Meraki is a wireless networking company that provides hardware and software for building large scale wireless networks. It uses a centralized control system hosted on Meraki's servers. The company was started by two MIT PhD students, Sanjit Biswas and John Bicket based on their work at roofnet project.
Meraki was funded by Google and Sequoia Capital. The organization started in Mountain View, CA, and is currently located in San Francisco, CA. Meraki has many people who worked on the MIT roofnet project.
Meraki management software (called "Dashboard") allows the network to be set up and controlled through the web. The software is available in two versions: Pro and Enterprise. The Pro version is much lower priced and is suitable for public hot zones. The Enterprise  version is used for creating wireless LANs.
On the browseable map that Meraki provides, nodes are identified either by the label given to them by their owners during initial configuration or, if unnamed, then their Ethernet port MAC address. It identifies the gateway devices and reports how many distinct users cumulative have been active and the cumulative amount of data transferred via this node.
There are software features both to govern the amount of Internet bandwidth consumed by traffic from the wireless mesh as well as a means to meter such bandwidth usage. Central Meraki operations plays a role in helping to balance network loads between the different nodes and report on the global status of the mesh through Meraki's web site. Configurations are pushed down to each of the access points periodically.
Meraki supports mesh routing. The firmware uses the SrcRR routing algorithm to determine the routes between the hardware devices. Media access and transport may be handled by ExOR algorithm. Each device periodically broadcasts, and all other devices in range will report their routes. Then the devices use that information to route packets to the nearest gateway. The routing is done primarily to determine a route to the nearest gateway (or device with an internet connection).
When the node first starts up, it tests the Ethernet port for connectivity to the internet. If it has connectivity to the internet, then it labels itself a "gateway device" and prepares to accept packets from nearby repeaters. If other nodes are within range and the Ethernet port is not connected, then the node acts purely as a repeater to extend the mesh. Meraki claims that only about one in ten repeaters needs to be physically connected to the Internet for the design to work well. It then searches for other nearby Meraki nodes and advertises itself.
Meraki has a number of access point products, including the Indoor, Outdoor, Solar, Wall Plug, MR11, MR14, and MR58. A limited number of accessories are also available.
Terminology: Meraki's access points have several names: node, gateway (when directly connected to the internet), repeater and signal booster (when not directly connected to the internet).
Management and configuration of the nodes depends upon internet connectivity back to Meraki home base. When operating in NAT mode, the DHCP address scheme used by the nodes is a static hash of the MAC address onto the entire 10.0.0.0/8 private network (the whole class A) space. This may cause problems with existing 10/8 networks, in which case Meraki enables you to use only the upper half of the range. When operating in Bridge mode (which is only available in Meraki's Enterprise Edition), clients may communicate with each other and DHCP from a centralized DHCP server.
One of Meraki's earliest projects is to demonstrate their technology in a large city. They selected San Francisco to launch their community-based Free the Net campaign starting in the Lower Haight. They started by seeding the area with gateway devices to directly provide the Internet bandwidth and giving away repeaters. In the first year of the project, growth of the network was primarily into the Mission District. As of October 2007, they claim 20,000 distinct users (ever connected) and about 5 terabytes of data transferred in this network. In July 2008, Meraki claimed 100,000 people in San Francisco used its 'Free the Net' service .
When you browse the local wireless network, the nearest Meraki repeater will show a SSID of "Free the Net". When you connect to it, you get an RFC 1918 address (starting with 10.*). On the wireless side; the default gateway IP address is always 10.128.128.128 and the MAC address reported via the client-side "arp" command is always 00-18-0a-00-00-01.
After you connect to the Internet, small advertisements appear in your browser's toolbar telling you about businesses that are nearby.
Meraki is a good solution for Wi-Fi hot zones, such as the main street or neighborhood of a city. Meraki can be configured as a free or paid access system. Free access may work if you have sponsors (such as local businesses), and there’s an advantage to drawing people to the area. For example, a city may install a Wi-Fi network along its main street and provide free access to the Internet for visitors. Businesses along the main street will likely donate money to install the network because the free access should draw more people to the downtown area. A paid network may be best for apartments and neighborhoods where users will access the network from their homes.
When configuring a Meraki system, it’s generally best to use channel 1 or 11 because channel 6 is commonly used by other Wi-Fi networks by default. This generally increases the overall capacity of the Meraki network.
Be certain to check with the Internet service provider regarding the legality of sharing Internet access through the Meraki system. Some service providers prohibit Wi-Fi-based Internet sharing. In most cases, a special commercial service offering may be necessary.
After initially acting in support of open-source development of software on Meraki Mini units, in early 2008 the company introduced a more restrictive EULA covering sales of new equipment requiring that, "Meraki Hardware may only be used with Meraki Software" and prohibiting reverse engineering, adding, removing or otherwise altering the software on the device. The previous license agreements contained no restrictions on replacing the software on the device. Shortly after the new EULA was imposed, Meraki sent an unsolicited firmware update to their units in the field which disabled future firmware updates by customers. This has dismayed mesh network enthusiasts, some of whom have questioned the legality of such restrictions being imposed involuntarily and without advance notice.
- ↑ Official website
- ↑ Sequoiacap.com: list of funded companies
- ↑ Meraki Cooks Up Wireless Mesh Router August 2, 2006
- ↑ Theregister.com: Google-funded startup to offer free Wi-Fi in San Francisco August 15, 2007
- ↑ CNET Article CNET Article
- ↑ Meraki Linux software
- ↑ Meraki to Build Free Community WiFi Network via San Francisco March 4, 2007
- ↑ Free the Net (San Francisco wireless community)
- ↑ Free the Net - San Francisco Forum
- ↑ Sharing the Internet with the World 2007
- ↑ Startup promises free wireless web in SF AP, January 4, 2008
- ↑ Meraki to Build Free Community WiFi Network via San Francisco July 2, 2008
- ↑ How to Deploy a Low-Cost Wi-Fi Hot Zone
- ↑ Meraki End User License Agreement
- ↑ [http://web.archive.org/web/20070705091859/meraki.com/legal/services-agreement/ Wayback machine license agreement on July 2007
- ↑ From "happy hacking" to "screw you"
- ↑ Slashdot article with commentary March 24, 2008