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Cisco Meraki SD WAN & SASE Cybersecurity Solutions

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The simplicity of Meraki SD WAN means that the power and flexibility is directly in the hands of the customer or service provider. Meraki SD WAN combines the layer 7-based application detection that comes as standard across the entire Meraki stack to achieve this in a more succinct fashion.

Cisco Meraki SD WAN & SASE Cybersecurity Solutions
Summary

Cisco Meraki SD WAN and SASE Solution: Comparisons, Review, Benefits, Use Cases, Pros & Cons

Author: Netify Research Team

If you have questions about Cisco Meraki and how their capability is aligned to your needs, email the Netify research team. UK: uk@netify.co.uk North America: northamerica@netify.com

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Review

Netify Review

Customers choose Cisco Meraki because of its simplicity and low cost. The solution is designed to be easy to manage with quick deployment and management tools in the cloud. The solution is primarily aimed at Small - Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and mid-market companies but does offer a lot of scalability for more comprehensive solutions. Meraki is suitable for enterprises with several branch offices requiring granular features.

Although Meraki is a cost-effective solution, to begin with, the addition of licensing fees can cause the cost to rise, creating, in some cases, an expensive solution. Further, some customer reviews suggest that because customer support is so rarely required, the Meraki support team can be hard to contact and slow to respond to requests.

Meraki has a vast partner channel, which offers clients a wide range of choices when choosing a managed services provider (Meraki do not sell direct). The sheer number of partners can be confusing for IT decision-makers. A clear understanding of a client’s business requirements is essential to make the right choice.

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About

About Cisco Meraki

Meraki was founded in 2006 by Sanjit Biswas, John Bicket and Hans Robertson and is today headquartered in San Francisco, California, North America. The cloud infrastructure startup was acquired by Cisco Systems in 2012 for $1.2 billion in cash as their easy-to-deploy, mid-market solution.

Cisco Meraki focuses on cloud-managed products such as wireless, switching, security, SD WAN, mobile device management, intelligent cameras and a cloud network platform that are all centrally managed from the web. The company’s MX range of SD WAN appliances supports wired WAN connections, 802.11ac wave 2 Wi-Fi and integrated CAT 6 cellular modems.

Pros & Cons

What are the pros and cons of Cisco Meraki SD WAN & SASE Cybersecurity?

List of the pros and cons associated with Meraki SD WAN and SASE security.

Pros

  • Offer a feature-rich SASE solution backed by significant tried and trusted global expertise - Meraki offered integrated security (including IoT), networking and SD WAN before SASE was recognized.
  • Users' reviews have noted high ease of use and deployment, with strong performance and uptime.
  • Easy-to-use single dashboard interface.
  • A simplified solution compared to the more granular Cisco Viptela allows for broader and hassle-free configuration of an organisation's entire network.
  • The wide variety of channel partners provides ample choice and opportunity to find a partner that will suit business needs.

Cons

  • User reviews often bring up a lack of advanced enterprise features and oversimplification in some layer seven functions leading to little depth for complex use cases.
  • The Cisco Meraki license must be kept current and updated to avoid downtime, resulting in less flexibility on usage costs.
  • User reviews show license fees to be slightly higher than near-peer competitors and may be too much for some SMEs.
  • Although Cisco provides SASE, the products are known to be quite fragmented - however, Cisco is beginning to consolidate its offering into its Umbrella product suite.
  • The Meraki channel is large and well-supported, which can make choosing the right partner based on business needs difficult.
Comparison

Comparison: Meraki vs HPE Aruba vs Fortinet (FortiGate) vs Viptela SD WAN & security

Consider the points below to compare Meraki vs HPE Aruba vs Fortinet (FortiGate) vs Viptela SD WAN and SASE security.

Cisco Meraki

  • Meraki is a good choice for businesses with many branch offices requiring granular features - such as retail businesses. They also cater for small businesses with low-cost offerings. 
  • Meraki supports broadband, Fiber, MPLS, and 4G/5G LTE cellular failover underlay connectivity. 
  • Meraki accesses cloud vendors such as Azure, AWS, Alibaba Cloud and Google Cloud via virtualised appliances. 

