Friday, December 16, 2016

Naughty or nice? Meraki's December AP announcement hits both lists

Just in time for the holiday season and network planning for 2017, Cisco Meraki's announcements this month are packed with key changes to their WiFi product family.
Meraki's new MR30H 802.11ac Wave 2 hospitality AP
MSRP: $599

Meraki's first hospitality AP - the MR30H
Landing on the "nice" list are two new AP models that IT departments (particularly in hospitality) would love to find under the Christmas tree. First, we'll look at the MR30H - a 2x2 802.11ac Wave 2 access point, designed specifically for hospitality environments.

Like other hospitality APs, the MR30H features a non-obtrusive and pleasing aesthetic often sought after in hotel environments.

However, unlike competing models, it also comes with a built-in 4-port gigabit ethernet switch. While the Multi-User MIMO capabilities of wave 2 access points handle a heavier load of wireless devices than previous WiFi standards, the availability of ethernet ports to offload TVs, gaming counsels, desktop computers, etc via ethernet cable helps keep that growing WiFi demand in check - especially in college dorm settings. Oh, and it's got an integrated blue-tooth (BLE) radio, too, primed and ready to support location services and analytics.

Built in 4-port switch for the MR30H
Cisco Meraki already sports the most user-friendly monitoring and configuration interface of any competing enterprise networking solution, and the MR30H is a boon to the hospitality industry, where qualified IT personnel are often limited. Meraki is easy enough for most non-IT managers to navigate with success, and worth consideration at an MSRP of $599 per AP in an era where hotel guests care more about steady WiFi in their rooms than a functioning toilet.

Good things in small packages - the MR33
The MR30H isn't the only new arrival to Meraki's AP family, though, as the MR33 gives the gift of stretching IT budgets a little farther for those looking to migrate to the latest WiFi standard.

New MR33 802.11ac Wave 2 AP
MSRP: $649
This 2x2 802.11ac Wave 2 unit packs a powerful punch at a $649 MSRP. It also includes an integrated BLE radio, so a WiFi system built with MR33s is ready for marketing departments looking to onboard location services and analytics - if they haven't already. Retail in particular stands to benefit substantially from leveraging WiFi infrastructures in this fashion, which means the savvy IT Director can make a case for marketing budgets to contribute to improving BLE equipped access points.

But what really makes the MR33 stand out (or not stand out, rather) is its decreased physical profile. At only 8.5 x 4.3 x 1.3 inches in size, it's takes up nearly half the space of Meraki's other APs, and without sacrificing coverage range. As with all Meraki hardware, a software and support license is required, which gets you next business day replacement in the event of hardware failure, as well as 24x7 phone support.

The MR18 will only be offered
through 3/31/2017
End of sale for MR18s
In considering the "naughty" side of Meraki's December announcement, their flagship 802.11n AP will no longer be available to order after March 31, 2017.

The "n" WiFi standard has been widely considered legacy since the emersion of 802.11ac in 2014. As WiFi devices continue to proliferate on the new 802.11ac standard, the need for APs that support a higher density of users has certainly risen. While 802.11n will continue to suffice in many low-density and residential environments, enterprise networks should take this as a sign to upgrade if plans aren't already in the works to do so. Given the MR18's price point of $649 per unit, the new MR33 serves as a direct substitution / replacement on the newest standard.

In our experience, we've seen some level of discord between 802.11n APs and 802.11ac APs serving clients in the same physical spaces on the same network. If upgrading to AC needs to happen in stages at your organization, we recommend keeping your older N access points grouped and separated from the new AC clusters for the best user experience.