Wireless
Network Overview

wireless that works

Meru Networks is the innovation leader in Wireless LAN. Our customers include some of the world's most advanced deployments including:

  • Largest - Philadelphia School District spanning 200+ schools, 24,000+ radios, 200,000+ students, including Microsoft's School of the Future.

 

  • Densest - Chicago Board of Trade, with 1000+ traders trading over $1B/day in transactions in one of the world's largest trading floors.

 

  • Most Reliable - Entergy, a Fortune 500 company running nuclear power plants in some of the harshest operating environments.

 

  • First campus-wide 802.11n - SUNY Morrisville

 

  • Mission Critical - major health care systems, including Barnes Jewish, Catholic Healthcare, Howard Hughes, Baptist Hospitals - mission critical voice and data apps in high density environments including emergency rooms and surgery wards.

 

  • Lighthouse - Osaka Gas, an exemplar of the "unwired enterprise" with 50 offices, 6000 phones, 8000 data devices, 0 wired endpoints.

 

  • Global Enterprise - Kroger, Keystone, Monitor, Avaya and many other enterprises in retail, manufacturing, consulting, and general enterprise running a seamless wireless network across all branch offices and headquarters.

 

  • Marquee - top 5 trading (Chicago Board of Trade), top 5 retail (Kroger), top 5 schools (Dade County), top 5 universities (Illinois), top 5 healthcare (Barnes Jewish); top 5 consulting (Monitor).

Our customers are a very diverse set – global Fortune 50 enterprises, hospitals, universities, school districts, retail chains, manufacturing facilities, hotels – but they all share two key traits: they are thought leaders, and they are not casual wireless users – they all have inherently mobile user populations that often use wireless as primary connectivity for business-critical applications.

The education sector is particularly well suited for Meru. We unwire many of the most notable universities in the world, our founders have deep roots in academia, our technology was conceived in a major US university, our products are generationally ahead of the competition, we have been recognized by Gartner as the most visionary companyin this space, and most importantly, our product is designed from ground up to serve highly dense, mobile, large scale campus environments. 

THE MERU ARCHITECTURE

As security and confidentiality are prerequisites for much of our products and services we are unable to delineate specific detail of many client projects. We are prepared to share information with prospective clients as permitted and can provide specific references for every project we install.

When we set out to invent the Meru WLAN, we did not think about just centralizing management and security for uncoordinated wireless access points – instead, we wanted to build a cellular-like 802.11 network, with its attendant benefits of predictability, voice, density, and scale. This is a fundamentally different way to design enterprise WLAN… with far reaching benefits.

If you had the opportunity to design a Cellular Network from ground up, would you design it with intelligent phones and passive infrastructure – where each phone makes its own unilateral decision on which base station to talk to, when to hand-off, when to transmit? Of course not! How would such a network, with its myriad independent points of local decision making, ever provide predictable service at scale? Most importantly, how would good clients be shielded from bad decisions made by poorly implemented clients? They cannot, and the network would become as bad as its worst client… Of course, you would conceive your network to have centralized infrastructure control, using global knowledge and coordinated decision making, rather than have each mobile device make its own choices.

Yet, the 802.11 standard is designed exactly the opposite. Each client makes its own decisions – which AP to associate, when to hand off, when to transmit, how aggressively to contend, etc. This makes perfect sense for a consumer environment where neighboring apartments do not share common wired backbone infrastructure and hence their access points cannot be expected to coordinate – but it makes no sense at all in an enterprise network, where all access points do have central management and the capability of coordinated access. And yet, except for Meru, every other enterprise-class WLAN vendor of note is built on this fundamentally flawed approach!

The challenge is to build a 100% standards compliant network, that is guaranteed to remain forever 100% standards compliant even as newer standards evolve, that still moves the control back from the client to the infrastructure, so that it is possible to build, operate, and use a cellular-like 802.11 network – with predictable service, large scale, seamless mobility, and not just best-effort data but toll-grade voice and high quality video. This is what the Meru architecture accomplishes.

  • Single Channel Span: APs coordinate channel access, making is possible to cover the entire enterprise with a single channel.
  • Virtual Cell: All APs on the same channel cooperatively create the abstraction of a single cell - a virtual cell - so clients never hand off regardless of where they move.
  • Layered Channel Spans: With multiple radios of overlapped coverage, it is possible to "stack" channel spans, to the extent that every channel is available everywhere.


