What is a cloud managed network? Well in simple terms rather than managing the network devices via console, SSH/ other direct methods, you login to a web site hosted in the vendor’s cloud and configure/manage the device?
Now at first glance this might not sound very beneficial, but as you dig deeper into it you find things that traditional networks could only dream of.
There is the ability to completely configure the network before the hardware even arrives on site.
After completing the Certified Meraki Networking Associate (CMNA) course Meraki gives you, an access point, 8 port switch and their security appliance. Now this takes some time to be delivered but they give you the order number. So I logged into the Meraki Portal, setup a site and configured my entire home network before the equipment arrived. When the box turned up at my place, I plugged it all in and BLAM a few minutes of some software upgrades and I was up and running. I could have even given the wiring diagram to my complete non technical wife and had the network up and running.
When we compare this to a traditional network, the order and delivery time would be the same, but when I get the equipment, I have to power it all up, console in perform software upgrades and configure the devices which all means I cant be getting a coffee after connecting everything and waiting for it to upgrade automatically.
Ok well vendors now have products that offer zero touch provisioning for a “traditional” network, but the part they don’t tell you, is firstly you have to find a rack to install the huge appliance, then you have to configure it, your DNS/ DHCP scopes and a bunch of other things before you can even think about how to setup the site you wish to deploy. O and you have to manage and maintain the box to enable you to use this feature.
Cloud also brings a few other things to the table:
API driven clouds – like the Juniper Mist platform enable you to automate the deployment of 1000s of sites, meaning you could deploy the sites faster than the install teams can even find the sites to install them in.
Cloud Power Analytics – things like Mist Marvis allow the cloud platform to use the network as a sensor and manage unlimited number of devices to answer questions like are my users having a good day. Compare this to an on premise solution where you are limited by the size of the appliance you deploy, and even then that doesn’t scale infinitely like you can do in the cloud. I have had non cloud systems max out with the number of network devices or end points requiring more “boxes” to be installed to make the on-premise version work
So if I was asked to setup a network for a large retailer or an organisation with multiple sites and wanting to be able to rapidly expand if required then I would be looking at a cloud managed network.