Aruba Wireless vs. Cisco Meraki Wireless LAN

Aruba Wireless is ranked 1st in Wireless LAN with 33 reviews vs Cisco Meraki Wireless LAN which is ranked 5th in Wireless LAN with 5 reviews. The top reviewer of Aruba Wireless writes "Some of the implementations or features do work as advertised. Urgent areas of improvement would be customer support, better tuned default settings, and documentation". The top reviewer of Cisco Meraki Wireless LAN writes "Allows me to integrate another system very quickly, as we continue expanding for our client". Aruba Wireless is most compared with Cisco Wireless, Cisco Meraki Wireless LAN and Ruckus Wireless. Cisco Meraki Wireless LAN is most compared with Aruba Wireless, Ubiquiti Wireless and Aerohive Networks. See our Aruba Wireless vs. Cisco Meraki Wireless LAN report.
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Quotes From Members Comparing Aruba Wireless vs. Cisco Meraki Wireless LAN

We asked business professionals to review the solutions they use. Here are some excerpts of what they said:
Pros
It helps the user to have a better vision of what is happening in their network.I have found the Access Point (AP) group profile feature extremely useful. It makes deployments look easy.It has helped in making deployments easier.It has an aesthetically pleasing GUI for configuration.It delivers constantly, there is no break in the internet using these devices. It also automatically gets connected when the internet comes back. Failure is very low.The performance and the application monitor. You can select the applications you want to use and block on your networkWith the central management system, I'm able to access each device. I can configure one device and then it provisions all the other devices with the same configuration, rather than my having to configure them one by one.With Aruba Wireless Controller, all our access points are connected to one controller. Through that controller, we can actually handle each access point; we can disconnect or connect that access point, and then we can tell, or see, or allow how many users are, or should be, connected through that access point.

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It improved the installation time.This product has allowed us to easily create custom SSIDs for clients and carve out the necessary bandwidth for clients needs.I really love their cloud-based dashboard which allows me to see all my locations from one location.It will allow me to integrate another system very quickly, as we continue expanding for our client.It has good security with its Layer 7 protections.The dashboard to keep track of 30 or so APs, switches, routers and logs, is invaluable. I liked the UX on this.

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Cons
They should provide usage guides and solutions to frequent problems.They should simplify the configuration flow.Additional detailed reporting for client traffic would be a great addition.The urgent areas of improvement would be customer support, better tuned default settings, and documentation.What I would like to have with these kinds of devices is the most enhanced security. For example, if I could apply security from wireless devices, that would be great. I would also like more enhanced reports on user adoption, who is getting what bandwidth.I would like to be able to customize Captive Portals.The management system would be better if it were more polished, if it had a better interface like, for example, MerakiIf you want a centralized management system that is able to manage all your networking devices such as the wireless, the switch, the routers, and the firewall, then Aruba may not be the one, because Aruba doesn't do firewalls.

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It's performing well, really well. We don't have any issues. We only have issues if there is a lot of rogue APs in the neighborhood and that not Meraki's fault.if there is a better feature, they write it as beta so you have to be careful.I would like to see them improve their support where an assigned engineer can take the case all the way to closure. Usually, you get a different engineer calling regarding the same ticket.The error logs need to be much more comprehensive.

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Pricing and Cost Advice
Get multiple bids/quotes, and talk to the representatives about the limitations of the product; pretty standard.It's not expensive. That is the reason we switched to Aruba.Pricing is competitive. Licensing is needed to maintain access to the latest firmware, which wasn't made clear originally when we started with Arbua (or things changed, I'm not sure which). I would just say, make sure you budget for it.A recent change is that ClearPass licensing is superb. It counts user-based instead of device-based, for BYOD on-boarding.​AP signal strength and price. I know this is a competitive market, but APs should not cost so much if they do not cover a large area. ​The system was very good, but we needed to upgrade in order to adapt for our needs, and doing so with Aruba would have been more expensive. ​Besides paying for the APs, you need to pay a license each year for their use. Therefore, watch out for that and do the best you can to keep costs down.​I am aiding in transitioning my organization to a different wireless solution due to the cost. We need to expand our network and the cost of new APs and an upgraded controller have proved to be prohibitive compared to similar solutions on the market.​

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The price is negotiable.At this price point, I would not mind seeing a four-way channel, instead of a 3x3 or a 4x4, like they do in the Cisco Aironet system with their other brand. For the same price point in this other Cisco brand, it is a lot cheaper, and you can get a slightly better throughput than you can with these.​If you are wondering if Meraki can work for you, contact one of their representatives because they will do onsite trials where you can set up their system. If it does not work, you can send it back to them for no charge.​​Negotiate the deal put in front of you!

