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Latest Cisco switch uses Meraki software, Catalyst hardware

The MS390 is the first Cisco switch built using Meraki software and Catalyst hardware.

LAS VEGAS -- Cisco has introduced a cloud-managed switch that combines Catalyst hardware and Meraki software.

The MS390, unveiled Tuesday at Cisco Partner Summit 2019, is the first Meraki-branded switch built with technology from Cisco's Catalyst line of campus hardware. Cisco plans to release the new access switch by the end of January.

Because it relies on Catalyst hardware, the MS390 includes features that are not in other Meraki products. A notable example is security group tagging, which lets the MS390 enforce access control policies. That makes it possible to segment groups of devices on the network.

Another unique feature in the MS390 is the ability to stack the 1RU hardware, which has 48 1 Gbps ports. The Layer 3 device is stackable up to eight units.

Todd Carriker, CEO of Meraki reseller Rhino Networks, based in Asheville, N.C., said the Catalyst features in the MS390 will make it an option for enterprises that needed hardware more powerful than what Meraki offered before.

"The new switch that Meraki is releasing is going to sell like hot cakes, for sure," Carriker said during a meeting with reporters.

The MS390 could also benefit from the popularity of the Catalyst line. The Catalyst 9000 series, introduced in 2017, is one of Cisco's most successful products. In the first quarter of 2019, the global campus switching market rose 6% year over year, driven mostly by Catalyst sales, according to the research firm Dell'Oro Group.

In addition to the MS390, Cisco introduced the Meraki Gateway 21 (MG21), a wireless WAN cellular gateway. The hardware transposes a cellular signal from a mobile device into wired Ethernet for primary or failover connectivity.

Cisco's Meraki division develops cloud-managed wireless LAN products that are used primarily by small and midsize enterprises. Along with switches and gateways, the product line includes access points and an appliance, called the MX, that provides integrated software-defined WAN and network security. Customers manage a Meraki WLAN through a single management console.

Other networking-related news at the Partner Summit included a joint-development announcement with Microsoft. The two companies have agreed to work together to integratre Cisco's SD-WAN technology with Microsoft's Azure Virtual WAN.

The Azure Virtual WAN is a networking service that provides companies with several options for connecting branch offices to Microsoft's Azure IaaS cloud. Cisco said the latest work it's doing with Microsoft would improve the performance of Office 365 applications used by remote offices.

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