HPE Aruba (Silver Peak)

  • HPE Aruba is angled towards large global enterprises, with complex requirements. 
  • HPE Aruba does not provision or support underlay connectivity - it is always provisioned via a third-party MSP. 
  • HPE Aruba offer access to AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and Oracle Cloud. 

Fortinet (FortiGate)

  • Fortinet is suitable for large global enterprises, connecting branch offices globally with their SD WAN and SASE offerings. 
  • Fortinet supports MPLS, Internet, and 3G/LTE underlay connectivity.
  • Fortinet Security Fabric offers security for public cloud environments such as Oracle Cloud, Google Cloud, Azure, AWS and Alibaba Cloud. 

Viptela

  • Viptela is suitable for large global enterprises with complex requirements and a robust IT team. 
  • Viptela supports MPLS, 4G/LTE, broadband and Internet underlay connectivity.  
  • Viptela accesses Azure, AWS and Google Cloud via a cloud-agnostic backbone for site-to-site and multi-cloud services. 

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Top 3 similar SD WAN Vendors

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SD WAN

What is the Cisco Meraki SD WAN Solution?

Cisco Meraki is a branch office solution designed for Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and larger companies. The company is a popular choice for clients looking to migrate away from expensive MPLS, which is achieved by using lower-cost leased line DIA and fiber broadband services deployed via Meraki MX appliances with zero-touch provisioning. 

Configuration-Based Key Features:

  • Multi-Cloud: vMX (a virtualized version of MX) can be deployed in private and major public clouds (see, How does Cisco Meraki access cloud vendors?).
  • Meraki Dashboard: Designed to create a hub and spoke or mesh VPN technologies by automatically negotiating VPN routes, key exchange, authentication and encryption protocols, which are enabled for all Meraki MX appliances within an organization.
  • Hardware Deployment Options: Cisco Meraki SD WAN can be remotely deployed and cloud-managed from an MX hardware appliance, which caters for varying branch sizes whilst supporting wired WAN connectivity with built-in CAT 6 wireless modems and 802.11ac wave 2 Wi-Fi:

Hardware

Branch Size

No. Of Clients

No. Of Users

MX64

 

Small

 

50

 

~

MX64W

 

Small

 

50

 

~

MX67

 

Small

 

50

 

~

MX67C

Small

50

~

MX67W

Small

50

~

MX68

Small

50

~

MX68CW

Small

50

~

MX68W

Small

50

~

MX75

Small

~

200

MX100

Medium

500

~

MX85

Medium

250

~

MX95

Medium

500

~

MX105

Medium

~

750

MX84

Medium

200

~

MX250

Large Branch/Campus Concentrator

2,000

~

MX240

Large Branch/Campus Concentrator

10,000

~

Z3

Teleworker

5

~

Z3C

Teleworker

5

~

Security-Based Key Features:

Performance-Based Key Features:

  • End-To-End Analytics: Improves end-to-end monitoring and network visibility using the Meraki Insight product (see, What Reporting and Management is Available Via the Cisco Meraki Portal?).
  • Performance Indicators: Symbols are used to show the health of applications, providing a visual reference to the performance of each individually. The performance indicators are based on thresholds which a Meraki Administrator sets. The indicators show green if a connection is healthy, yellow if it is compromised, and red if there are any significant issues.
  • Machine-Learned Thresholds: Thresholds for web applications can be adjusted using advanced machine algorithms based on historical data patterns of the network and performance indicators such as workloads. The product is known as SmartThresholds and is a tool built directly into the Meraki Smart Insights dashboard (see, What Reporting and Management is Available Via the Cisco Meraki Portal?).
Service Providers

Which managed service providers offer Meraki?

Filter by tag, location, and service type:
(Select any number of tags)

EuropeAsiaAustraliaUKNorth AmericaSouth AmericaSD WANXDRCASBZTNADIY SD WAN servicesCo-managed SD WAN servicesSASE CybersecurityMDRFWaaSSWGMPLSEndpoint protectionFile analysisIoT securitySecurity and complianceMobile threat defenceEnterprise wired and wireless LAN infrastructureSIEMSecurity service edgeCloud workload protectionIdentity governance, access managementManaged securityIntegrationsAnalyticsNetwork firewallsWAN Edge infrastructureReporting and statistics (SD WAN)SaaSCompliance reporting
SASE

What is the Cisco Meraki SASE security solution?

