Cisco announces industry-first cloud managed access point

Kiren Sekar
Cisco’s VP of Product Marketing for the Cloud Networking Group

Cisco’s Cloud Networking Group, created through the recent acquisition of Meraki, has announced the Cisco Meraki MR34, the first 100% cloud-managed 802.11ac access point.

“This cloud-managed access point is a first in the industry, and offers some really interesting security and management capabilities,” said Kiren Sekar, Cisco’s VP of Product Marketing for the Cloud Networking Group, who came to Cisco from Meraki.

The new 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard offers up to 1.3 Gbps of wireless connection speed, over twice the bandwidth of 802.11n. It also operates at 5 GHz, which has less interference than 2.5 GHz, which 802.11n uses.

While 802.11ac is still an emerging standard, with Working Group approval and publication scheduled for early next year, Sekar said that its advantages are creating a market for it now.

“Apple has already started shipping laptops compatible with this, and there are products that support it already,” Sekar said. “Customers say they are excited about 802.11 ac because of its ability to solve bandwidth problems. That’s where we are expecting to see initial adoption and growth, among customers with bandwidth issues. And over time, the rest of the network will move to the new standard.”

Sekar said the new access point is aimed at both the 100-1000 midmarket and 1000+ enterprise segments.

“The cloud makes it scale across different size organizations,” he said. “Cisco sees a big opportunity in the midmarket, in that 100-1000 segment, and we expect it will do well there as well as with our traditional customer base in the enterprise.”

The MR34 adds a third radio which Sekar said will make it attractive in verticals like financial services and retail where security is especially important.

“This is a unique feature, and a first for Meraki,” he said. “We’ve integrated a third radio, dedicated to security and management. It just scans the network for vulnerabilities, making the product even more secure. This will open up opportunities to bring cloud-managed networking into high security environments like retail and financial services, and will increase partner opportunities.”

Sekar said this was accomplished without without adding cost or complexity to the product, as the heavy lifting is automated through software.

Sekar also indicated that the MR 34 facilitates seamless migration from 802.11n and other legacy wi-fi networks, through zero-touch provisioning in which the MR34 is automatically configured remotely via the cloud.

“This is fully backwards compatible,  designed to make it easy to migrate to the new standard without a forklift upgrade,  so partners can put it in where there are opportunities in a very seamless way,” Sekar said.

Cisco also says the introduction of the MR34 is consistent with its strategy to offer more software-centric solutions that create new business opportunities for system integrators and VARs.  It provides partners with the opportunity to get subscription-based software revenue. When managed through the Cisco Meraki Managed Services Dashboard – introduced in June at the Cisco Partner Summit —  the MR34 provides partners with a new cloud-based service.

The Cisco Meraki MR34 cloud-managed wireless access point will be generally available in late summer 2013 at a list price of $USD 1399.

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