In addition to these fundamental over-the-air architectural concepts, Meru’s WLAN involves many other significant technology advances, including a 3-tier traffic distribution system (3TDS) to scale the backend WLAN overlay network to support massive 802.11n deployments, a layer 1 – 7 security architecture that features the industry’s only RF-layer intrusion detection/prevention, a highly scalable centralized management system with industry leading visualization/ diagnostics/monitoring/management features, and an integrated wired/wireless mesh backhaul solution to seamlessly operate a combined indoor/outdoor WLAN.

THE MERU VALUE PROPOSITION

Gartner calls Meru’s WLAN architecture a generation ahead of competing WLAN vendors. Meru delivers this architectural advantage across its full product line that includes the branch, campus, and global enterprise; outdoor mesh, indoor mesh, indoor/outdoor APs; centralized high-end chassis and distributed controller clusters; one, two, and four radio 11nabg APs; management, location, and site survey software. With this comprehensive product suite, Meru delivers the following 8 top-level benefits for the global enterprise:

  • Simplest to deploy and manage: almost zero RF planning. Single channel span/virtual cell eliminates the need to carefully lay out channel/power plans. Rather than rely on perfect plans, the system is inherently resilient to planning imperfections. A coverage hole is plugged by sliding in an AP that seamlessly patches the virtual cell without any planning re-computation. With wireless backhaul, patching a coverage hole does not even require cable pulls any more. The simplicity of deployment, management, and operation is crucial to scale to large distributed deployments by saving the time and effort of IT staff. This benefit is even more significant for 802.11n rollouts, since coverage prediction with 11n is much more complex.

 

  • Minimum total cost of ownership: no requirement of micro-cell planning with lower power, thereby reducing the number of APs by ~30%, and accruing associated savings in wiring, port, maintenance, etc. Further, Meru APs always serve/scan the entire spectrum simultaneously (unlike some other vendors who must turn off rogue scanning when serving priority applications). So Meru avoids the further 20% scanning APs. Even more significantly, with 802.11n and bg deployment, with other vendors, you cannot take advantage of the range of 11n (in either 5GHz or 2.4GHz) because the bg radios must still be micro-cell planned! Overall, Meru requires far fewer APs, with far less planning and handling, than every other vendor.
  • Secure from air to core: in the entire WLAN industry, only Meru provides Layer 1 security – the ability to scan and serve at the same time, without any performance penalty. Further, only Meru provides the ability to classify and operate on flows (QoS, firewall, rate limit, etc.) based on both deep packet inspection and traffic pattern analysis (for end-to-end encrypted streams). The combined benefits result in security without performance compromise, from air to core.
  • Highest density and scale: Inherent to Meru’s 3TDS network architecture is the ability to scale the backend to many 1000s of 802.11n APs across unwired campuses and distributed global enterprises. Meru’s coordinated AP behavior demonstrably delivers the highest data and voice density and scale in the industry. Unlike other products, we ensure that slow clients do not bring down network performance, and that at high densities, uplink traffic does not overwhelm downlink traffic. At Philadelphia School District, for example, Meru WLAN provides 600Mbps of over-the-air capacity in every square foot of a “school of the future”. No other vendor comes close to even claiming such capability, let alone showcasing a fully operational production system.
  • Best solution for mobility. Meru’s virtual cell eliminates handoffs for the client. Independent of client drivers, security mode, background traffic, load balancing turned on/off… a client in a virtual cell never sees handoff. We are able to guarantee sub-3ms handoff in production environments, while ensuring that every client is always connected to the best AP, regardless of client capabilities. Meru is demonstrably at least an order of magnitude better than other enterprise-class WLAN vendors.
  • Best solution for voice. Voice requires assured delivery, uplink+downlink QoS, seamless mobility with imperceptible handoffs, co-existence with data in multi-AP environments, and dial-tone-like experience where users get busy signal if the call capacity is exceeded. Only Meru delivers all these benefits at scale.
  • Most cost effective migration to 802.11n: With the channel layering architecture, it is possible to dedicate separate channels for legacy devices and newer 802.11n devices, thereby supporting a network with mixed mode clients while delivering peak 802.11n performance. By eliminating micro-cell for abg, range extensions of 11n are fully leveraged, needing fewer APs. With the 3TDS network architecture, Meru supports a very flexible deployment model that upgrades the enterprise to 11n without requiring an upgrade of the backbone infrastructure. Meru’s architecture is best suited for optimal 11n performance as well as least cost migration to a mixed mode 11nabg deployment.
  • Unified Indoor/Outdoor Mesh/Wired Network: Every Meru AP is inherently both wireless and wired backhaul. Wired or wireless backhaul for an AP is just a role, not a static function. With Mesh backhaul, all benefits of virtual cell, including seamless mobility, over-the-air QoS, and zero overhead replacement of coverage holes, are available to a mixed mode indoor/outdoor WLAN.

 

 

 

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