Are you eager to start exploring the Meraki APIs, but don’t know where to start?
This article will help you understand what’s are Meraki APIs and how’s Cisco Meraki leveraging them. It will also guide you through the first steps you’ll need to follow to get started with the API.
You can expect to have a much deeper understanding of the Cisco Meraki APIs by the time you’re done!
Cisco Meraki is an IT company at the forefront of cloud networking technology. They are currently the biggest provider of cloud based networking hardware in the world.
Starting out as simply Meraki in 2006, the then start-up revolutionized how engineers think about networking as they introduced a solution built completely on the cloud, while also replacing outdated CLI’s with their modern dashboard.
Since its acquisition by Cisco Systems in 2012, Cisco Meraki has expanded massively to offer a wide array of cloud based networking equipment such as wireless routers, switches, cameras and more.
Cisco Meraki prides itself on the simplicity of its solution. Their slogan in fact is ‘Work Simple’. Network Engineers have been raving about the cloud platform for years now because of how easy it is to configure the hardware via the cloud.
As we know though, in the world of networking, things don’t always remain simple. Implementations can easily get complicated because of the diversity of user requirements. If Meraki began addressing all these complex cases and built in functionality for each of them, then it would have to be at the cost of their simplicity.
This is precisely why Cisco Meraki has opened the floodgates to their dashboard with the APIs. They have invested heavily in enabling their APIs to be easily accessible by users. This means partners and developers can build unique solutions to address their special use cases while taking advantage of Meraki’s intuitive interface.
To understand the Meraki APIs, you’ll need to understand what APIs are first. The term API stands for Application Programming Interface, although this is probably no help in explaining what APIs are or what they do.
To explain simply without going into excruciating detail, an API is the medium used by computer programs to communicate with each other. By using APIs, new solutions can be programmed using existing tools.
Almost all the applications you use today utilize APIs, and you wouldn’t even know it. When you embed a YouTube video onto Facebook or LinkedIn, it’s done through APIs. When you find a place to go on Google and open the route in Google Maps, data is transferred from one application to another in the background through the power of APIs.
In the case of Cisco Meraki, APIs allow users to develop applications that interact with their Meraki network infrastructure. By making API requests, data can be obtained from the Cisco Meraki dashboard. This data can then be manipulated and updated on your Cisco Meraki cloud infrastructure using APIs. This process enables users and engineers to build creative solutions on top of what is already offered by Cisco Meraki.
If you’re considering using the Cisco Meraki APIs, you should first examine what your use case is. The core Cisco Meraki infrastructure offers much of the basic functionality you might need for simple networks so it’s important to precisely outline the solution you are trying to achieve using the APIs.
Once you know your use case and you’ve taken a look at what’s currently possible on Meraki, you can more accurately determine how the APIs will come into the picture. You can harness the value of APIs for a variety of reasons such as Business Intelligence, Analytics or Network Automation.
Often a task may be possible to finish directly on the Meraki dashboard without the use of an API, but the APIs can assist you with automating those tasks to avoid repetition and save you hours of time. For large deployments, this can be especially useful.
Once you’re familiar with the APIs you might find yourself using them every chance you get, which is why we recommend learning how to use them sooner rather than later.
The Meraki Dashboard API, as the name would suggest, enables you to access and alter the dashboard. This opens the door for developing monitoring, configuring and deployment tools as you can now make changes to the Meraki dashboard itself using API calls.
Because the dashboard is at the center of much of what Meraki does, the Dashboard API is extremely powerful and is often considered the most powerful one because of the diverse potential of use cases it can be used for.
The Captive Portal API is aimed at addressing users who wish to change the way users interact with their wifi solutions via Meraki.
Using this API users can offer more advanced wifi. More authentication methods, customized splash pages and the potential for Analytics tools are just some of the reasons developers like to use the Captive Portal API.
The Scanning API, often referred to as the Location Services API, is one of Meraki’s most special features. Through the Scanning API, real-time data about the precise location of devices connected to your access points can be sent to other applications.
Simply put, this allows you to get an estimate of where users within your site are currently located. The data obtained through this API can be extremely useful for marketing as it enables you to gain deep insights into how customers move through your location.