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Answers from the Community
Rhea Rapps
Akshay BalaganurConsultant

We are authorised to sell both Aruba and Meraki.
Being a consultant myself, I give a honest comparison of both the products and let the customers take a well informed decision based on their priorities.

Meraki
-------
PROS

+ Pure play Cloud controller.
+ Easy to deploy and configure
+ Easy to manage geographically distributed locations with single Dashboard
+ Simpler learning curve with a very simple GUI
+ Supports most standard business needs w.r.t WiFi viz PSK, 802.1x, Guest WiFi, Presence Analytics, heatmapping, Basic L7awareness etc

+ Single Dashboard for configuring and managing Access switches, MX firewall and IP cameras.

Cons

- YoY mandatory subscription ( which includes support BTW )

- Limited interms of Advanced features like Roles based Dynamic Vlans, Device profiling, RF related features, BLE Beacons etc.

- No On Prem OR Virtual Controller architecture. Some Financial companies are concerned about having Mgmt on Cloud. They prefer everything OnPrem

Suitable for
Businesses with distributed small branches/locations like Retail outlets, Food chains,
Enterprises with simpler use cases.
Business that prefer fully cloud management with small IT teams, that manage global/ geographically distributed stores/branches.
Specially advantageous if end-end Meraki is deployed for each branch viz, FIrewall, Switch, WiFi , Camera ( optional)

Aruba
------

+ Supports 3 Architectures
Virtual Controller ( Everyone loves this ! )
On Prem Controller
Cloud- Controller ( Aruba Central )

+ Fairly simple to deploy with friendly GUI. A Cisco only engineer may require basic training.

+ If deployed as On Prem - Virtual controller or Hardware controller, then Cloud based dashboard can be achieved through Aruba Airwave deployed on cloud.

If Aruba Central Controller is deployed, then its cloud management is right out of the box.

+ Supports all advanced Enterprise features right out of box, without additional licensing. Suitable for all Enterprises of all sizes.

+ Has a tight integration with Aruba ClearPass, which is industry leading NAC solution. However, Aruba ClearPass can be beautifully integrated multi-vendor environment including Meraki and traditional Cisco Aironet.

+ Has tight Integration with HPE Aruba Switches. Features like Zero touch AP deployment, Rogue AP detection can be configured on switching to ease large WiFi deployment and operations.

+ Provides easy scalability or migration with no subscription Lockins

+ Has Inbuilt Bluetooth Beacons for Location based services like In-door navigation, Proximity awareness, Proximity based notifications, Asset tracking

Cons
------

- Although Airwave/ Central can manage the Aruba Switches, its not as advanced/detailed as Meraki controlled switches.

- Like Meraki MX firewalls, Aruba doesn't have WAN solution yet like a firewall/router. From what I know, there is a SD-WAN box in the roadmap.

- Involves a bit learning curve for a Cisco only IT teams. However I personally ( from Cisco background) had no challenge getting used to the Aruba GUI.

Suitable for
Most Enterprises and other verticals with complex use cases
Business with Guest WiFi, User Analytics , Proximity marketing etc
Enterprises for value added services over WiFi infra like Asset tracking, Indoor Navigation etc

Hope it helps .. Cheers !
Akshay
https://www.airowire.com

01 March 18
it_user261798Real User

I see it like cars. The one person like a BMW the next a Mercedes Benz. Both will take you from a to b. Both the two systems work well. I prefer Cisco because I am a Cisco advocate. That is not to say it is better. Also sometimes people tend to stick to what they know. Bottom line is both are good and both work well.

