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New cloud-based Meru wireless LAN targets the midmarket

Meru's cloud-based wireless LAN for SMBs includes hardware and management software and reduces costs by eliminating the on-premises controller.

Meru Networks has introduced a cloud-based wireless LAN that doesn't use an on-premises controller, a feature expected to appeal to small and midsize businesses looking to reduce complexity and cut costs.

Meru's XPress Cloud includes 802.11ac-capable access points, management software hosted by Meru and access to a cloud-based management dashboard. The package delivers business-grade network performance and is sold under a flexible pricing model that includes support, IDC analyst Rohit Mehra said.

"This will allow Meru to broaden their target market by going after what midmarket customers are especially looking for -- cloud-managed options," he said.

XPress Cloud puts Meru into direct competition with Cisco's Meraki and similar products from Aerohive and Aruba Networks, Mehra said.

Meru wireless XPress Cloud tailored for SMBs

Meru is hoping to beat rivals by dropping the on-premises controller to reduce the cost of its wireless LAN. Many small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) shun controllers, because the added expense is hard to justify for small branch offices, Mehra said.

Meru is also targeting businesses that cut costs by purchasing consumer-grade wireless LANs. While the products are easy to deploy and manage, they are also unreliable and can't scale as the company grows, experts say.

Businesses can easily install the XPress XP8i access points using a Power over Ethernet- capable switch and a standard Internet connection. Once deployed, the device has the intelligence to provision itself with channel and policy information, and to automatically create its own network, or "cluster," of as many as 32 access points, according to Meru. Each access point or cluster can be managed from one centralized location, via a cloud-based management dashboard.

XPress Cloud features a portal for managing employee-owned and guest mobile devices. The cloud-based software only manages network traffic, so no corporate data moving across the wireless LAN leaves the corporate firewall, said Dennis Huang, Meru's director of product marketing.

Meru customers have the choice of buying XPress Cloud access points outright or paying a monthly fee that includes upgrades and maintenance, Huang said.

While the XPress Cloud management software will be hosted by Meru, the vendor's wireless LAN and access points are sold exclusively by channel partners. End customers can also rely on partners for access point installation, if need be, the company said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Gina Narcisi, senior news writer, and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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The cost savings of controlling a cluster of access points from the cloud over that of on premises controllers out ways the inability to scale.
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