The Merakification of Cisco takes a big step with Catalyst cloud management

Todd Nightingale, executive vice president and general manager of enterprise networking and cloud at Cisco

LAS VEGAS — Ever since Cisco completed its acquisition of Meraki a decade ago, there’s been a steady movement toward making the core tenets of Meraki the core tenets of the broader networking giant. That movement made a big jump toward completion Tuesday. The company announced at its Cisco Live event that it is connecting its core Catalyst switching and wireless networking hardware to the Meraki management dashboard.

Todd Nightingale, executive vice president and general manager of enterprise networking and cloud at Cisco and onetime leader of the Meraki business, said Catalyst customers would be able to manage their Catalyst gear in the Meraki monitoring and management platform, and ultimately technology under the Catalyst and Meraki brands will be combinable on access networks. It will start with visibility, and the company will offer tools to make Catalyst gear just as manageable as Meraki-branded equipment, Nightingale said.

“This is a long time coming,” Nightingale told Cisco Live attendees. “It’s something we’ve thought for a long time about. Catalyst is undeniably the most powerful networking platform, and Meraki is the most deployed, simplest cloud management platform. Together, they can change the way IT is managed.”

The executive called the combination “the perfect embodiment of the idea of power and simplicity without compromise,” further driving home the message of simplicity at the top of the agenda for multiple Cisco executives and this year’s live. Simplicity was also the guiding principle and most significant selling point for Meraki, dating back to its time before its acquisition.

Over the ensuing decade, there’s been a steady stream of Meraki-like features finding their way into Cisco, starting with cloud-based management and accelerating during the Robbins era as the company has reinvented its business around software, subscriptions and customer experience. Bringing the long-serving crown jewels of the organization in Catalyst more fully into the fold underscores how much the Meraki model has become the Cisco model.

It also shows off a side of Cisco’s transition that’s less discussed but no less impactful. While the company has talked about the benefits of approaching technology from an architecture standpoint for a long time, Robbins said today’s Cisco is more architectural than ever before.

“A decade ago, we talked about it a lot, but I’m not sure reality was reflective of the presentation,” Robbins told press and analysts in a post-keynote panel discussion. “We’ve made more progress on it in recent years, particularly with security and the network.”

Nightingale said the ultimate goal was to make “a radically simpler experience if you’re looking at Cisco security on a Cisco network” while maintaining interoperability with other vendors’ wares on both sides.

Jeetu Patel, executive vice president and general manager of security and collaboration at Cisco

Jeetu Patel, executive vice president and general manager of security and collaboration, said the progress in recent years could be attributed to a shift in how the company’s top leaders think about their role.

“It’s not who runs what organization. It’s who’s solving what problems. We’ve made tons of progress,” he said.

He believes that approach, the evolution of selling solutions to selling outcomes and beyond, will continue to serve the company well in the business environment of the near future, where the focus is on the abilities of technology to reinvent business as opposed to its previous place as infrastructure or underpinnings of a company.

“When [a customer is] thinking about their hybrid work strategy, they’re not looking to purchase a point solution,” Patel said.

Also at Cisco Live, the company announced it would extend the management of its Nexus network management tools to cover customers’ cloud infrastructure with the launch of Nexus Cloud, part of what Nightingale called the company’s efforts to offer “power and simplicity without compromise.”

“This journey is something we’re deeply committed to. It is our true north,” Nightingale said.

Robert Dutt

Robert Dutt is the founder and head blogger at He has been covering the Canadian solution provider channel community for a variety of publications and Web sites since 1997.