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Bridging the gap to software-defined networking

Networking & security Data centre and private cloud Cloud Professional services

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Kevin Rama

Cisco Business Manager

Many years ago on a (questionably premature) marketing release, we heard the first whisperings of a new era of networking soon to be ushered in. It was going to revolutionise the way we invested in IT, redefine the way we managed our networks, and it was going to abstract the control plane from the data plane! Rejoice, for software-defined networking (SDN) was coming!

All SDN needed to do was figure out who was in charge and what standards needed to be adhered to. Before we knew it, open-standards had been ratified and products that took those open standards and then layered on huge amounts of proprietary functionality were ready to be released. In any network there’s always more than one way to connect it all together, and every vendor claims a better way to do that than everyone else; why would a software-defined one be any different?

Now, don’t get me wrong, detaching network management from physical assets, new ways to secure systems, and perhaps most importantly of all, exceptional levels of automation, make SDN a compelling investment. Yet, for all but the most tech-forward companies (usually with a DevOps team to trial it all first), buying into SDN can look like a really big step.

So what does a little step look like, and is it worth taking?

Meraki began as an independent company trading in the creation of wireless access solutions, rethinking the management of these solutions by using a highly-functional web portal as the means to configure and manage the network.

Following the acquisition of Meraki by Cisco, the expansion of their portfolio now includes switches, security appliances, and an MDM solution. Infinite scalability, ridiculous ease of deployment, and all delivered through a single cloud-based management console defined by its user-friendly experience, rich visibility and simply beautiful presentation of what’s going on in your network and it’s easy to see why Softcat’s customers love it!

So, why am I telling you this? Really, because I see Meraki as a great example of a bridging point between traditional networking and SDN, delivering many of the features and benefits of a Software-defined network without the fear of reinventing everything you have in place today.

Here’s why:

  • Manage all network assets from a single portal: Wireless, edge switching, and security for the office and for teleworkers, all via a single browser-based management portal. All of your physical devices can be managed at anytime, anywhere without any on-premise hardware or software.

  • Universal topology: Meraki’s network topology feature enables you to see your entire connected network within a single network map and offers a full visual reference of how things are working together. You can then easily identify and quickly rectify any issues that it brings to your attention greatly improving your ability to troubleshoot the network.

  • It’s so easy!: Everything on the browser is highly intuitive, and any new features get updated automatically without the hassle of service upgrades or worries about operating system compatibility – it just works.

  • It’s all about automation: Meraki cuts down on the grunt work involved in managing your network by automating tasks associated with physical configuration changes, helping isolate and resolve issues fast. As you deploy new Meraki MS Switches, MX security appliances and MR access points, you can set them up online before they’re even dispatched to you, so they’re ready to work from the moment they’re plugged in. Eliminating in situ configuration delivers big savings on deployment time, enabling IT teams to extract themselves from firefighting a dysfunctional network, and redistributing that time on more valuable projects.

There’s no doubt SDN is here and here to stay. Traditional networks are also facing more challenges by the day. For many, Meraki has the potential to satisfy most, if not all of the most pressing challenges facing network design and management today, whilst going some way to deliver lots of the efficiency and automation gains forecast for tomorrow.

Find out more

Meraki is also very easy to demo and we’d love to show anyone interested the power of the tools available.  If you’d like to know more speak to your Softcat Account Manager or get in touch using the form below.