Meraki Configuration Templates vs FlexTemplates: The Guide

Have you ever felt the Meraki templates were too restrictive for your use case? If you have, you are not the only one.

While the Cisco Meraki templates have proven to be extremely useful for most network engineers and IT managers, their rigidity can be a barrier for some others. As a result, many individuals go the internet searching for responses to the same question: how can I change {{ this one configuration }} in a site that is bound to a template?

If you’ve ever asked yourself this question, or you feel that it will soon be your case, here you’ll find the solution.

Meraki Configuration Templates: What are they? How can I use them?

The Meraki Configuration Templates is a tool available in the Meraki dashboard that lets you to create a network configuration design and apply it to multiple sites simultaneously. In other words, they allow many Cisco Meraki devices to be deployed following a single base configuration.

Meraki’s templates are mostly used those cases where a large number of sites share a common network design. This is because they are a great asset to speed up network provisioning and maintain consistency across your sites.

What limitations when using Meraki templates?

Networks that are bound to a Meraki template can have certain configuration settings that are different from the template design. However, not all parameters can be individually modified on a site bound to a template, preventing a percentage of MSPs and network managers from using them in the first place.

Some other, administrators decide to use them to configure all of their networks and save hours of work. But when they need to change a specific configuration on just a handful of sites, they realize they can’t. And here is where the real struggle begins.

In this scenario, how can you update one configuration setting across over 50 sites that are bound to a templates?

Well, you will have to unbind your networks from the template. This means that all 5O sites will therefore stop following the shared configuration. 

We acknowledge that this is probably not the answer you were looking for… so, in the next section you will find a few other options.

Alternatives to the Meraki Configuration Templates

Cisco Meraki proposes two alternatives to the Configuration Templates, for those who, for one reason or another, can’t use them:

1 | MANUAL CONFIGURATION CHANGES

The first and most common one is running the configuration changes manually. It clearly isn’t the sexiest option for most of us but is the one we know the best.

If you just need to configure one or two fields in a few networks, making these changes manually may be fine. The problem comes when the changes impact hundreds of networks. In this case, running manual configuration changes can be not only time-consuming but also quite error-prone.

2 | THE MERAKI DASHBOARD API

To overcome this issue, Meraki has opened access to its Dashboard API (API = Application Programming Interface).

The Meraki API contains a set of tools for building software and applications that communicate with the Meraki Dashboard. It can be used for multiple use cases, including bulk configuration changes. This provides more flexibility to push your configuration settings across multiple sites than the native templates.

The downside to this is that to use the Meraki API, you will need to develop, test, and maintain your script. Unfortunately, this can also be a costly task, both time and money-wise. 

While Cisco Meraki provides good alternative to the use of Configuration Templates, these can be time-consuming and/or require specific skills. That’s why, using the opportunities provided by the Meraki API, we’ve come up with a third option, which is fast and easy to use.

Boundless FlexTemplates: What are they? How can I use it?

« FlexTemplates » stands for Configuration Templates that are FLEXible. Yes, we do like things to be obvious… don’t you? 

Boundless’ FlexTemplates works quite similarly to the Meraki Configuration Templates, with one exception.

Unlike the Meraki templates, the FlexTemplates aren’t bound to your site. They are deployed « without attachments ».

This difference is key as thanks to it they provide much more flexibility when making custom changes to a selected group of networks. 

You can create multiple templates with specific configuration settings and have them deployed to the same or to different networks as many times as you want.

Here is how they work: 

1 | CREATE YOUR FLEXTEMPLATE

Create Boundless FlexTemplate for Meraki

2 | EDIT YOUR flextemplate

3 | Deploy YOUR flextemplate

Deploy Boundless FlexTemplates for Meraki

The Boundless FlexTemplates are powered by the Meraki Dashboard API. This gives Network Administrators access to all the possibilities the API provides without having to develop, test, or scale in-house scripts.

As a result, they can save time and money in the long run.

FlexTemplates advantages

Deploy custom changes in bulk without using a template

If your networks aren’t bound to a Meraki template, you can deploy FlexTemplates to massively push configuration settings across your selected sites. After that, you can go and apply individual parameters to just a group pr networks, without affecting the other ones.

Use them in different ways

You can deploy many FlexTemplates to the same networks, progressively extending or overwriting the configuration changes.

Deploy BULK configuration changes to MORE DEVICES

Boundless FlexTemplates work with MV Sense Cameras, System Manager networks, and even with multiple MG devices, making them even more useful for common case scenarios.

FlexTemplates disadvantages over Meraki Templates

The Boundless FlexTemplates are powered by the Meraki Dashboard API, and are dependent on endpoint availability. As a result, some template parameters may not be available.

Boundless FlexTemplates benefits for Network Administrators

Less Hands-On Work

With Boundless FlexTemplates, you can make customized changes to your individual networks in bulk, without having to permanently bind your sites to a Configuration Templates.

More Time Saved

By running your configuration changes in bulks you can increase your productivity and move to the next task more quickly.

The Bottom Line

Whichever option you choose to go with for the management of your Meraki configurations, we have two recommendations we make to all of our customers and partners:

  1. The first one is to always have in mind how your network may evolve in the near future. Your needs today may not be the same as tomorrow.
  2. The second one is to learn the basis of how to use the Meraki APIs. Getting started with the APIs doesn’t take much time, and can help you do things much more efficiently (as well as avoiding a few headaches down the line). If you are down to it, here is a free 9-day course for you.

Get in touch today for a free demo

See firsthand how the Boundless FlexTemplates can accelerate your Network Operations and save you hours of your time.

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