Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Considerations for Cloud Managed Network Infrastructure for Your Enterprise

By: Stephen Nowicki   Categories:Network and Security

Considerations for Cloud Managed Network Infrastructure for Your Enterprise

In recent years the cloud managed WLAN has taken off in popularity.  So much so that many of the traditional WLAN vendors have developed various forms of cloud based management to compete with the native cloud based infrastructure providers such as Cisco Meraki and Aerohive.  Additionally, Cisco Meraki – which is a leader in cloud managed solutions, offers LAN and Security edge appliances to complement their WLAN offerings.  

At Sentia, we see this question being often asked – is cloud managed infrastructure right for my enterprise? 

Benefits of Cloud Managed Infrastructure

As with any Enterprise infrastructure decision, we strongly advise that you define your business and technology requirements first to understand how to measure any infrastructure component.  If you are considering only a WLAN implementation, then there are a number of vendor options out there.  However, if you are considering cloud management to include LAN and maybe even Security Edge Appliances (firewalls), then the list of available vendors shrinks and Cisco Meraki jumps to the top of the list of technologies you may want to evaluate. 

 Cisco Meraki Cloud Managed infrastructure provides the benefits of mature feature/functionality, ease of deployment, ease of management and application visibility.  Cisco’s wireless infrastructure has powerful capabilities including: distributed packet processing, high performance, dedicated security radios, single pane of glass management and visibility, and location analytics.   There are some best of breed WLAN vendors that may have some advantages in certain features and functionalities, but overall Cisco Meraki does WLAN extremely well and provides lots of flexibility.

Cisco Meraki is continually improving their LAN offering.  Recently, Cisco Meraki introduced native stacking and high performance access and distribution switching.  As with the cloud managed WLAN, the benefits of ease of deployment, management and application visibility are advantages of these switches.  However, if your existing Enterprise LAN has a high degree of customization and management tools in place you may find that you give up some visibility and control with this technology.  Additionally, if speeds and feeds are of utmost importance for you, there could be technologies out there that provide higher throughput for the money.  However, when you consider ROI –remember the efficiency of deployment that the Cisco Meraki switches offer. 

Cisco Meraki has also expanded their security appliance offering and has many new appliances with improved performance.  Like the WLAN and LAN, the web portal offers visibility and control.

 Cisco Meraki has built an appliance that facilitates easy VPN setup, identity-based firewall rules, intrusion prevention with Sourcefire, and application visibility and control, and content filtering.  As a best of breed appliance, there are other vendor technologies that offer more granularity and control but the ease of deployment of the Cisco Meraki appliance is at the top of the industry.  Each Enterprise must weigh their security concern and understand the capabilities of what they need to deploy and manage.  

Cloud Managed infrastructure Deployment Scenarios

One wrinkle to consider when deploying cloud managed infrastructure is how to integrate your existing infrastructure.  Let’s look at a few scenarios in more detail. 

 1.  A medium-large enterprise WLAN with 500+ access points deployed at head office requiring an expansion within the campus:

In this scenario, most deployments would be controller based with considerable design and investment in controller technology.  The entire network will be optimized to support this infrastructure including management tools to manage this environment.   Enterprise IT departments must determine the value remaining in the technology and determine if a network redesign is cost effective to expand.  Otherwise, the addition of access points and licenses within the same technology family will likely make more sense.

Take the same business with a requirement to add 3 more regional offices separated by a WAN network.  In this scenario the option of deploying Cloud Managed WLAN is a real possibility.  The learning curve for the IT staff will be small and centralized management provides ease of use.  The Enterprise would have to compare ROI and investigate whether centralizing the infrastructure with the existing WLAN controllers makes more sense and compare ROI.

2. A medium-sized enterprise has the requirement to add some 10 GB switches into the server farm distribution to facilitate hyperconverged computing:

The decision in this scenario may depend upon the Enterprises’ investment in management and automation of the existing LAN infrastructure.  If this Enterprise has basic switch configuration and no management to speak of, then the Cisco Meraki solution could make a lot of sense as the deployment will provide levels of visibility not present in the current infrastructure.  It is not difficult to integrate multiple vendors at the switch level and ensure effective computing.   If the Enterprise has already built tools with visibility into the switching infrastructure, then the requirement to leverage these skills and investment may suggest upgrading with similar infrastructure.

3. A multi-site deployment with complete LAN and WLAN, and Internet Edge infrastructure upgrade of outdated technology.

In this scenario, most Enterprises will take a hard look at Cisco Meraki as the ease of deployment and management are a great advantage to ROI.  Like any Infrastructure decision, care must be taken to properly evaluate the feature requirements and operational requirements to ensure whatever technology is chosen meets your Enterprises’ needs. 

Network Infrastructure Upgrades Considerations

When considering network infrastructure upgrades, there are more deployment options than ever.  The answer is not always straightforward and you must ask yourself some key questions: 

  1. What are my business objectives and how do they influence my design requirements?
  2. What are the performance and scalability requirements for my network?
  3. What features and capabilities are necessary to meet my design requirements?
  4. What is the business requirement for management and reporting and compliance?
  5. How do I prioritize best of breed against ease of management of a single vendor?
  6. What is my overall project budget and how does it compare to my design goals?

When asking these questions and performing your due diligence, Cloud Managed Networking will likely enter the conversation.  Additionally, it is always a best practice to perform a POC of potentially new technology.  Cisco Meraki understands this and is anxious to have you try their technology.

If you’d like to learn more about Cisco Meraki, click below for demos, webinars and more.

Live product demos and Q&A from Meraki experts


Stephen Nowicki

Stephen Nowicki has over 20 years’ experience in IT with a focus on Networking.

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Full biography

Stephen Nowicki has over 20 years’ experience in IT with a focus on Networking. He is Sentia’s Network Practice Lead and Technical Leader focused on helping customers achieve business goals. He has been a trusted advisor to many large and medium enterprises across business verticals including financial, manufacturing, health care, high-tech and media.


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