Skip to main content
Dennis Holmes

By: Dennis Holmes on June 13th, 2022

Print/Save as PDF

Cisco Catalyst & Meraki Dashboard Unite to Simplify Network Management

Networking | Mobility & WiFi

A little over a year ago, Cisco announced the sunsetting of AireOS controllers and the end of a dynasty in the Wi-Fi industry. Approximately ten years ago, Cisco acquired a young startup company named Meraki in an enormous, 1.2-billion-dollar purchase. As an Airespace Wi-Fi fan, the news was a bit intriguing. The one thing that had been clearly missing from the Cisco/Airespace acquisition of 2005 was the lack of a cloud-based management system coupled with state-of-the-art hardware and radios. The Meraki acquisition held the promise of closing that gap in Cisco/Airespace portfolio.  

Meraki had a very simple management platform controlling off-the-shelf chipsets in their access points. Their secret sauce was their scalability and ease of use. For nearly a decade, the two organizations operated almost completely independent of each other. Those of us focused on mobility and Wi-Fi solutions know that the past ten years have been a challenge trying to navigate the complexity of two different management platforms; Cisco/Airespace and Meraki. That brings us to Cisco’s recent announcement that they will bring these platforms together.  

Your Meraki Dashboard Can Now Control Cisco Catalyst 916x Access Points 

Recently, we learned that Cisco campus network hardware will operate either on-prem or via cloud management control. For the first time, truly best of breed solutions from Cisco and Meraki can be managed in either way you, the customer chooses. For those diehard Cisco Wi-Fi customers, that means the Meraki dashboard will now be able to control Cisco Catalyst 916x access points!  

As a leading Cisco partner with deep expertise in Wi-Fi design, deployment, and management, we are thrilled to have these new options for our customers. You can manage what we believe is the best wireless access point hardware in the world (Cisco) in a simple, cloud-based platform or, convert that very same access point to operate with Catalyst 9800 controllers and DNA Center on-premise management for different use cases and features.  

The icing on the cake is that not only are Catalyst access points coming to the Meraki Dashboard, but surprise, Catalyst switching is making that change as well! A limited subset of switches is included in the initial introduction but, as the solution evolves, I expect we will see a continued convergence of hardware platforms and the addition of more and more features from the Catalyst world.  

Next Gen Meraki Dashboard Eliminates Duplicative Tech Across Your Network 

To make all this possible, Meraki has announced the release of their next generation dashboard. Meraki developers have been working on a simpler look and feel for the cloud-based management platform and I am very excited to see the benefits for our customers.  

For Cisco, this is an operational game changer. Supporting fewer hardware platforms will reduce the cost of support, spare parts, packaging, manufacturing, and marketing, as well as research and development on future models. It brings a cloud-native management platform to Cisco hardware that will simplify management for customers that may not need all the enterprise features of DNA Center. In short, it is the end of duplicative technology and services across the network.  

The real question I’m sure that you’re asking is, “What does this mean for me?” In short, you are not losing anything that you have today and yet you are gaining a lot of flexibility. 

Benefits for Current Meraki Users 

If you are a current Meraki user, you will gain by having access to the very best wi-fi hardware platforms in the industry and a redesigned dashboard that is even more intuitive, simple to use, and arranged from feature requests that came straight from you, the customers. And, you’ll have switching platforms that can grow in scale and features as you need them, without the current limitations of Meraki only hardware. 

Benefits for Current Cisco Catalyst Users 

For Catalyst users, you’ll get a new, simpler way to manage large and/or geographically dispersed locations with the very same hardware.  

Benefits for Current Cisco DNA Center Users 

Lastly, like a lot of our clients, if you operate in a hybrid environment utilizing cloud management for remotes sites but, DNA Center for your large centralized and complex campus networks, you can now do this on a standardized hardware platform using best-of-breed technologies. 


To sum it up, it’s all about hardware portability and management flexibility, allowing you to choose the platform that best meets your needs today and in the future. The choice is yours, as it should be. When you combine this new approach with the emerging 6ghz wi-fi spectrum, you’ll soon have an incredible set of tools to help you meet the growing demands of the digital era. But, more to come on that topic in a future blog. 

Further Your Meraki Knowledge with IE 

Meraki has many new features on the horizon. Stay informed about your tech investment and join us each quarter for our Meraki Mondays webinar. These free sessions cover tech trends, new product features, and best practices. And they are totally free! If you think you or your team could benefit from these educational webinars, sign up to get notified when we have our next session. You’ll also gain access to prior session recordings and to our Meraki experts.  


About Dennis Holmes

Dennis Holmes is the Director of Mobility and Infrastructure Solutions for Internetwork Engineering (IE) and has been involved with Wi-Fi for over 18 years. He enjoys speaking on Wireless LAN solutions, technology, and best practices at industry events.