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NPM 12.1 Sneak Peek – Meraki Wireless Monitoring

Level 14

Now that you’ve seen how to use PerfStack for networks, it’s time to check out the improved Meraki wireless monitoring of NPM 12.1!

This feature was born from a simple customer request: to cover Meraki gear in the same way we do all the other wireless vendors, showing their hybrid infrastructure in a single pane of glass.  Additional research show a common need: don’t develop some different monitoring specific to Meraki, just cover all my wireless gear in one spot, in the same way.

Now NPM has been able to monitor Meraki wireless gear for quite some time.  Use the Add Node wizard to add APs with SNMP polling, and you’re off the races.  But there were a couple of problems:

  1. Each AP had to be added individually.  Discovery can speed this up, but many users prefer not to run comprehensive discovery often. This really clashes with the idea that Meraki APs can be deployed with near zero touch.
  2. Client information is not available via SNMP, so it is missing in NPM.  Turns out client information is kind of important if you want to know what’s going on with your wireless service.

Essentially, these two issues crop up because of the unique and innovative way Meraki technology works. In traditional thin AP deployments, APs connect to a physical wireless controller that is on-prem.  The controller controls (obviously) the APs and provides a central spot for configuration and management.  Meraki compounds the benefit of the wireless controller by replacing the physical unit with a logical controller in the Meraki cloud.  This means you can express the wireless policy for all of your locations on Meraki’s dashboard, at virtually any scale.  You have one wireless configuration.  As new APs are added to the network, they can be deployed with virtually zero touch.  And you don’t have to manage any physical controllers.

Pretty slick.

How do you poll the cloud controller though?  SNMP really doesn’t make sense to use in a Meraki environment where the controller is logical, and you have to reach it over an insecure medium like the Internet.

The solution is to poll via API.  TLS protects the communication just like it does your credit card number when you make a purchase online.  And RESTful APIs are just a more modern, intelligent solution.

So we partnered with Meraki to get that done.  In NPM 12.1, you’ll notice a new option in the Add Node wizard:

1.png

Upon selecting Meraki Wireless: API, you’ll be prompted for your API key.  You can find this in your Meraki Dashboard.  Once that’s filled in, NPM will connect to the Meraki cloud and retrieve your Organization list.  Most companies will have a single Organization, but MSPs or companies that go through a lot of acquisitions may have multiple.  After selecting a specific organization and clicking next, NPM will discover all of the APs and list them just as we would for a traditional wireless controller.  You can select which you’d like to monitor, and additional APs can be monitored automatically.  With that done, you’ll see the Meraki logical controller, APs, and clients in your Node Details and Wireless views:

2.png

That’s it!  All the complexity happens on the backend, and the UI you use stays the same, just with more data.  Simple, right?

Some additional facts you may be interested:

  • Licensing works just like it does for traditional on-prem wireless controllers and thin APs.  The controller costs one node license.  The thin APs do not take licenses!
  • While NPM shows more metrics than before, we’re still missing a few things.  We’ll look to improve this as the data becomes available in the RESTful API.  And some data just doesn’t make sense for Meraki gear, for example Wireless Controller CPU and RAM.

We’re very excited to continue down this path of providing complete monitoring visibility of hybrid infrastructure.  Special thanks to Meraki for providing us with shiny new Meraki gear for our lab and working side by side with our development team.

Edit:

NPM 12.1 is out, with Meraki wireless monitoring!  Check out the video to see how it works.  Current customers can find it in the Customer Portal.  If you don't own NPM and want to try it, or want to try it in a lab, you can get it here.

download.jpeg

30 Comments
kenosmith3
Level 9

Nice! Looking forward t eventually  testing this out... we have almost 900 Meraki APs deployed.   

kimberly.wooden
Level 7

Get excited!

callen07
Level 7

I like the idea but in my environment none of my nodes are showing up in my organization.

cobrien1
Level 14

Have you applied the API key from your Meraki Dashboard and was the Add Node wizard able to display your list of organizations?  What exactly happens after that?  A screenshot would help a lot here.  Since RCs are fully supported, a call into Support may be the fastest route to complete resolution.