Meraki has historically offered integrated security options with SD WAN. The product has matured into a fully featured SD WAN capability with a SASE solution deployed from Meraki MX hardware appliances. The solution auto provisions IPsec VPN tunnels between sites, with the Meraki Dashboard able to automatically negotiate encryption and automation protocols and VPN routes while allowing clients to monitor network security. There are several key features:

  • Cisco Umbrella Security: Provides data loss prevention, remote browser isolation, SaaS tenant restrictions, file type and granular application control. Cisco Umbrella Security also includes a cloud access security broker (CASB) and SSL decryption & inspection. Umbrella allows clients to manage cloud security separately at branch locations whilst offering connectivity to a multi-cloud environment (see, How does Cisco Meraki access cloud vendors?). By bundling Umbrella products together, Meraki achieves full SASE capability.
  • Cisco Advanced Malware Protection (AMP): Designed to detect and dispose of malware efficiently by constantly analyzing file activity across the network.
  • Data Loss Prevention: Detects and prevents data breaches by closely monitoring sensitive data.
  • Intrusion Prevention System (IPS): Examines traffic flows to detect weaknesses and breaches within the network.
  • Next Generation Layer 7 Firewall: Blocks or authorizes traffic by examining protocol, port and state and filters traffic based on rules set by the user. It is also capable of filtering data packets based on application. 
  • SSL Decryption/Inspection: The traffic scale is decrypted and routed to inspection tools to identify application threats inbound.
  • CASB: Cloud-based software that maintains security policies and monitors activity between cloud users and applications.
  • SaaS Tenant Restrictions: Controls access to SaaS cloud applications by specifying which users can access tenants.
  • Granular App Control: Controls which users and departments can access specific applications. 
  • File Type Control: Restricts the upload and download of various file types. 
  • Cisco Talos: Cisco’s threat intelligence centre monitors network security and informs the Meraki SASE solution.
Funding

Funding Rounds

2006$0M
2007$5M
2008$20M
2011$15M
2012$40M
Cloud Vendors

How does Cisco Meraki access cloud vendors?

Cisco Meraki uses virtualized MX appliances (vMX) to access cloud vendors. Users can deploy the vMX appliance in private and all major public clouds. The Meraki solution can connect branch sites to vMX appliances in multi-cloud environments. This provides a secure connection and dynamic path selection to optimize access to mission-critical resources. The vMX solution does not use any extra hardware however requires different licenses for each product. Licenses are available for 1, 3 and 5 years. The Meraki offering is as follows:

  • vMX (Small): Supports client VPN, 50 VPN tunnels and a 200Mbps VPN throughput. Cloud vendors available are AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and Alibaba Cloud. Requires Small Enterprise Cloud Management Licence.
  • vMX (Medium): Supports client VPN, 250 VPN tunnels and a 500Mbps VPN throughput. Cloud vendors available are AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and Alibaba Cloud. Requires Medium Enterprise Cloud Management License.
  • vMX (Large): Supports client VPN, 1000 VPN tunnels and 1Gbps VPN throughput. Cloud vendors available are AWS and Alibaba Cloud. Requires Large Enterprise Cloud Management License.

Cisco Systems are both an AWS Marketplace Seller and Public Sector Partner. They are also Service Validated by AWS for an Amazon Linux 2 Ready Product. Cisco Meraki’s dashboard and vMX software are available via the Microsoft Azure Marketplace, with the Meraki vMX receiving a ‘preferred solution’ rating.

Cloud Access

Cloud Access

Amazon Web Services28.33
Microsoft Azure15
Google Cloud28.33
Alibaba Cloud28.33
WAN Acceleration and Optimization

Does Cisco Meraki offer WAN acceleration and optimization?

Cisco Meraki can leverage IaaS, SaaS or data centre resources to ensure the optimum performance of business-critical applications. This is achieved through advanced analysis tools that utilize intelligent path selection and machine learning to provide end-to-end visibility into the network.

