Meru Networks Inc. has introduced six new wireless LAN bundles for K-12 schools and higher-education institutions, designed to simplify budgeting and deploying network upgrades.
Buying Wi-Fi can be challenging for educational customers, who are often plagued with lean IT resources and constantly changing network demands. The wireless LAN must be able to scale up and down very quickly within the dense user environments as teachers and students move around the campus with mobile devices. At the same time, IT needs control over new applications and bandwidth allocation. The new Meru Education-Grade (MEG) 802.11n wireless bundles can help IT identify, understand and support their capacity requirements, said Sarosh Vesuna, vice president and general manager of the education and healthcare business units for Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Meru.
Buying Wi-Fi: Meru wireless LAN bundles narrow down choices for IT
IT teams for both K-12 school districts and college and university campuses typically use site surveys to determine where and how much Wi-Fi coverage they will need. Meru's single-channel architecture allows educational customers to deploy the MEG bundles without a site survey, Vesuna said.
The six different Meru wireless LAN bundle offerings allow IT admins to select between the two-stream AP1020i, or the three-stream AP332i 801.11n access point -- depending on the applications running and the density of devices on their network. Network managers can further narrow down their bundle choices based on the size of their network -- 2,500, 10,000 or 25,000 users.
"We have created a simplified way to help these customers determine what their real estate looks like, how much space has to be covered with Wi-Fi, and then how to control and support the network," Vesuna said.
Educational customers pay only for access points with these bundles, which include a WLAN controller -- either Meru's MC1550, MC3200 or MC4200 -- based on the number of access points that must be supported. The bundles also include software licenses associated with the access points, as well as three years of support.
"It's very difficult for educational customers to figure out if they'll have the budget for support a year after deployment -- that might mean they are going without support and software upgrades," he said. IT managers can also continue to add access points to their bundle as their needs change, with support and software licenses included. Meru also plans to extend support for 802.11ac in future bundles, Vesuna said.
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The MEG bundles will help education customers meet bring-your-own-device demands by allowing IT to quickly onboard and connect new devices, which can be mapped to new or existing IT policies. Students and teachers will be able to access approved applications from any device over the MEG platform, he said.
Insource Technologies Inc., a Houston-based IT services provider and Meru partner, has begun promoting the new Meru Wi-Fi bundles via webinars to K-12 and higher-education customers, with interest growing especially from the K-12 customer base, said Julie Black, sales and marketing manager for Insource.
It can be cumbersome for education customers with limited IT resources to figure out what controller is needed for their environment and the level of support they'll need, if any, Black said. Insource also resells other wireless offerings from vendors such as Cisco and Ruckus Wireless, but Meru is the first vendor to create a bundled offering for customers, she said.
"IT likes the access points, controllers and support wrapped into one nice package for one attractive price," she said.
Meru wireless bundles: Not just a good fit for education
School districts and higher-education institutions aren't the only environments that could benefit from a bundled solution, Black said. "Nonprofit organizations and even health care environments need the same type of relief in expenditures that bundles can offer," she said.
Hospitality would also be a good fit for a bundled wireless LAN offering, said Craig Mathias, principal at the Ashland, Mass.-based advisory firm Farpoint Group. "It's much easier to plan out a bundled strategy for hospitality -- IT knows how many hotel rooms will need coverage and what the demand will be like consistently, and they rarely have to worry about outdoor coverage," he said.
While a Wi-Fi bundle may be a good fit for some, the request-for-proposal process is still recommended for any new customers, Mathias said. "It's very rare that a standard kit or bundle could fit perfectly for any organization, but [bundles] can be a good starting point that enables [IT] to think a little more strategically about what they need," he said.