CTOs Role - Switches, WAPS, MDM, and Flying Monkies!

Source: http://goo.gl/H4Hfu

I'm not sure what fascinates me about The Wizard of Oz--maybe, it's the fact that there's good and evil, the  weak and cowardly must band together to fight for what is right, and evil gets stamped out by their concerted effort as many times as by accident. Or, maybe it's the flying monkeys. You know, those pesky critters that are harbingers of horror and mayhem. It's not that they themselves are so frightening when taken alone, but that en masse and in the presence of the right mood music, you can have chills going up your spine.

In the struggle to inexpensively network schools with quality materials, ensure easy management of switches, wireless access points, and more. You might imagine wireless access points as flying monkeys...ubiquitous, and a malevolent nightmare if poorly managed.

Over Spring Break, I had a chance to listen to a Meraki Sales Representative share about their product. I found the presentation excellent but was left with a few questions. Here are my notes about the presentation:

Based on conversations occurring among Texas Technology Directors, I decided to take a look at Meraki's offerings with BYOD/iOS mobile device management (MDM) in mind. In case you're not familiar with Meraki, it offers cloud-based controllers for unlimited wireless access points, traffic-shaping, network access control, power over ethernet (PoE) via their switches for any WAP (their's or not), remote desktop management (similar to Dameware, Famatech's Remote Control), Volume Purchase Program (VPP) management, remote wipe, etc. and a handy set of free web-based management screens and reporting capabilities.
This diagram illustrates how Meraki cloud-based management works, eliminating the need for traditional expensive controllers for wireless access points.

Other neat features allow one to drill-down to device/user level. Being able to drill down to a device and see that a teacher was running Netflix* (read note at end of post) in a K-12 school district in the Gym all day presents the opportunity for fun conversations, right?

After sitting through a Meraki demo, wow, that was impressive! Ok, then upon reflection, was it really or what am I missing that the demo didn't discuss? 

Here are a few slides from the presentation:

Meraki on BYOD/iOS Management - The question going around in my head is if Meraki has mobile device management for iOS devices, and a school district has them already, why wouldn't they use Meraki's included at no extra price MDM? I'm guessing Meraki is missing some fundamental feature (e.g. deploy an app or remove an app is one possibility) of MDM...has anyone compared Meraki with say, Airwatch or JAMF's Casper?

I also asked about how the Apple TV (which allows you to broadcast any iPad's screen to a digital projector) works with Meraki; they mentioned they create their devices to allow Apple to do "things its own way" and have "100% compatibility." More on AppleTV in the classroom here:

A few questions going around in my head after listening to a demo:

1) What's the cost of a single access point and license key? (this is, per Meraki, what you are paying for to get all the benefits above)
2) Why would a District who has Meraki already go with Casper or Airwatch MDM for large iOS deployment?
3) How easy is it to provision apps, if at all, with Meraki's MDM solution?

4) Are any of you using Meraki and is there a catch to what appears to be great product offerings?
5) Are any of you installing the Meraki client--which is what provides all the info for the cloud-based management console--on BYOD/T, or personal, devices to facilitate management? If YES, how are you handling that from a policy perspective?
6) What does Meraki's remote desktop control actually allow you to do and does it allow the user the right to deny remote control?

On a related note, a colleague recently pointed out that there may be a less expensive solution to Meraki that provides the same value:
I recently purchased the MR500 APs from Open Mesh, http://www.open-mesh.com/index.php/enterprise-mesh.html . These are supposed to be very similar to the Meraki MR 16 APs. The cost of the MR500  is about 80% less than the MR16. I bought 25 MR500 APs for about $2550 with shipping, the cost of 4 MR16s from Meraki. These come with free cloud management too. 
These are low end enterprise devices BUT if they work as well as I think they will, it is a very low cost solution in the tight budgets. 
Source: http://goo.gl/p6bSu
What's your approach to WAPs, the flying monkeys of school networks?

*Note: Regarding Netflix in Schools, has the following changed?
Netflix’s does not at this time have an educational account (see below):

Thank you for your interest in Netflix.  As much as we'd like to help you, we cannot guarantee that the movies you need will be available at any given time.  Other schools have recommended that their students get a Netflix account and we have received positive feedback. 
Netflix does not currently participate in any discounted corporate, organizational, government or scholastic memberships.
What's more, over the phone, they suggested that it would indeed be a violation of copyright to show Netflix movies (streamed or DVD) in a classroom

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


Victoria Maloy said…
"What's more, over the phone, they suggested that it would indeed be a violation of copyright to show Netflix movies (streamed or DVD) in a classroom."

That would be inaccurate. It would not be a violation of copyright law. 17 U.S.C. § 110(1) http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/110 allows display of lawful copies of films in face-to-face teaching situations.

Now, if the sales person on the phone had said it would be a violation of license terms he or she would be correct. So, no - you can't. But not because of copyright law.
@Victoria, thanks for the clarification!
Mr.M said…
We use Meraki in our K12 school district. We have about 80 AP's at the moment with another 69 coming online in a few months. We also are deploying several hundred iPad's. Apple came in the other day and discussed the differences between the MDM functionality and their MAC only based device configuration utility: http://www.ifans.com/blog/41847/
The MDM in Meraki looks to still be in beta testing, it works fine, but lacks the supervise feature of the USB based Apple utility. I expect Meraki, as they always do, to fully implement a good MDM for iOS. Although the current version is still viable, just not quite there.
Unknown said…
The MDM in Meraki looks to
still be in beta testing, it
works fine, but lacks the
supervise feature of the USB
based Apple utility. I expect
Meraki, as they always do,
to fully implement a good
MDM for iOS. Although the
current version is still viable,
just not quite there.

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