WAN optimization features were retired from the MX range of appliances at the end of 2015 after failing to meet quality standards. Cisco Meraki made no further improvements to the feature, and it was phased out in favour of VPN traffic optimization as part of their IWAN offering.

Cisco Meraki’s solution enables WAN acceleration and VPN traffic optimization through load balancing, active-active auto VPN, flow preferences and traffic shaping rules to improve the network performance.

Cisco Meraki’s SD WAN offering utilizes Automated-VPN IPsec tunnels between sites. The MX range of appliances supports multiple layers of redundancy. Redundancy features include warm spare failover through Virtual Routing Redundancy Protocols (VRRP), high data centre availability, and hub and spoke or mesh topologies. Failover is also supported by dual uplink support and 3G/4G cellular connectivity. 

Remote Users

How does Cisco Meraki support remote users?

Remote workers have various support options available from Meraki. These include: Cisco AnyConnect, Native client VPN, and dedicated Wi-Fi-enabled teleworking devices. Meraki’s specific teleworking devices are the Z3 and Z3C; however, the MX appliance is also suitable. Both internet-based and site-to-site traffic is secured by cloud security for out-of-office users and on-premises unified threat management. Meraki further supports remote users by securing networks with Cisco Umbrella Cloud Security and Cisco Talos to provide high levels of protection anywhere.

Managed, co-managed & DIY services

What is the Cisco Meraki managed, co-managed and DIY services solution?

Meraki does not directly offer managed, co-managed, or DIY services as a vendor. Instead, managed and co-managed services are available to purchase via a channel integrator or service provider, and DIY hardware and licensing are available from value-added resellers (VARs). The lack of direct input can cause issues due to the enormous size of the Meraki channel - finding a channel partner that can provide a solution suitable for business needs can be complicated.

Services

Managed Services Adoption

Percentage of customers opting for managed services. 

Managed20
Co-managed20
DIY60
Portal

What Reporting and Management is available via the Cisco Meraki Portal?

Cisco Meraki Insights is a product designed to offer clients end-to-end monitoring and network visibility in one space by analyzing web applications and WAN link performance. It can monitor remote and home workers and those in the office. It features: 

  • Web Application Performance Monitoring: The health of web applications can be monitored via Meraki Insight, a product designed to allow clients granular network visibility by configuring a Meraki MX appliance. Traffic is aggregated into groups based on its associated application and is sent to the Meraki Cloud Controller product for deeper analysis. After this, data is populated into Meraki Insight, creating visibility in the network.
  • WAN Performance Monitoring: Designed to monitor ISP uplinks across the network, identifying issues such as ‘poor performance’ or ‘high usage’ and keeping track of all primary, secondary and LTE uplinks in one location. Suitable for SD WAN deployments requiring large networks to be monitored. Administrators can view data from the WAN Health dashboard.
  • VoIP Performance Monitoring: Monitoring and analytics are also available for VoIP.
  • Smart Thresholds: Built-in by default tool with the capability to set thresholds for individual application’s performance and a machine-learning algorithm that learns optimum network performance.
Years Active

Number of years trading

Meraki16
Viptela10
HPE Aruba20
Fortinet22
Service Level Agreement

What is the Cisco Meraki SLA?

As an SD WAN vendor, Cisco Meraki is not required to provide a Service Level Agreement. The SLA will be offered by one of the service provider partners that may manage the underlay solution.

Frequently Asked Questions
Who does Cisco Meraki use for SD WAN?
What is the Cisco Meraki SD WAN architecture?
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Deployments

Deployment Region

North America34%
Asia/Pacific27%
Europe, Middle East and Africa26%
Latin America13%
Proposition Focus

Proposition Focus

Features4
SASE/Security3.9
Cloud4.5
SD WAN4.2
Industries

Industry Coverage

Finance9%
Manufacturing15%
Services21%
Healthcare5%
Other50%
Focus

Other Focus

Remote users7
Simplicity7
Complex requirements7
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Geographic

Geographic Focus

EMEA30
APAC30
Americas40

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