December 19, 2023
In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, businesses rely more than ever on robust networking solutions to stay competitive and ensure smooth operations. Among the many options available, Cisco and Meraki have emerged as industry leaders, offering a comprehensive suite of products and services that can transform the way organizations manage and optimize their networks. In this article, we delve into the intricacies of Cisco and Meraki networks, providing valuable insights and guidance to help you harness their full potential.
Before diving into product comparisons, let’s take a closer look at the ever-evolving landscape of Enterprise networking and the intriguing convergence of Cisco and Meraki, each offering unique products and opportunities.
For over a decade, Cisco switches have stood as the industry’s gold standard for Enterprise LAN Access, Aggregation, and Core switches. These switches have earned a reputation for their reliability and feature-rich capabilities.
However, the Cisco brand often commands premium prices, surpassing those of its competitors. While the initial hardware investment may be substantial, the ongoing operational costs tend to be lower. Cisco’s recommended 3-to-5-year product upgrade cycle, featuring continuous releases of new products alongside End-of-Life (EoL) announcements for older generation equipment, ensures a steady stream of hardware purchases.
Some businesses opt to extend the life of their older equipment, effectively spreading out the initial high hardware costs, resulting in a lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for their critical IT infrastructure.
In recent years, numerous leading companies across diverse industries have strived to please investors by shifting towards an annual recurring revenue (ARR) model.
This approach combines upfront costs with additional monthly or yearly subscriptions. Even renowned automotive brands like Tesla and BMW have introduced monthly fees for features that were once bundled into a vehicle’s purchase price, such as navigation or heated seats.
Eager to cater to investors and expand their recurring revenue, Cisco brought in executives from Software as a Service (SaaS) companies and doubled down on subscription-based revenue models. This transition posed a challenge for a company whose customers were accustomed to purchasing equipment with a lifespan of 15, 20, or even 30 years (as seen with Catalyst Switches) and were now offered a shift to a subscription model.
While this model offers customers greater flexibility in deploying and maintaining their network infrastructure, it can also limit future options and relinquish more control from the Chief Information Officer (CIO) to the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM).
Cisco has enjoyed significant recurring revenue through its SMART net maintenance service, which provides hardware replacement and technical support for its complete suite of IT products for an annual fee, featuring various price points and Service Level Agreements (SLAs). Customers purchasing Cisco switches have the option to buy SMART net or explore alternative support options like Third-Party Maintenance (TPM) or self-sparing, where they purchase additional hardware for backup in case of failures.
However, many customers place unwavering trust in the equipment’s quality and opt for a “hardware-only” purchase, essentially making it a “one-time buy.” A few years back, to the chagrin of many customers, Cisco mandated subscription DNA licensing for many of its newer Catalyst 9000 switches.
This necessitated annual Cisco DNA licenses in addition to the base software features, often leading to customers purchasing features they neither wanted nor understood.
While Cisco has eased some of the DNA license requirements, many customers are still compelled to acquire DNA licenses (with a minimum 3-year subscription) alongside their hardware. This blend of consistent SMART net recurring revenue and ventures into mandatory DNA subscription licensing allowed Cisco to announce nearly 10% growth in ARR business from 2021 to 2022.
Among its numerous acquisitions in the past decade, Cisco’s purchase of Meraki in 2012 stands out as one of its most strategic investments. In recent years, especially, customers have gravitated toward Meraki’s straightforward, cloud-based management platform, prompting even large enterprises to forsake their traditional Cisco hardware infrastructure in favor of Meraki.
As a cloud-based product, Meraki comprises both hardware and subscription licensing, boasting a remarkably flexible and uncomplicated purchasing and utilization process for both hardware and annual licenses essential for device management and support.
Furthermore, Meraki has expanded its portal to include regular Cisco devices, such as 3850 switches, allowing customers to manage and track them within their cloud portals. Both product lines have started to resemble each other more closely, with Cisco continuously enhancing Meraki’s features and integrating it into the broader Cisco product lineup and ecosystem.
Cisco and Meraki cater to a global clientele spanning various industries, each with unique priorities, budgets, and strategies. Some companies may favor substantial Capital Expenditure (CapEx) investments in their IT infrastructure, while others may allocate a higher proportion to Operational Expenditure (OpEx).