The Camera APIs are a suite of APIs built specifically for interacting with the Cisco Meraki MV products. Also called the MV Sense APIs, these can enable you to take more advantage of the data being collected by the cameras.
This API can be used to build more sophisticated analytics tools that can help you gain a better understanding of the data being collected by your cameras. The Camera APIs also enable you to design specific solutions into your Meraki camera using the power of computer vision and machine learning.
Although not exactly an API, webhooks work in a similar fashion and are often used for enhancing communication with your Cisco Meraki infrastructure. As an example, using this feature allows you to introduce webhooks for alerts pertaining to network statuses and configuration changes.
The tool can also be used to automate service ticketing and corrective actions and is a great asset to those looking to work more efficiently on Cisco Meraki.
To begin with the Cisco Meraki APIs, you must first have a Meraki dashboard account as that’s where it all begins. This dashboard is where you’ll be making your API calls to. So head over here to create or log in to your account.
Once you’ve set up your account or if you have one already active, you’ll need to enable APIs on your dashboard. To do so, simply go to the Organization tab and click on Settings. Here you’ll need to check the box that says Enable access to the Cisco Meraki Dashboard API.
Once you’ve enabled API access, you’ll need to get your API key. This is key as it lets Meraki know who’s dashboard the API calls are communicating with.
To get your API key, click on your profile in the top right corner and head to My Profile. Once on this page, find and click the button that says Generate API Key to create your key. A pop-up will appear showing you the key that has just been created.
Many of those who came before you made the mistake of not saving their API key. Learn from their mistakes and be sure to store it in a safe place. You’ll be glad you did so later!
Although you can easily create a new key by coming back to this page, applications you create that were interacting with your dashboard will have to be reconfigured with the new key.
Certain API calls within Meraki can only be used with specific products. In order to use these calls you’ll first need to claim the devices they can be used on. To do so, head over to the Organization tab and choose Inventory. Here you can claim your Cisco Meraki devices by entering their serial numbers, which can be found on the back of your device.
This step is essential as without actual devices your dashboard doesn’t have any real world functionality.
Once you’ve completed all of the above steps you’re all set to start making API calls!
Before you embark on your API journey, you should definitely take a look at the Meraki documentation. This comprehensive documentation answers a lot of the questions you’re going to have along the way so make sure you bookmark it and go back to it every time you feel like you’ve hit a roadblock.
To actually make API calls you can either write Python scripts or use Postman. Both these tools fundamentally do the same thing but we recommend going with the latter because of how easy it is to use, particularly for beginners.
We’ll take a look at what Postman is and how we can get started using it to make API calls on Meraki.
Postman is a graphical development platform aimed specifically at those who want to work with APIs. It offers a great collaborative environment and a host of tools and libraries that enable users to work on their projects more efficiently.
The API reference documentation for Meraki is provided in a postman collection that can be viewed at here, This collection can be imported into the Postman application and even enables you to test your API calls, so you can see the effect of your application before you start using it.
By Clicking on the orange Run in Postman button on the top right of your screen, you can easily import the library into your Postman infrastructure. You’ll need to download the software to your computer or add the extension to your browser in order to be able to use Postman!
After you’ve downloaded Postman You’ll need to create an environment within it to get started accessing Cisco Meraki. Keep your API key handy as you’ll need it during this initial set up.
The process of setting up your Postman account and making your first API call is explained in more detail in this article on Cisco’s website.
You might be a little intimidated by all that you’ve seen here. Don’t worry, working with APIs is never straightforward and you’re not alone here. The Cisco Meraki Community and Reddit are very active with users asking questions all the time. You’ll find plenty of people there willing to help you out should you run into any problems. Just remember, the more you learn, the more you’ll realize there is to learn.
We hope that after reading this article you are better equipped for the journey. If you’d like some inspiration on the kinds of things you can achieve with APIs, check out our case study on how we used the Dashboard API to automate network management processes.
Maybe one day you’ll be on the other side of the table helping others learn how to work with the Meraki APIs.
P.S. We frequently release new tips, articles and use cases around the Meraki APIs. Sign up to our newsletter to receive this directly in your inbox!