The acquisition of Meraki by Cisco Systems, if and when it's a done deal, will be the smartest action undertaken by Cisco of late. Cisco reigns over networking hardware, primarily in the enterprise market, but has made significant inroads in the consumer wireless networking space with its acquisition of Linksys back in 2003.
Recently, the company has made moves to integrate the cloud with its very capable networking hardware, but that integration hasn't always gone so well. Case in point, the awkward rollout of the Cisco Connect Cloud platform, which was forced on owners of Cisco Linksys Smart Wi-Fi routers and caused some eyebrow-raising over privacy issues with the Terms of Service, and rendered some users' Cisco routers unmanageable.
Meraki, meanwhile, has focused primarily on the SMB, making decent, although not killer, access points for business networks.
What stands out with Meraki networking equipment is not so much that it offers top-performing hardware (throughput on Meraki APs I've tested is reliable and good enough for SMB traffic, but not blazingly fast). What is great about Meraki, is that the company's been ahead of the pack as far as integrating cloud capability with its products. The aforementioned AP included Meraki's Cloud Controller - software that allows administrators to manage multiple online Meraki APs in a single interface and efficiently configure the APs in a mesh network.
Meraki was also the first in the wireless networking industry to release a cloud-managed router. Its MX line of routers were game changers as they allowed businesses to deploy APs in a data center and manage networks remotely via a Web browser without the need for deploying any local network monitoring solutions.
I also was impressed when Meraki released its cloud-based Wi-Fi Stumbler app. This app debuted two years ago when wireless management via apps was still uncharted territory. Again, the Meraki team had a keen pulse on future wireless networking trends and released Wi-Fi Stumbler, which was one of the first apps to allow wireless network scanning and troubleshooting from a browser.
Undoubtedly, Cisco sees value in Meraki's success with bringing the cloud to networking. While Cisco has made strides in working out some of the kinks with its Cisco Connect Cloud/Smart Wi-Fi platform since its lousy debut, adding the experience Meraki has with cloud management to the robust networking hardware Cisco delivers will likely result in even more formidable, innovative networking offerings from Cisco after this acquisition.
Bringing Meraki into Cisco's fold is also good for consumers as Cisco will be able to pad its cloud management capabilities in its Smart Wi-Fi line of routers and add a real SMB core that has eluded Cisco for a while. Cisco's dominant in the enterprise and has made great inroad into the consumer networking market.
With Meraki's dedication to the SMB, the acquisition also has a good chance of making Cisco dead-focused on delivering amazing products to the small-and mid-size business networking market. After a few years of public relations' black eyes for Cisco - the Cisco Connect rollout, the shuttering of high-profile products like the Flip camera and stagnation of sales at the enterprise level - Meraki can infuse new life into Cisco just like Linksys did.
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