Written by Denis Kayes, Cisilion’s Head of Modern Infrastructure
Intent-based networking has brought a new wave of innovation to switching, and that means constant developments on how we can get the most out of the infrastructure.
I regularly speak to my clients about the efficiencies in both time and money that technology such as Cisco Meraki switches can create, and today I’d like to share how this generation of switch can make your life easier.
1. Enable Zero-touch deployment
Modern switches like Meraki are 100% cloud-managed and can be fully configured from any Internet-accessible location before ever being powered on. You only need to add the switch serial number (or order number for large deployments) to your network using the Meraki web-based dashboard. Once added, the switch is fully configurable. When the switch is first powered on and connected to the Internet, it will pull its settings from the cloud.
True zero-touch provisioning divorces switch setup from the precondition of physical hardware access. This frees technical staff from travel obligations to remote sites to manually configure switching infrastructure, saving time and money.
2. Single Pane of Glass Management
Imagine: you need to reset ports numbered 20-48 (if they are connected to MR24 access points) on all of your switches. You must enable PoE, set a power-saving port schedule, prune all VLANs except VLAN 10, and ensure that these are trunk — not access — ports. How long would that take you?
Meraki switches let you succeed in this scenario from your office chair. The dashboard supports intelligent search queries on variables like port type, VLAN, uplink status, port access policy status, and tags. You can specify a subset of switch interfaces (up to 10,000 ports) by using these search criteria and then modify these selected ports at once.
3. Run remote cable tests & packet captures
Dashboards offers real-time diagnostics and tools to troubleshoot modern switches. You can easily perform cable tests to ascertain cable length and to check the health of the wire connecting a client device to your switch.
Deep visibility built into the clients and traffic passing through your fabric let you quickly surmise the layer 1-3 health status of connected devices, whether they’ve received IP addresses, are on the appropriate VLAN, etc.
4. Identify and locate switch ports
Meraki Topology – a dynamic logical map of the entire network and all connected Meraki devices, lets you see exactly how things are connected. A simple mouse-over and you know exactly how a switch is interconnected. The dynamic search lets you enter in the name or even status of a switch to filter the topology based on your search terms.
Locating where an Ethernet wall jack terminates is as easy as connecting your laptop to the jack, opening a web browser, and navigating to switch.meraki.com. This URL directs to a locally-hosted page on the upstream switch that advertises the switch’s name, model, MAC, IP, and on which port the wall jack terminates.
5. Identify bandwidth hogs
Discover sortable, searchable information on clients, devices, and application usage. A Google-like contextual search allows you to dynamically filter clients by device type (e.g. “iPad” or “Android HTC”), operating system, MAC, IP address, username, or device name.
Drill down deeper into any application or connected client to view specific usage patterns for it.
6. Save energy & increase security
You may want to disable ports to save energy during off-peak hours or to prevent devices from accessing your network. Set schedules for a range of ports based on pre-configured templates or any timing of your choosing.
Applying port schedules to a range of switch interfaces takes less than 2 minutes using the Meraki dashboard. Apply policies to any port, regardless of switch model or geographic location, from anywhere in the world you have Internet access.
7. Contain rogue DHCP servers
MS switches perform DHCP snooping to identify which devices are responding as DHCP servers on your network, letting you automatically detect and block unauthorised, rogue devices. In the image below, for example, we’ve blocked all DHCP servers by default except for our authorised server with MAC address aa:bb:cc:dd:ee:ff. Combined with automatic detection alerts, this secures us from rogue servers which may be added to the network at any time.
8. Lock down switch access
All Meraki MS switches support 802.1X wired authentication, enabling port-based access policies that enforce authentication via user credentials or device MAC address.
If a RADIUS server has been defined, users or devices that are not recognised are automatically placed into a guest/remediation VLAN, eliminating any potential security risk to the network.
9. Keep current with seamless updates
Firmware and dashboard updates are pushed seamlessly from the cloud to all your Cisco Meraki devices without any pre-staging, manual downloads, or trips onsite to install patches. Every quarter, new features are released; this feature velocity future-proofs your hardware investment.
You choose the date and time to apply your switches’ firmware updates — or you can opt out entirely.
10. Spot network trends
Summary reports display useful trend digests. Quickly spot top applications, power consumption hogs or clients, and devices that are consuming bandwidth over the period of the report. Email a copy of the report to yourself or others, or schedule a regular report to be sent to your inbox.
Meraki MS switches provide detailed, searchable logs as well as digestible summary reports on trend statistics. Change logs track every configuration made to your switches, by whom, by date. Built-in, Google-like contextual search lets you quickly focus on only those events you want to see.
Your Next Steps
This has been a quick overview of how modern networking switches can make your life easier, please fill in the form below and we can discuss your networking needs and discover how we can help with the ten points above.