Overall Satisfaction with Cisco Meraki MS Switches
We have about 30 Meraki MS Switches, with between one and four at each of our 15 plants. They serve as our primary campus distribution switches, although we do not use them in our headquarters network "core", where we have a pair of Cisco Nexus C93108TC-EX in a failover configuration. We needed a VPN mesh across the enterprise for distribution (inside one large domain-based network) and we didn't want to have to spend a great deal of time establishing VPN tunnels between every single site (to every single other site), so we went with Meraki for their ease of use and quick configuration.
- Meraki MS switches are wonderful at allowing a network admin to configure a VPN mesh network without having to have highly specialized knowledge. Unlike Cisco switches, there is no CLI, there is only a GUI, and Meraki support helps you set it up as you add nodes to your network.
- Meraki MS switches are easy to deploy. Full stop.
- They can work with any firewall or ASA but I would strongly recommend using the Meraki MX security appliance if you are going to use Meraki MS switches because they were made to work together.
- They easily stack. It's all done for you in the Meraki cloud control panel.
- They will get an address from your admin VLAN's DHCP scope and keep it. Even if you unplug it and move it, you will not have to worry about addressing it.
- The GUI is online and you can reach it from anywhere, so as long as you have the credentials, you can manage the network from any device that has a browser.
- The GUI isn't always self-explanatory or completely intuitive, so you might need some help from Meraki support to get things set up.
- You can't configure some things down to a very granular level and not all advanced features are even available on Meraki MS switches. This is why we don't use them in our CORE, we only use them for campus distribution stacks. They work very well for that purpose.
- Time, time, and more time saved! We have saved plenty of it using these switches. They are so quick to set up! You can clone an existing campus switch, change the subnet to the new network segment and simply deploy it to a new site, plug it in and power it on and it works. The hardest part is setting up the first one, but adding on is as simple as I just described. It's like five minutes and you can configure them this way (using cloning) even before they are plugged in and powered on, so that, as long as you have the serial number (which Meraki will show in your control hub once you have bought the switch) you don't even have to have the switch physically in front of you to configure it. Meraki's cloud will talk to it independently as soon as it's plugged in and send your configuration down to it immediately.
- Highly specialized engineering labor expense saved. We didn't have to hire a fancy CCIE Cisco engineer to configure these switches, we did it (and still do it) ourselves, as we have the general networking knowledge that we needed on-staff. Only one of us ever even had a CCNA (me, and that was 15 years ago) so it does NOT require any kind of fancy engineering skillset to set up, just the kind of networking knowledge that a generalist like myself would have.
Meraki MS switches don't offer the very high-end configuration options as Cisco Nexus switches, and we needed some of those high-end options in our core switch stack. So we bought the Cisco Nexus for our core and bought some engineering time from a contractor to help us set it up. But for campus distribution at each of our 15 plants, which required very little L3 capabilities, mostly just L2 functions, we have used Meraki MS switches across the entire enterprise. I would recommend this kind of configuration. However, in a small to medium-sized business without special core switching needs (we have to have it because we have a full-blown co-lo with a disaster recovery instance of all of our data - data that has to replicate real-time) Meraki Ms switches would work very well as layer 3 devices, as they have all of the more basic capabilities as any other managed switch. Plus you don't have to have a Cisco engineer to deploy and use them, you need only basic networking knowledge and if necessary, help from Meraki support, which is excellent.
Meraki support is excellent. They are also highly proactive. They literally replaced all of a particular model of our MS switches when it was discovered that they were not sure about the longevity of a particular chassis fan inside those switches. Without us having to do anything other than ask, they shipped us all new replacements (with a better fan in them) for the 10 or so of the switches that were in the affected model group, and we shipped the defective ones back to them int he same packaging, prepaid. None of the recalled switches had ever experienced a fan failure, but they were not willing to let them run in a production environment. I like that. Meraki MS support staff are also quick to get back to you and very knowledgeable about their product. I actually contact our Meraki rep to instigate a support case (although i could call support directly), and he gets the details from me first, then opens the ticket for us and explains it to support. This means that I only even need to talk to one person, and I like that, too. Meraki MS switches are designed to be essentially "plug and play", so support is generally not needed unless the end user is not following the deployment and operation guides.
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Did Cisco Meraki MS live up to sales and marketing promises?
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Meraki MS switches are an excellent choice as distribution (campus) switches for a small to medium-sized enterprise like mine, although I can envision them being really useful in the same role in a large enterprise, as well. You probably won't want to use them as your core switch(es) because there are some important advanced L3 features that you won't find on them, but as I said, for a small business that is not looking for complex addressing options and HA / SRST options, they would be fine in the core. Just do a little bit of homework if Meraki MS is going to be your only network switches including core(s). As always, if you DO use them in your core, be sure to have full redundancy (have a warm spare nearby) and make sure you understand how to swap Meraki MS switches on the web control GUI so that you can do so quickly if needed.