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Meraki Cloud Architecture

The Meraki Cloud Solution

The Meraki Cloud solution is a centralized management service that allows users to manage all of their Meraki network devices via a single simple and secure platform.

 

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Users are able to deploy, monitor and configure their Meraki devices via the Meraki dashboard web interface or via APIs. Once a user makes a configuration change, the change request is sent to the Meraki Cloud, and is then pushed from the Meraki Cloud to the relevant device(s).

Definition of Terms

The Meraki dashboard

A modern web-browser-based tool used to configure Meraki devices and services.

 

Account

A Meraki user’s account, used for accessing and managing their Meraki organizations.

 

Organization

A logical container for Meraki networks managed by one or more accounts.

 

Network

A logical container for a set of centrally managed Meraki devices and services.

 

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Management data

The data (e.g. configuration, statistics, monitoring, etc.) that flow from Meraki devices (wireless access points, switches and security appliances) to the Meraki Cloud over a secure internet connection.

 

User data

Data related to user traffic (web browsing, internal applications, etc.).  User data do not flow through the Meraki Cloud, instead flowing directly to their destination on the LAN or across the WAN.

 

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Meraki Cloud Architecture

The Meraki Cloud is the backbone to the Meraki management solution. This "Cloud" is a collection of highly reliable multi-tenant servers strategically distributed around the world at Meraki data centers. The servers at these data centers are powerful hosting computers comprised of many separate user accounts. These servers are called “multi-tenant” servers because the accounts all share (equal) computing resources on their host (the server). However, even though these accounts share resources, Meraki ensures that customer information is kept secure by restricting organization access based on account authentication, as well as hashing authentication information such as user passwords or API keys.

 

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Data Centers

Customer management data are replicated across independent in-region data centers in real-time. These same data are also replicated in automatic nightly archival backups hosted in in-region third-party Cloud storage services.  The Meraki Cloud does not store any Customer User data. More information about the types of data that are stored in the Meraki Cloud can be found in the “Management Data” section found below.


All Meraki services (dashboard and API) are also replicated across multiple independent data centers, so they can fail over rapidly in the event of a catastrophic data center failure.

 

Meraki’s tier-1 data centers are located around the world, enabling high-availability local data containment for data sovereignty in sensitive countries and regions, and high speed connections to facilitate reliable Cloud management communication. These data centers hold certifications such as PCI, SAS70 Type II / SSAE, PCI and ISO27001. Additionally, all Meraki data centers undergo daily penetration testing by an independent third party. More key data center features include:

  • 99.99% uptime service level agreement

  • 24x7 automated failure detection

  • Real-time replication of data between datacenters

  • All sensitive data (e.g., passwords) hashed at rest

 

To learn more about monitoring, redundancy, disaster recovery, security, etc. reference our data center design page. More details about data center redundancy and reliability is covered in the “Reliability and Availability” section found below.

 

Note that some account and configuration settings are subject to regional export for management. A full list of these settings can be found in our article, Data Stored on the Meraki Master Controller.

 

Data Center Locations

 

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Each region (North America and South America, Europe, Asia, China) has, at minimum, a geographically matched pair (for failover) of data centers where any endpoint’s primary Meraki server will be located. The table below details which data centers cover each dashboard region.

 

Region

Data Center 1

Data Center 2

North and South America

USA

USA

Europe

Germany Germany

Asia

Australia Southeast Asia

China

China China

 

Upon account creation, customers can select which region their data are hosted in. For customers that have globally dispersed networks, separate accounts can be created and the appropriate data center location can be selected for each region. The hosting region for each account can be found at the bottom of Meraki dashboard pages when a user is signed-in.

Data Center Storage

Meraki’s data centers contain active Meraki device configuration data and historical network usage data. These data centers house multiple compute servers which are where customers’ management data are contained. These data centers do not store customers’ user data.  These types of data are covered in more detail in the “Data” section found below.

 

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Meraki Device to Cloud Communications

Meraki uses an event-driven Remote Procedure Call (RPC) engine for Meraki devices to communicate to the Meraki dashboard and for Meraki servers to send and receive data. Meraki hardware devices act as the server/receiver as the Meraki Cloud initiates calls to the devices for data collection and configuration deployment. Because the Cloud infrastructure is the initiator, configurations can be executed in the Cloud before the devices are actually online, or even physically deployed.

 

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In the event of Cloud connectivity loss (which is most commonly caused by a local ISP or connection failure), the Meraki hardware device will continue to run with its last known configuration until Cloud connectivity is restored.

Communication Process

If a device is offline, it will continue to attempt to connect to the Meraki Cloud until it gains connectivity. Once the device comes online, it automatically receives the most recent configuration settings from the Meraki Cloud. If changes are made to the device configuration while the device is online, the device receives and updates these changes automatically. If no configuration changes are made by the user, the device continues to periodically check for updates to its configuration on its own.

