Cisco’s New Catalyst 9800-CL Wireless Controller Signals A Shift Towards Cloud-Managed

On November 13, 2018, Cisco announced its new Catalyst 9800 Wireless Controller.  With this announcement, Cisco now enables large enterprises to manage their WLAN networks from the cloud.

This announcement has several components to it that are interesting.

  • Available C4Q18
  • The 9800 runs Cisco IOS XE
  • The 9800 can be run:

What’s new here is that Cisco customers can control their WLAN networks using public cloud – in particular Amazon Web Services. Up till now, the Cisco Aironet product set has been enabled to run on Controllers, as a virtual software instance on premise, or in “controller-less’ capability, called Mobility Express.

Why is this important?  Because Meraki (owned by Cisco) operates a very successful cloud-managed WLAN service, enabling management of Meraki Access Points.  The larger revenue contributor to Cisco’s WLAN revenue is its Aironet product line, which hasn’t been cloud-manageable until this 9800 announcement.  With the introduction of the 9800 cloud-managed offering, this enables large-enterprises to operate their wireless networks from the cloud.  So, Meraki isn’t Cisco’s only web-managed offering any longer.  We think over time, Cisco customers may see the distinction between cloud-managed and premise-located management as blurring.