04 March 18
John Le BrunReal User

Confidentiality Integrity and Availability

Or just CIA are the basic elements of security. How secure is your WLAN Infrastructure. Can you clone an AP (exposing AP's integrity), can you sniff on WLAN encrypted traffic (exposing client traffic confidentiality), or do you need a maintainance window to upgrade or a faliover time in case a controller failure (reducing WLAN availability). Let's find out why Aruba WLAN Infrastructure is more secure than Cisco

Access Point integrity

Every Aruba device like Controller or Access Point has a TPM (Trusted Platform Module). A TPM provides several advantages when it comes to an Access Point. One of them is to ensure AP integrity, such that no one can clone or tamper with the AP.

Every AP is equipped with a factory-installed X.509 certificate. The common name (CN) of this certificate is the LAN MAC address and serial number of the AP. The private key of this certificate is installed on the TPM module. The TPM prohibits any malicious activity to extract the private key. Vendors that don’t have a TPM module like Cisco install the private key along with the factory certificate in the flash memory.

Why is having a TPM important?

The controller needs to identify the AP as a legitimate one before pushing the configuration onto it. Aruba does that by whitelisting AP’s MAC on the controller. The controller is sure that AP with MAC address X is the one who is claimed to be because the CN of the certificate is the MAC address. Then session keys are exchanged and a secure communication path for the control plane between AP and Controller is established. The configuration can now be pushed.

However the story looks a bit different for Cisco that has the certificate private key stored in flash. The key can be extracted if someone has physical access to the AP (APs are usually placed in unsecured areas), which has also been demonstrated. Now a malicious user can obtain the configuration which contains information like Radius shared secrets, PSK passphrases and more as we will see later.

Client Traffic Security

The client WLAN traffic by Aruba is encrypted and decrypted on the controller. The AP will in no point of time come in touch with clear text client traffic. Exposing the AP to Clear-Text client traffic adds an additional risk by opening a door to Man-in-the-Middle attacks. Aruba provides end-end traffic encryption.

Cisco does encrypt and decrypt WLAN traffic on the AP. The client traffic is then encrypted again in a proprietary protocol before it is sent to the controller. The AP comes in touch with Clear-Text client traffic. More tragically, if a malicious user exposes AP Integrity (cloning the AP for instance) as described before, the whole WLAN security is jeopardized. When Fast Roaming is configured, the PMK (Pairwise Master Key which is the key from which the WPA2 keys are derived) are pre-placed on the APs. If one can clone the AP that is authorized for a given network, one can then passively collect WPA2 keys for the entire network.

Traffic Isolation

In some scenarios the managed AP has to broadcast an SSID, but the traffic of this SSID is to be completely isolated from other traffic. Two use cases:

Use Case 1: Guest Traffic needs to terminate to a controller in a DMZ and should not come in contact with the controller or any other device in the internal network.
Use Case 2: An external organization (or internal division) needs to broadcast its SSID on my own APs. The traffic from this SSID should terminate directly to their controller.

Aruba introduced a feature called MultiZone. It allows IT organizations to have multiple and separate secure networks while using the same Access Point. With MultiZone enabled, one AP can terminate to up to 5 different controllers or zones (under different management domains). The controller managing the AP is called the Primary Zone. Controllers on which the AP only terminates client traffic is called Data Zone. The data is encrypted from the client to the controller. When the data is flowing through the AP it is still encrypted. This means the networks are completely separate and secure even though the traffic runs through the same AP.

mz.png

For the uses cases before:

Use Case 1: A separate controller is placed in the DMZ (Data Zone). The Guest SSID broadcasted on the AP is tunneled back to this controller and not to the Primary Zone controller.
Use Case 2: The administrator allows the external organization to broadcast their SSID on his own AP. They act as a Data Zone, the traffic from their SSID is directly terminated to their controller.
Cisco does not have a feature similar to MultiZone.

Availability

Compared to Cisco, Aruba enhances WLAN availability by providing: Ture Clustering, Live Upgrades and Loadable Service Modules.

True Clustering

Aruba provides true clustering. Controllers in a cluster (up to 12 controllers) have the client high-value sessions synchronized among them. Hi-value sessions are like FTP, SSH VoIP …, HTTP Sessions on the other hand are not high-value, reestablishing a HTTP session will have almost no impact. In a case of a controller failure, clients who were managed on the failed controller are moved to another controller and because their session table is already synced, the client applications will not notice. In other words if a client is having a VoIP call on WLAN and the controller on which the client traffic was terminated fails, the client traffic will terminate to another cluster member. The VoIP call will continue, the client will not notice any interruption.