callen07
Level 7

I have supplied the API key and I am able to select my organization.  I have 80+ AP's in one organization with 3 active and another organization with 30 active AP's.  When I select dashboard.meraki.com - Organization in my NPM instance none of the access points show up.    Ill open a case with support for a more granular look into it!
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cpelchat
Level 9

When Should we be able to have Aruba API for HeatMAP?

tallyrich
Level 15

I really appreciate Solarwinds adding more vendor support. While I can get most anything I need by building custom pollers it's nice to have native support - it makes it easier for everyone (well except the coders that have to build it on your side - slide a pizza under their door occasionally, it'll keep em happy)

mynameisbear
Level 8

Can you please explain to me what information I need to extract from Aerohive support and/or engineering for you to support the Aerohive line of APs as well?  Do they just not have an API that's as accessible as Meraki's, or what??

cobrien1
Level 14

We have support for several Aerohive's AP120 and AP330 and likely others as well.  It can be difficult to be 100% sure of full coverage considering that each model and in fact each software version can change the way in which it presents data for monitoring.  If you're seeing missing data, shoot me a full SNMP walk via email (chris.obrien at solarwinds) with a description of what's missing, and we'll take a look!

capollo
Level 7

I am glad to hear that Meraki and SolarWinds are working together to work on these solutions. This is a big step in the right direction for any Meraki customer. I can not wait to see what comes next!!! Keep up the great work guys.

jeremyo
Level 8

We are experiencing the same issue.

callen07
Level 7

Response from SolarWinds:

I'm following up on this case. Based from Dev recommendations this falls entirely on the polling rate.
Our polling rate depends on how fast we get the response from dashboard. There is now limitation on our side right now. We send the request and wait for the response. When the response come back we send next request immediately. When we get all data polling is finished. This we do every 10 minutes by default (polling interval)

You can send this to Meraki so they can assess what feature they would need to improve. In Orion this is something that is already in the works since it is deemed to be a limitation on the product.

Response from Meraki:

As I stated previously, the Dashboard will only handle up to 9 calls per second at this time.

A need for higher rates will be considered a feature request.

It appears to be a double sided limitation as we will respond to the request once received; if more than 9 calls are made in a second the error will be received.

Creating an API from scratch wouldn't present the same error, just based on the how frequent it is told to make calls to Dashboard.

If there isn't a way to limit the frequency of calls made by Solarwinds, you'll receive the current errors regarding the limit.

Impaler
Level 10

So based on this thread and the responses, the new Meraki monitoring feature currently does not work, correct?

tallyrich
Level 15

Ahh, another member of the VW family I see!

cobrien1
Level 14

For a small number of customers, particularly in scale environments, the polling rate exceeds Meraki's limit resulting in data being unavailable or intermittently available for Meraki wireless devices.  We're investigating potential solutions.  In the mean time, if you think you're affected, I'd suggest calling into support.  In some cases this issue does not end up being the root cause, and we can get your polling working.

Most customers simply don't have to worry about this.  They install 12.1, add their Meraki gear, and it works as intended.  Based on that, I'd suggest giving it a shot if you're interested in the functionality!

mikeit83
Level 10

Do we have any support for aruba's wifi systems?   They are a very open vendor and if you guys don't have it built yet, I am sure they would love to work with you guys.

cobrien1
Level 14

Yes, we support many Aruba wifi systems.  You can even see Aruba APs on our online demo: http://oriondemo.solarwinds.com/Orion/Wireless/WirelessSummary.aspx .  Change the Show dropdown at the top to "Access Points" and change the "Group By" drop down at the left to "Vendor" then select "Aruba".

cpelchat
Level 9

When should we get heatmap for Aruba?

rosems
Level 7

tNPM 12.1

For me I input the Meraki API and click the Get Organization List.

It then shows my (only) one organization, BUT

I get a message 'Can not resolve dashboard.meraki.com to an IP address'.

