Meraki Managed Services Dashboard at the vendor’s Partner Summit in Boston, Cisco unleashed a fresh opportunity for channel partners interested in growing their wireless networking practice and/or their managed services practice.
Targeting what Cisco estimates to be a $5 billion addressable market comprised of 1.4 million midmarket businesses, this new software-centric opportunity for partners aligns with the vendor’s transition to offering offer more software solutions while also taking aim at expanding its cloud products.
Offered by Cisco’s recently formed Cloud Networking Group, the cloud-managed Cisco Meraki MR34 allows partners to help customers easily, cost effectively and securely expand networking capability to more locations -- branch offices, warehouses, etc. -- while supporting the invasion of BYOD phones and tablets across the organization.
Based on the latest Gigabit Wi-Fi networking standard, the 802.11ac device is the vendor’s first major product announcement since the purchase of Meraki in November 2012. The Cisco Meraki MR34 enables increased throughput and density, is designed and built for cloud management, and includes a third radio dedicated to security and radio frequency (RF) management challenges, according to Sanjit Biswas, Cisco’s vice president and general manager with the Cisco Cloud Networking Group.
The Meraki dashboard, for its part, is purpose-built for MSPs to deliver integrated wireless, switching, security and mobile device management. As-a-service offerings can include ongoing monitoring, configuring and troubleshooting.
“The cloud represents a new opportunity for our partners to earn recurring revenue -- on the licensing portion of the sale -- as well as on the cloud management and support side,” said Biswas.
As far as where the value-added opportunity is for partners, the Cisco executive noted that the wireless cloud-managed solution is “not about cutting the cost of the product but deploying more access points.”
Scott Alexander, president of wireless services at Alexander Open Systems (AOS), a Midwestern specialty and advanced IT services company, with headquarters in Kansas City, Kan., expects some of its educational customers to be first in line for the Gigabit Wi-Fi access points for their high-density environments.
“For more security-conscious business customers, such as financial and banks, for example, the third radio in the Meraki M34 will be very desirable, allowing them to see who else may be on the network,” said Alexander.
The new Meraki dashboard and MR34 access point will enable Cisco channel partners to begin talking to customers about the simplified cloud solution. “For us the cloud portal makes it much easier to manage a customer's distributed network. In fact, it makes it easier to manage all of our customers' networks,” Alexander said.
The lower complexity of the product and cloud management not only reduce customer costs but also operational costs for partners, noted Biswas. Furthermore, the Cisco Meraki MR34 self-configures when attached to the network, offers full backward compatibility with legacy 802.11n and a/b/g/ clients with a dedicated 2.4 GHz radio, enables seamless management of mixed 802.11ac and legacy networks, and is compatible with 802.3af Power over Ethernet (PoE) switches, according to Cisco. The company said that when customers are ready to upgrade their switches, they unlock the third-radio potential.
The list price for the Cisco Meraki MR34 is $1,399 and includes a lifetime warranty. Availability is scheduled for the end of the month. All Cisco channel partners will be able to sell the new wireless access point by signing up on the vendor’s website and becoming a Meraki partner, if they aren’t one already.
“We’re in the process of getting the product on Cisco’s global price list, which should be complete in a few months -- so initially partners won’t be using the standard process but they can sell the product,” said Biswas.
No new training or certification is required to take advantage of the vendor’s new cloud network offerings.