Many Cisco hardware products do not necessitate additional subscription licensing, enabling companies to accommodate higher initial CapEx expenditures while enjoying lower ongoing OpEx.
Furthermore, due to the ongoing commoditization of network hardware and competition from other Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) like Arista, HP/Aruba, and Dell, Cisco has adjusted list pricing on many products. However, during the pandemic, production and supply chain shortages led to price increases of 10-20% or more on several products compared to 2020 list pricing. Nevertheless, some organizations prefer to limit CapEx expenditures and allocate more to OpEx, a choice that might lead them towards Meraki rather than Cisco products.
Having gained an understanding of Cisco and Meraki, let’s delve deeper into their key distinctions in terms of switches.
Cisco and Meraki switches share certain commonalities and diverge in distinct ways. Here’s a comprehensive overview of these two switch families:
Cisco: Offers cloud-based network management, but many companies opt for manual configurations and upgrades, often dealing with one device at a time. It provides extra control but demands a more hands-on approach.
Meraki: Known for its cloud portal’s simplicity and user-friendliness. Meraki’s management platform excels in streamlined configuration, intuitive policy deployment, and innovative network monitoring features, making it a preferred choice among customers seeking a hassle-free management experience.
Both Cisco and Meraki switches exhibit similarities in terms of port configurations and power features. Here’s a closer look at this aspect:
Layer 3 networking is an optional feature available in both Cisco and Meraki switches. This feature enables routing capabilities, allowing switches to process and route both internal and external traffic. With Layer 3 networking, you have the flexibility to eliminate a separate router from your network stack, which not only conserves a port but also simplifies your network architecture.
In summary, Cisco and Meraki switches offer unique advantages and cater to different preferences and priorities. Cisco provides more control and customization options, making it suitable for those willing to invest time in manual management. On the other hand, Meraki’s simplified cloud-based approach appeals to users seeking an intuitive and hassle-free management experience. Your choice between the two depends on your specific needs and network management preferences.
In conclusion, Cisco and Meraki offer a winning combination for businesses seeking to excel in today’s digital landscape. Cisco’s legacy of excellence in networking hardware, coupled with Meraki’s innovative cloud-based approach, provides a robust and scalable solution for organizations of all sizes.
It’s important to note that the success of your network implementation depends on factors such as your specific requirements, budget, and the expertise of your IT team. However, by harnessing the power of Cisco and Meraki, you can undoubtedly take your network to the next level, ensuring it remains a valuable asset for your organization’s growth.
Invest in the future of networking with Cisco and Meraki, and unlock limitless possibilities for your business.
This article provides a comprehensive overview of Cisco and Meraki networks, their key offerings, advantages, and how they can be integrated for optimal performance. By focusing on the strengths and capabilities of these solutions, you’ll be better equipped to make informed decisions and stay ahead in the dynamic world of networking.
Cisco primarily offers a wide range of networking products and solutions, including hardware and software, designed for various use cases. Meraki, on the other hand, is known for its cloud-managed networking solutions, emphasizing simplicity and ease of management. Cisco tends to be more comprehensive and complex, while Meraki focuses on user-friendly, cloud-based management.
Cisco provides solutions suitable for businesses of all sizes, from small startups to large enterprises. Meraki’s cloud-managed approach is especially beneficial for small to medium-sized businesses that prioritize simplified management and scalability. Larger enterprises often choose Cisco for its extensive features and customization options.
Cisco offers robust and highly customizable networking solutions. Its advantages include a wide range of hardware options, extensive security features, and deep integration capabilities. Cisco solutions are favored for their ability to cater to complex networking needs and specific industry requirements.
Meraki network solutions are known for their cloud-based management, which simplifies network administration. They offer features like centralized dashboard control, automatic updates, and easy scalability. Security, analytics, and remote management are also key features, making Meraki suitable for distributed organizations.
Cisco places a strong emphasis on network security. They provide a range of security solutions, including firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, and advanced threat protection. Additionally, Cisco offers security certifications and best practices to help organizations safeguard their networks effectively.
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