Every wireless LAN vendor has its own approach to traffic optimization. Some have engineered beamforming and spectrum analysis features for improved throughput and lower interference. Others have delivered the ability to set bandwidth utilization policies based on users and port destination. Now, Meraki is using deep packet inspection to apply application and content-aware traffic shaping to the wireless LAN.
Meraki Traffic Shaper is a Layer 7 wireless traffic shaping feature that allows enterprises to set QoS policies by application type, content and user, as well as bandwidth consumption. Meraki, which offers a cloud-based wireless LAN controller architecture, maintains a central database of application signatures, which are uploaded to customers' wireless access points on a regular basis. The access points then shape traffic individually based on central policies set by the network administrator.
Aaron Mahler, director of network services at Sweetbriar College in rural Virginia, said Meraki's Traffic Shaper feature will help him defer an upgrade to his school's Internet circuit by better balancing traffic and managing bandwidth consumption.
"We are not budgeted for an increase in our outside bandwidth," Mahler said. "We've spent quite a number of years on a DS3 line that's been handling our needs quite well, but we definitely see the need to move to a 150 to 200 megabit circuit at some point in the future. In the meantime, we have a situation where we need to balance our traffic a little better … so that we can provide good, balanced service to all our users. We don't want a handful of people running away with all the bandwidth."
Most of Mahler's users access his campus network via his Meraki wireless LAN, so wireless traffic shaping will allow him to make sure traffic from YouTube and Hulu doesn't hog bandwidth from students and staff who are using the network for academic purposes.
"We're trying to apply some types of queuing, so when things are under load, everyone is given an opportunity to get an adequate amount of bandwidth," he said.
Meraki is effectively enabling the wireless LAN to differentiate between enterprise and non-enterprise applications. "Some vendors try to take care of this across the entire network, but Meraki is focused on improving the performance of business applications across the wireless LAN," said Rohit Mehra, research director at IDC.
What's more, Meraki's solution could be a way to implement wireless QoS without having to purchase costly outside hardware or software to monitor user traffic, according to Jennifer Huber, a wireless LAN blogger and senior systems architect with a large value-added reseller.
And in a Cisco environment, the Meraki Traffic Shaper feature could be a simple alternative to implementing wireless QoS via Cisco's Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) technology or via Network-Based Application Recognition (NBAR), the deep packet inspection feature found in Cisco switches and routers, Huber said.
Enterprises that want to do end-to-end, bi-directional QoS across both wired and wireless networks would have configure their wired networks so that the shaped traffic passes through the trust boundary between a Meraki wireless LAN and a wired switch with QoS tagging intact, she said.
Meraki users would need only to configure the upstream switch ports on a wired LAN if they wanted to do end-to-end traffic prioritization across the LAN, according to Meraki product marketing manager Kiren Sekar.
Meraki Traffic Shaper is now in beta with select customers. It will be generally available in September and will be included as a free feature with Meraki enterprise licenses.
Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Editor