All Good Things Come to an End: Cisco Aquires Meraki

I have been very lucky in my career.  There is pretty much no network vendor whose gear has not come across my desk and I have had the opportunity to install and play with on some level.  Last year we engaged Meraki to consider then for both their Cloud Controller based Access Points but also for their new Access Switch product line.  I did lots and lots of research and honestly found a mixed bag of info.  On one hand people were saying this is really amazing stuff and if you can handle a bit less than full enterprise class gear you should really look at it.  On the other hand I read a few articles like this one out of Canada that paints a picture of pretty shady practices from Meraki.

So I sat through their online demos, had local partners come in to tell me how amazing it was then I got my AP (Modle MR12) from them to play with and see what I thought.  In all honestly their AP and overall wireless product underwhelmed me.  My Cisco 1200 B only radio covered better and and my Cisco 1252 even in 2.4 only mode way out gunned this poor little guy.  But what they do very very well is the management of it all.  Even after I had decided that my company would not be moving to their access points nor the new switch line I decided to stick with System Manager because how good it was at managing remote devices and it was free!  So right off the bat I do not hate these guys or their products I actually think they are pretty cool but over just not the right fit for what we needed.

Then tonight it happened.  @MrFogg97 hit me up and said “Saw this on #meraki’s site when reading the announcement. http://twitter.com/MrFogg97/status/270346667495145472/photo/1 and yes I did say that and to this second I still believe its a great product.  But then I asked myself what announcement.  A quick trip to Meraki’s website told the tale.  Cisco announces intent to acquire Meraki   And that is why I am really writing this post.I know by now many people see me as becoming very anti-Cisco.  I wont say I don’t see why they feel that way but honestly I feel good about every Cisco Network I installed in my career and they are the only vendor I can say that about.  Yes I think they have lost their way and may well never find the path home but I don’t hate them.  So lets be clear the rest of this post is not a down with Cisco post.  Actually it is a I am really disappointed in Meraki post.  Just to boil it down really quick the Executive Team at Meraki sold out and did so to a tune of about 1.2 Billion in Cash, if you trust the article linked to at AllThingsD.com.

In all reality I most likely will never have the chance to have someone offer me 1.2 Billion in Cash to buy my company.  If they do you can bet your ass I will take a few minutes to think about it and in all likelihood I will take the money.  But what I wont do it lie to people about it.  That is exactly what I think Sanjit Biswas the CEO of Meraki did in this Letter to his Staff.  Let me break this down for you.  In this Letter that went out to staff ahead of the official notification because someone slipped it to the media Sanjit says this;

“So, when Cisco approached with an acquisition offer a few weeks ago, our initial reaction was to politely say “thanks, but we’re planning to do our own thing and take Meraki public”. It turned out that was exactly why they were interested in talking to us — over the past six years, we’d developed an innovative product as well as sales model that was indeed our own thing and unique in the market. They had been hearing from customers, partners and analysts that Meraki had built something truly different, and wanted to see if Cisco could distribute the technology on a worldwide scale through their vast sales channels.”

What I see in that statement is someone trying to explain away all the hard work that had gone into Meraki’s IPO plans by saying how much more they can accomplish with Cisco on their side.  But it simply comes out as a poor excuse.  The line stating “So, when Cisco approached with an acquisition offer a few weeks ago, our initial reaction was to politely say “thanks, but we’re planning to do our own thing and take Meraki public” is just disingenuous if that is what they really thought they should have stuck with it but again like I said already its hard to walk away from 1.2 Billion dollars.  But come on Sanjit just say it!

Moving on he spends lots of time trying to make his staff feel good about this.  If I were them I would be a calling all the other folks in the same space asking if they are hiring.  Why you may ask well lets take his assurances one at a time.

“Cisco appreciates the way in which we develop innovative products: by focusing on our customers and quickly trying new ideas in both software and hardware. They’d like to see us continue to release new features and products in the years ahead, and hopefully “cloudify” other Cisco products.”

I call BS.  What Cisco appreciates is the cloud platform that they have developed.  Not for a second do I believe that Cisco like show they focus on their customers nor how they develop hardware.  While Cisco most likely will allow them to keep doing some of their own thing it is clear that they will do so to solidify their hold on the Mid-Market something that the LinkSys acquisition never did for them.  Outside of the Mid-Market Cisco will most likely gut the cloud management platform over time and turn it into an expensive hard to manage platform that kind of integrates with all of their Enterprise and DataCenter Products.