As the device runs on the network, it will communicate device and network usage analytics back to the Meraki Cloud. Dashboard analytics based on this information, in the form of graphs and charts, are updated regularly in Meraki’s Cloud, and are displayed in the dashboard of users when they are viewing this information.

Configuration Containers

Device configurations are stored as a container in the Meraki backend and sit in a stable state. When a device configuration is changed by an account administrator via the dashboard or API, the container is updated and then pushed to the device the container is associated to, via a secure connection. The container also updates the Meraki Cloud with its configuration change for failover and redundancy.

 

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Secure Device Connectivity

For devices to communicate with the Cloud, Meraki leverages a lightweight encrypted IPsec tunnel using AES256 encryption while management data is in transit.  Within the tunnel itself, Meraki leverages HTTPS and Protocol Buffers for a secure and efficient solution, limited to 1 kbps per device when the device is not being actively managed.

 

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Configuration Interfaces

The Meraki Dashboard

The Meraki dashboard is a modern web-browser-based tool used to configure Meraki devices and services.

 

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The Meraki dashboard is Meraki’s visual alternative to the traditional command line, which is used to manage many routers, switches, security devices and more. Instead, Meraki puts all devices within networks in one place, and allows users to apply changes in a simple, easy-to-use format.

 

In addition to simplifying device management, the dashboard is also a platform for viewing network analytics, applying network permissions, and keeping track of users. The dashboard allows users to view camera streams, manage users’ mobile devices and computers, set content rules, and monitor upstream connections from a single place.

The Meraki API

The API provides control of the Meraki solution in a programmable way, enabling actions that may not be possible with the dashboard, or proving more granular control. The Meraki API is a RESTful API using HTTPS for transport and JSON for object serialization.

 

By providing open API accessibility, Meraki leverages the power of the Cloud platform on a deeper level to create more efficient and powerful solutions. Through the Meraki API, users can automate deployments, monitor their networks and build additional solutions on top of the Meraki dashboard.

 

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API keys are tied to a specific user account through the Meraki platform. If an individual has administrative access to multiple Meraki organizations, a single key can configure and control those multiple organizations.

Reliability and Availability         

Meraki enables a high availability (HA) architecture in multiple ways to ensure high serviceability to our customers. Network connections through our data centers are high bandwidth and highly resilient. Shared HA structures ensure data are available in case of a localized failure and our data center backup architecture ensures customer management data are always available in the case of a catastrophic failure. These backups are stored on third-party cloud based storage services. These third-party services are also scoped by region to ensure compliance with regional data storage regulations.

Data Center Uplink Connection High Availability

Meraki utilizes multiple high speed connections out of its data centers and constantly monitors the connections for integrity. Meraki network connectivity tests DNS reachability to determine integrity and data centers will failover to secondary links in the case of a degraded link.

Meraki Server High Availability

A single device connects to multiple Meraki servers at the same time, making sure all data are kept up-to-date in case there is need for a failover. This secondary Meraki server connection verifies device configuration integrity and historical network usage data in the case of a Meraki server failure.

 

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In the event of server failure or connection loss, node connectivity can failover to the secondary server. Upon recovery of the primary server, the connection will be reestablished without noticeable impact to the connecting nodes.

Data Center Backup High Availability

Meraki keeps active customer management data in a primary and secondary data center in the same region. These data centers are geographically separated to avoid physical disasters or outages that could potentially impact the same region. Data stored in these data centers are synced in real time. In the case of a data center failure, the primary data center will failover to the secondary data center with the most recent configuration stored.

 

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Disaster Recovery Plan

The storage of customer management data and the reliability of its dashboard and API services are primary priorities for Meraki. To help prevent data loss in the event of a disaster at any of Meraki’s data centers, Meraki has multiple major points of failure. Each Meraki data center is paired with another data center in the same region. If a data center is completely wiped out, backups can be brought up within minutes at the other in-region data center. Next, if both data centers are impacted, nightly backups hosted in two different third-party cloud storage services, each with their own physical storage redundancies, can be used to recover data.  

Management Data

The Meraki Cloud gathers and stores certain types of “management” data to enable its solutions. All forms of data are encrypted in transit to and from Meraki servers. There are four major types of data stored in the Meraki Cloud:

 

User Records

Includes items such as account email and company name, or other optional information, such as user name and address

Configuration Data

Includes network settings and configurations made by customers in the Meraki Dashboard

Analytics Data

Includes client, traffic and location analytics data, providing visualizations and network insights into traffic and foot patterns across customer sites

Customer Uploaded Assets

Includes any customer uploaded assets, such as custom floorplans and splash logos

Server Data Segregation

User data on Meraki servers are segregated based on user permissions. Each user account is authenticated based on organization membership, meaning that each user only has access to information tied to the organizations they have been added to as users. Organization administrators add users to their own organizations, and those users set their own username and secure password. That user is then tied to that organization’s unique ID, and is then only able to make requests to Meraki servers for data scoped to their authorized organization IDs.

