Are managed networks right for your business?

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Published 15-Jun-2017 17:04:50
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Over the past five years huge developments have taken place in cloud managed networks.

Two major acquisitions

It was in 2012 that Cisco took the plunge and acquired Meraki, a firm which had developed techniques for Wi-Fi, switching, security and mobile device management via a centralised cloud platform. Meraki appealed to mid market customers because they didn’t have to deploy more IT staff to build out their networks.

“This is not just a product technology or talent acquisition, we are bringing Meraki in as a new platform,” said Rob Soderbery, senior vice president of Cisco's enterprise networking group, when the sale was announced. As ZDNet pointed out at the time, “If Meraki's wares, which are a play on the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend, sound familiar that's because Aruba Networks does something similar.”

And what of Aruba? In 2015 it was snapped up by HPE in a “reverse acquisition, in the sense that HPE acquired Aruba, and Aruba acquired HP Networking,” claimed Aruba’s president and CEO Dominic Orr. Like Meraki, Aruba’s technology was highly regarded but its core customer base also sat firmly in the mid market.

The advantages for both Cisco and HPE of these acquisitions were obvious, as they could broaden and deepen their market presence through integration of wired and wireless networks. As Orr put it for Aruba in 2016, there were clear commercial advantages: “Basically it’s a sandwich – they [HPE] have the biggest accounts and the smallest accounts, and we have the middle.”

Today, Cisco Meraki and HPE Aruba have become the two biggest brands in cloud managed networks. Let’s look at what they offer, and how Vohkus has worked with them.

Cisco Meraki

Cisco Meraki access points provide high capacity wireless in dense, demanding environments. Cisco Meraki APs are custom-designed for cloud management and are built with enhanced CPU and memory capabilities to enable rich services, including Layer 7 application traffic shaping at the network edge. They deliver aggregate data rates of up to 1.9 Gbps, while cloud-based RF optimization with spectrum analysis ensures that Cisco Meraki APs are automatically tuned for highest performance.

Cisco Meraki software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) is a new approach to network connectivity that lowers operational costs and improves resource usage for multi-site deployments. It allows network administrators to use bandwidth more efficiently and ensures the highest possible level of performance for critical applications without sacrificing security or data privacy.

For BYOD, Cisco Meraki provides device based security policies, built-in NAC, and built-in mobile device management. Cisco Meraki includes everything needed for a secure, reliable, headache-free BYOD network, without added cost or complexity. Integrated Layer 7 client fingerprinting technology lets you see all the iPads, iPhones, and Android devices on your network, with no configuration required. Client devices are automatically identified and classified, letting you distinguish between iPads and iPhones, device operating systems, and even manufacturer.

Cisco Meraki was selected as the most appropriate solution by one of our clients – a school with over 1,000 seats – that had specific challenges to address. There were serious WLAN bottlenecks on its existing installation, and it needed to raise capacity for an increased student intake. Existing coverage was also poor, so it wanted better access across the site – including outdoors.

Before commencing work on the installation, Vohkus carried out a due diligence exercise that discovered the proposed implementation was not configured to provide optimal quality of service. We set up a two-day wireless network configuration workshop to prepare the infrastructure, which also addressed obstructions caused by the steel-framed ‘Faraday cage’ effect caused by the main building’s construction.

Our attention to detail before implementing the WLAN solution prevented any impediments to performance and service arising when the new system went live. It was successfully installed to our specification, and has created plenty of spare capacity.

HPE Aruba

HPE Aruba switches simplify many critical and complex network tasks, and they are backed up with a suite of management technologies. Aruba ClearPass can profile any device, authenticate any type of user, automate workflows and provide insights across any wired or wireless network. With advanced threat protection features and the ability to integrate with third party solutions, it can automatically remediate any type of device that poses a risk.

Aruba Central manages, monitors and secures wired and wireless networks from the cloud. With an intuitive UI, Central is designed for varied levels of expertise. With Zero Touch Provisioning, IT can ship Aruba Instant APs and switches to remote sites where a non-technical person can simply unpack and power them up. Configuration is automatically obtained from Central as soon as the APs and switches connect.

With the growth of mobile and IoT devices, IT needs deeper insights about how the network is performing. With Aruba AirWave, teams can predict problems before there are disruptions to connectivity, app quality, and RF coverage. Aruba claims AirWave is the most powerful network management platform for multi-vendor wired and wireless infrastructures.

Aruba was selected by a college where the existing wireless system had become difficult to manage and was no longer fit for purpose. Vohkus’s proposal had to take account of a Grade 1 listed building and disparate campus annexes, while the client’s events department required specific additional functionality. We designed a solution that included premium add-on internet access and services for delegates, reporting and analytics to increase revenue generation opportunities, and integrated Bluetooth beacon functionality for exhibits.

When we were engaged by a bank to help modernise its out-of-ours and mobile working capability, the client selected Aruba access points, Airwave performance management, and ClearPass policy management. We ensured the solution was PCI-DSS and FCS-compliant, so that the customer could demonstrate compliance for its regulators.

Agnostic advice

At Vohkus we’ve strong partnerships with both Cisco and HPE. We understand the technology in depth but we’re also able to take an independent and fully agnostic approach if you need advice on the best solution for your business.

And, of course, with our own managed networking expertise we can even work with you to provide robust remote managed WANs and internet services that deliver bandwidth optimisation, consistent service quality, and immediate attention to anything that might interrupt communications.

Get in touch for a no-obligation discussion of your options and to find out more about the work we’ve done with Cisco Meraki and HPE Aruba.

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