Cisco Wireless WAN Review

Enables you to control everything, every technology within the wireless arena and has good granularity


What is our primary use case?

I've been designing wireless solutions and have been a solutions provider for over 20 years. I spec the solution based on the client's requirements and use whichever vendor device is affordable, and fits the purpose of the company's requirements.

We mainly use the WLC 5000 series. We use other Cisco products, mainly geared to smaller markets. I use Cisco and Dell devices, but mostly Cisco, as in the switching arena. I'm most familiar with cloud management and wireless Cisco solutions such as the WMM. I'm not familiar with the Cisco CSR or Cisco Cloud Services Router 1000V. 

In terms of WLAN solutions, it all comes down to the business requirements and commercials. I would tend to use Cisco at the higher end if the commercial can afford it, but it also depends if it's fit for purpose on the NRL hive. I also use Ubiquiti and I've also started to look at Campion as well. But it really depends on the requirements. External, Ubiquiti, internal Cisco, and Aerohive.

What is most valuable?

The granularity of standardization and technical controls would be the big one in terms of valuable features. You can control everything, every technology within the wireless arena. It contrasts with Meraki which is very much macro-driven so you don't have the visibility of the complete engine. From an engineering and consultant perspective, I want full control. The Cisco WLC solution supplies that in the form they have at the moment, but I know that they changed the UI a couple of weeks ago. I haven't seen it but as it exists at the moment I'm on 8.5 or 8.6 of the code up, but they're using the code that they use on the WLCs and not what would be the new version, which I believe is different.

What needs improvement?

With the WMM there are a few bits and pieces missing that some of the other vendors have. Cisco has a bad habit, although they'd probably see it as a good habit, of not applying extras. I want more managing features. Cisco would love you to go and buy Cisco Prime, which is very expensive, especially if you want to get reports active for the SME market. They generally don't add to existing products and are actually outpricing themselves. Cisco needs to realize that if they want to reach a global market, there are many markets within that. They need a price point that allies a smaller market and sometimes a specific country. I work in Northern Ireland and Ireland, which is very much SMB, and Cisco has priced themselves out of that market. From a management perspective, if I want to get good reports and good troubleshooting capabilities, I have to go and buy an additional product, Prime or another product that they facilitate. Aerohive products and the like have that under the hood and are a cheaper product. Cisco needs to be paralleling what the other vendors' devices are doing and giving what could be other markets the ability to use the product. For now, they've priced themselves out in some locations.

In terms of additional features, they need to look at the market and need to look at whether or not it includes more management features under the hood and more layers to functional troubleshooting which other vendor devices do, that would be a big improvement. But they need to be built into the product that you buy, and you shouldn't have to go and pay thousands of pounds for an additional management platform. There should be a level of management solution purchased through the standard WLAN, Cisco's WLAN solution. There isn't enough.

What other advice do I have?

I would want people to be aware that Cisco Wireless WAN is a top-end product and solution. Their portfolio is superb. They have major experience and maturity and are very much in tune with their field. I work in warehousing facilities. Like most things, though, there are pros and cons. Cisco is the top end, commercially. It's going to be double the price, and I mean double the price, of everything else. Other products that I use, and I have cross-referenced the price point with many solutions for the requirements of our enterprise customers, are half the price.

They are a good product. Do they warrant the extra expense? I would have to say no, but they do have great maturity and their product portfolio is not just the access points but their other add-ons; their antennas, maturity and the information out there, which is invaluable. You pay for these from an engineering and consultative perspective. I need to research issues and other people's experiences. Cisco obviously has the world's best engineers, consultants who have that and very nicely post their experiences. That is invaluable. But unfortunately some markets, again I'm talking about Ireland here, sometimes can't afford that. And there are other products that can do the job just as well.

Commercially they are quite flawed but in terms of technology, you can't really beat Cisco, to be honest. Commercially I would rate them as a 2 but technically they would be an 8 or 9 out of ten. I'm not a fan of the Meraki product so I'm taking it out of the equation. I'm talking about Cisco WLCs, and what would be the solution. Technically it's an excellent product.

Unfortunately, their validity into other commercial markets is flawed. Majorly flawed. And they have too much competition, and Cisco being Cisco will just go "Well, that's fine, we didn't want to do that."  Then we would not use their products. So that's unfortunate. Maybe that's just a bit of pretension on their part.

**Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Reseller.
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