Yesterday I have opened a case wth SolarWinds.

kimberly.wooden
Level 7

I am able to add my Meraki WLC.  All of my AP show up.  Everything is great for about 1.5/2 minutes then NPM shows the WLC and all of the AP offf line.  Is the API using PING request to validate if the WLC / AP are on line?  If this is the case, I will be disappointed.  We do not allow ping request to leave our network.

cobrien1
Level 14

kimberly.wooden@smithgroupjjr.com​, I believe the API is reporting APs that are attached to the WLC, not simply ping.  However, this is something only Meraki can speak authoritatively about.  The symptoms you describe sound like a bug.  Have you had a chance to open a Support case yet to so we can investigate?

silverbacksays
Level 16

Quick question on this: Just added a client org to NPM. I'm seeing their entire AP estate (awesome), but none of the Meraki switches, which are shown in the Meraki Dashboard itself. For example, if site A has a single Meraki switch, with 4 APs hanging off of it for POE, I can see the switch in the Meraki Dashboard, but these details aren't being passed through in NPM 12.1.

I know there's more work to be done by Meraki, to improve the API and what it exposes, just wondering if this is on the roadmap with both companies for 12.1.x or 12.x? Currently, I'm adding in the Meraki switches and APs as nodes within Orion, and will be looking to remove the Meraki AP nodes, now that this new integration provides much of the information I need (assuming the API provides AP status as well as client information).

One final thought: How does the use of this new feature effect licensing? From my testing of 12.1, and adding in a single Meraki Org, it looks like all this info comes at a cost of a single network node element! That's a lot of data for a tiny cost, especially if AP status is included.

cobrien1
Level 14

This feature covers Meraki wireless devices only, so you won't see other things showing up when you add the Meraki org.  To monitor Meraki switches and firewalls, you can use traditional SNMP.

>How does the use of this new feature effect licensing? From my testing of 12.1, and adding in a single Meraki Org, it looks like all this info comes at a cost of a single network node element! That's a lot of data for a tiny cost, especially if AP status is included.

Right.

sja
Level 16

Hi cobrien

Can you share how solarwinds generally going to tackle API base polling?

It's just impassable to keep it as per "vendor project"..

/SJA

cobrien1
Level 14

We're building a framework that abstracts a good portion of the work to allow us to build much faster.  From a purely backend perspective, this new framework will be powering some of the content in the next release.

deverts
Level 14

cobrien​,

I like this addition, but in my opinion, it's only a start. What about Meraki switches and firewalls? Also, what about monitoring the IPSec tunnels (availability and throughput) and routing protocols (OSPF and soon BGP)? Meraki is it's own world, and I'm hoping to continue using Orion as my single "Pane-in-the-Glass."

D

pcwildcat65
Level 8

We are having the same issues as well, it might be the more thany 40000 Meraki devices

tonyreel
Level 10

You ever get that issue sorted?  The same is happening to me at the minute

thwackerinva
Level 9

Solarwinds:

Thank you for supporting the monitoring of Meraki wireless APs.  I just added our API key to the Orion console this week, and we now have some insight into the WLC and APs.

It was mentioned in the initial post that you'd be looking into adding more meaningful metrics and data to the API.  Is that still the plan?  I would love to see things like the name of the SSID that the clients are connected to, and the name of the client device itself (as opposed to just the IP address.)  I know that data exists in the Meraki portal, but it's the "single pane of glass" thing...

Anyway, thanks for the great work on this feature.

cobrien1
Level 14

Yes, Meraki has added some more data.  Device status and SSID are supposed to be available now.  Right now I can't say when or even if we will support those things, but we're tracking it internally as NPM-9468.

About the Author
Lifelong technology enthusiast. Network Engineer turned Product Manager for network products. By geeks, for geeks! I started my career as a call center agent at a wireless ISP. I moved into the Network Operations Center to operationally support their network. I moved to another company to be a Network Engineer, and fulfilled that role at several different companies in different verticals including Healthcare, Software, and Finance. Eventually, I found my calling as a PM, where I work with all of the functions of a business, and particularly Development, to determine what to build next to deliver the most value to our customers.
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