 

Additionally, Meraki’s development teams have separate servers for development and production, so Meraki never uses live customer data for testing or development. Meraki user data are never accessible to other users, or subject to development changes.

Network and Management Data Segregation

Meraki’s “out of band” control plane separates management data from user data. Management data flow from Meraki devices (e.g. wireless access points, switches and security appliances) to the Meraki Cloud over a secure internet connection. User data (network traffic (web browsing, internal applications, etc.) do not flow through the Meraki Cloud, and instead flow normally, directly to the destination on the LAN or across the WAN.

Network Usage Data Retention

Meraki stores management data such as application usage, configuration changes and event logs within the backend system. Customer data are stored for 14 months in the EU region and for 26 months in the rest of the world. Meraki data storage time periods are based on year-over-year reporting features in dashboard (12 month periods), plus additional time to ensure data are removed from Meraki backups upon deletion (2 months). Meraki uses a proprietary database system to build up easily searchable and referenceable data.

 

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Segregated User Assets

Meraki stores customer-uploaded assets, such as custom floor plans and splash logos. These items are leveraged within the Meraki dashboard for only that specific customer network and therefore are segmented securely based on standard user permissions tied to organization or network ID access. Only users authenticated to access the host network are able to access uploaded assets.

Data Security

All data transported to and from Meraki devices and servers is transported via a secure, proprietary communications tunnel (see the “Secure Connectivity” section above). Communications data are encrypted in transit via this tunnel. All client management connections (dashboard/API) to the Meraki Cloud have secure TLS encryption for all application traffic.

 

Additionally, Meraki data backups are fully encrypted using AES256 and have restricted access (see the “Physical and Operational Internal Security” section).

Data Privacy

Connecting to a Cloud solution entails storing specific data in the Cloud for easy use and access. To maintain integrity and security, a Cloud infrastructure must take into account the sensitivity and compliance rules of that data.  Specific industries and geographies have laws to protect user data which Meraki addresses through our flexible Cloud infrastructure.

 

Meraki embeds privacy by design in its product and feature development as well as business practices. Privacy is an integral piece of the Meraki design process and is a consideration from initial product design all the way through to product implementation. Meraki offers a full suite of privacy-driven features to all customers globally. These features allow our customers to manage privacy requirements and help support customers’ own privacy initiatives. Customers can read more about some of Meraki’s privacy features in our Data Privacy and Protection Features article.

PCI

Meraki provides a comprehensive solution to ensure a PCI compliant environment held to the strict standards of a Level 1 PCI audit (the most rigorous audit level). Meraki’s rich security feature set addresses all of the PCI Data Security Standards, helping customers to build and maintain a secure network, maintain a vulnerability management program, implement strong access control measures, and monitor network security.

Security

Meraki’s customers’ security is a top priority for Meraki. Meraki invests heavily in tools, processes, and technologies to keep our users and their networks safe, including features like two factor authentication for dashboard access, and our out-of-band Cloud management architecture.

 

In addition to Meraki and Cisco’s internal security teams, Meraki leverages 3rd parties to provide additional security. Items such as daily 3rd party vulnerability scans, application testing and server testing are embedded in Meraki’s security program. Meraki additionally started a vulnerability rewards program for both hardware and software which encourages external researchers to collaborate with our security team to help keep our infrastructure and customers safe. More information about this program can be found on our Bugcrowd Program page.

 

Meraki’s intelligent security infrastructure eliminates the management complexities, manual testing, and ongoing maintenance challenges that lead to vulnerabilities. Meraki’s intuitive and cost effective security features are ideal for network administrators, while powerful and fine-grained administration tools, account protections, audits, and change management appeal to CISOs.

Hardware and Software Security

Meraki leverages technology such as secure boot, firmware image signing and hardware trust anchors as part of the Cisco Secure Development lifecycle to maintain hardware and software integrity.

Physical and Operational Internal Security

Meraki is committed to maintaining user security by providing mandatory operational security training for all Meraki employees. Formal information security awareness programs have been put in place for all employees. In addition, all employees and contractors are required to comply with Cisco’s background check policy and are bound by Meraki’s information Security Policy and industry standard confidentiality agreements.

 

Remote access to Meraki’s servers is done via IPSec VPN and SSH. Access is scoped and restricted by our internal security and infrastructure teams based on strict rules for business need.

 

For access to the Meraki Cloud servers, databases and code, there are role-based access models for user access and specific permissions in place. Two-factor authentication is enforced for all users who have access to these systems both internally and remotely.

 

Physical access to the Meraki Cloud infrastructure is secured 24/7/365 by guard service patrols and contain external and internal video surveillance with real-time monitoring. For physical access, all data centers have a high security key card system and biometric readers. Access for Meraki personnel to these data centers is only given to users with a business need to access, leveraging PKI and two factor authentication for identity verification. This access is limited to a very small number of employees. This user access is audited monthly to remove unnecessary access.


 

Please note that this reference guide is provided for informational purposes only by Cisco Meraki.  The Meraki Cloud architecture is subject to change.

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