Live Upgrade

Usually when updating the firmware of the controller a maintenance window has to be found and WLAN is not available (or with limited functionality) during this time.

Aruba can upgrade clusters without the need for a maintenance window. This is done as following:

One Cluster member is freed from APs, these APs are moved to other cluster members.
This controller is upgraded to the newest firmware.
Some APs at a time are freed from clients. These clients are transferred to adjacent APs without affecting their sessions.
The freed APs are upgraded and moved to the already upgraded cluster member(s).
This process is repeated until all APs and controller are upgraded.
During the upgrade process clients will face minimal RF impact and client disruptions.

Loadable Service Modules

LSM feature allows customers to individually upgrade supported applications/service modules at the run-time without requiring an upgrade of the whole system or reboot. Such services that can be upgraded during run time are:

AppRF: for application detection
Airmatch: the process to assign the best channel, power and channel width for the AP
WebCC: Web Categorization, the process of categorizing web pages.

Last word: Security Certification

Aruba and Cisco are equivalent from a WLAN security certification standpoint. However, the Aruba controller is a Common Criteria accredited firewall and VPN gateway, which Cisco's controller is not. That is a key reason why in high security networks, Aruba is approved to support guest + internal Wi-Fi access on the same equipment, because it has an accredited firewall that keeps those two network separate. Cisco has to rely on VLAN separation with an external firewall, which is not as secure.

01 March 18
Michael NewmanUser

Both have their merits. Aruba has taken the brand of all the hp procure hardware. Excellent Customer service. I liked Meraki when they were just Meraki. Cisco has given them autonomy in development and products mix. They are simple as is Aruba is to configure. As another responder indicated its a license world now. Everyone wants a piece of the monthly operational pie. The dashboard is easy to understand and configure but so is everyone else. It sometime comes down to who is going to support it how easy is it to deploy and manage and what are the operational costs. Honestly I prefer Ruckus :-) unleashed is free (zone director is built into it). Also as enterprises have embraced mobil look down the road a bit 3-5 years you may see enterprise wireless also include cellular microcell boosters.

You could to a POC between the 2 and see who wins based on your criteria for what your requirements are. Don't loose focus on what you are working to accomplish.

Hopefully that help and does not muddy the waters.

01 March 18
Ton ZwartjensReseller

Aruba’s instant APs with Central for cloud based management compares well with Meraki. However, Meraki does not scale well. Check how many APs you require and if this requires setting up multiple clusters, with the necessary extra management overlay. Aruba scales much better in that regard. Also, you can start with cloud based but change to a controller model if the need arises without the need to change the APs. Meraki would require a rip and replace.

02 May 18
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Also Known As
Aruba WLAN, HP WLAN, HP WirelessMR18, MR26, MR32, MR34, MR66, MR72, Meraki Wireless LAN, Meraki WLAN
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Aruba Networks
Cisco
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Overview
Aruba deliver superb Wireless performance and multi-user MIMO aware ClientMatch to boost network efficiency and support the growing device density and app demands on your network.Cisco Meraki access points are built from the highest grade components and carefully optimized for a seamless user experience. The outcome: faster connections, greater user capacity, more coverage, and fewer support calls. The Cisco Meraki dashboard gives visibility into the network users, their devices, and their applications. Armed with rich analytics, administrators can quickly create access control and application usage policies, optimizing both the end-user experience and network security.
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Sample Customers
Consulate Health Care, Los Angeles Unified School District, Science Applications International Corp (SAIC), San Diego State University, KFC, ACTS Retirement-Life CommunitiesAdvanced Medical Transport, Banco de Guayaquil, Baylor Scott & White Health, BH Telecom, Bowling Green State University, Calligaris, Children's Hospital Colorado, City of Biel, Del Papa Distributing, Department of Justice, Dimension Data, Dualtec Cloud Builders, Electricity Authority of Cyprus, Grupo Industrial Saltillo (GIS), Hertz, K&L Gates , LightEdge, Lone Star College System, Management Science Associates, Mindtree, NBC Olympics, Quest, Sony Corporation, The Department of Education in Western Australia, Valley Proteins
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