“Beyond technology, they recognized our business model as being highly integrated and customer experience focused. This integration spans across teams, so they’d like all the departments to keep doing what they are doing while figuring out how to leverage Cisco’s distribution channels.”

At this point your probably annoyed that I am simply fortune telling but I can tell you after being a delegate at Network Field Day 3 this acquisition is totally out of context with what Cisco is doing on their management platforms.  And after years of being in the Cisco Channel I know one thing its fight to live between Business Units and I don’t see Meraki (Cloud Networking Group) navigating those waters successfully.  If you need a clear example of this simply look at the Catalyst 6500 line versus the Cisco Nexus 7000 Line.  Prior to leaving the VAR world we were told to expect 100% of the services on the 6500 line to be available in the Nexus 7000 line within a few short quarters.  That still has not happened.  The Catalyst swings a huge revenue number and that makes it hard to compete with.  The same thing will happen to the Cloud Networking Group if for no other reason than Cisco is not a “Cloud” company.  They have not even wrapped their heads around what they plan to do with SDN yet so I hardly see them abandoning their current mindset through this one acquisition.

“Finally, Cisco recognized we built a culture and environment in San Francisco that has helped us recruit and retain phenomenal talent across departments. As a result, they’d like us to be a new “Cloud Networking Group”, based out of SF, fun office, free food and all.”

Best of luck with that.  Go talk to a 10 year veteran of Cisco and ask how things are different now than 10 years ago.  I would plan on bringing you own food and drinks in within the next year or so.

So I’ll quit rambling and close out here in a minute but let me also remind Meraki and everyone else why they were winning.  THEY WERE NOT CISCO!  Their equipment was affordable, their services were affordable and their staff were empowered to do the right things by clients.  Cisco does not work this way.  The FAQ shows this clearly and tries to address it.

Will license costs change in the future? Will I have to buy SMARTnet for support after my Meraki license expires?

Like any cloud service, your Meraki license terms are guaranteed for the duration of the license period that you’ve purchased. There are no plans for you to be required to purchase SMARTnet at this point.

This is a short term promise.  It is worded that way for a reason!

If I need to buy more gear, shall I call my Cisco rep?

Continue to call your Meraki sales representative.

Can I buy from my Cisco reseller?

Continue to call your Meraki reseller.

Again these are short term commitments that do not jive with the Letter from Sanjit.  Cisco will be working hard to integrate Meraki into the corporate sales model.  Just ask the guys at IronPort how the sales channel move went.  Some of you may be asking what is IronPort…..yeah that’s part of my point.  Anyway best of luck to Meraki and Cisco both.  But just to be clear I am unplugging my Meraki AP in the morning and moving back to my dumb APs and my company is nuking all of our System Manager usage in the morning as well.  I don’t have time to become reliant on a product then watch Cisco start putting the screws to me.  I have been down that road a few times.  If your a current Meraki shop and you like the product I wish you the best but hold on because its about to get a bit bumpy.

 

2 comments

  1. Hi Josh,

    I wonder what experiences former Airspace customers might be able to share about that Cisco acquisition, or even Airspace employees. If you recall Cisco was still exalting the benefits of the fat access point in 2005 when they jumped ship overnight to the thin access point philosophy that Symbol and Airspace were deploying. I was about to land a very large wireless deployment with Airspace when they were acquired by Cisco in 2005. I ultimately ended up going with Symbol (current day Motorola) because of the Cisco acquisition.

    Cheers!

    • Josh says:

      That is a great point! I was one of those customers who had just deployed Gen1 Sup720s in order to do MGRE to support the SWAN structure. 30 seconds after I planted my stake on the decision Cisco canned SWAN and exhaled the benefits of the Airspace product line. I would love to hear from some ex-AirSpacers and would gladly let them do a long comment or even a guest post.

      As I remember it Cisco was struggling with SWAN even internally and it was not scaling thus the jump to controller based. They really did not have a huge dog in the hunt when it came to SWAN. Yes it was the primary platform for all of their campus’s but very few of their clients had made the move to the Sup720. The controllers that came with the AirSpace acquisition instantly solved that problem for them and honestly I think is what drove their massive adoption, well that and great radio gear. The same things that worked for Airspace are working against Meraki in my mind. The current controller based AP product line has HUGE adoption across all verticals. That goes back to my statement about how Cisco BU’s have to fight to live. The Meraki team will walk into a combat zone armed with nerf guns when it comes to trying to move market share away from the established wireless BU. All that said that is a political issue inside Cisco that they could solve if they really felt like being relevant in the market again. But I am not holding my breath.

      And thanks for the Comment!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *