Cisco finally shows the WAAS App Nav at Cisco Live

Disappointment based on a product Riverbed has had for years.

cisco live

With no reply from Cisco on any content for my blog or information since Interop about their secret WAAS App Nav Product, I had to have some friends visit the booth at Cisco Live. They sent me a video, which is available here from Cisco Tech Wise TV. This is what Cisco says about the new product:

"Cisco AppNav technology: Cisco AppNav enables customers to virtualize WAN optimization resources in the data center by pooling them into one elastic resource in a manner that is policy based and on demand, with exceptional low latency performance. Customers can add capacity or dedicate capacity to specific applications or geographies based upon business requirements with no change to existing network configurations or topologies. It integrates transparently with any physical or virtual network infrastructure, providing significant investment protection for existing network designs."

MORE ON CISCO LIVE: Chambers Shows Some Swagger at Cisco Live, but Misses an Important Point

Chambers: We Should Have Killed Cisco Cius Earlier

Now, trying to get any info out of that is hard for most, but if you watch the video you get the gist of what the product is. It is a card that goes into a Cisco WAAS Appliance and allows you to use up to eight WAAS Appliance in the data centers as heads to pool other WAAS Appliances to them. So what they came up with is a product that Riverbed Technology has had for years in the Interceptor. I see now why they did not show it at Interop. A PowerPoint presentation did just fine to get by the judges. Any judge who knows WAN acceleration would have seen its not new technology, just Cisco catching up to Riverbed. Not worthy of a Best of Interop Award.

But the one thing they don't tell you: make sure your main App Nav WAAS Appliance you are doing WCCP from in the video has enough through-put to handle the clusters you will create. Also, based on the current spec for WAAS Appliances from two years ago before the new appliances, I don't think you will want to put an APP Nav Card inside those. Not enough memory or CPU in my mind to handle it. But Cisco makes no mentions of it anywhere, so do so at your own risk.

Next, Cisco finally added a few new features to the Cisco WAAS:

"Enhanced application security; WAAS 5.0 optimizes encrypted Messaging API (MAPI), signed Server Message Block (SMB), and SMBv2, Encrypted MAPI: Now supporting eMAPI for Microsoft Exchange 2007 and 2010, Cisco WAAS leads the industry in the optimization of encrypted communications using standards-based security. Cisco WAAS support for the eMAPI protocol has been jointly validated by and is supported by Cisco and Microsoft."

It has only been four or five years since Riverbed came out with this and now Cisco has caught up. No video or screen shots show the feature working, so we will trust that it works. But in the statement above, which I took from the Cisco website, is unfounded:

"Cisco WAAS leads the industry in the optimization of encrypted Communications."

Cisco just cannot tell the truth. For years, Gartner and Forrester, along with everyone, including myself, has told Cisco it needs to work on encrypted MAPI, SMB and SMB2. For years, Cisco said "we don't see this as a need with our customer base." Now they are the leader and just added it? It took them four years to get it to work.

On the same Cisco WAAS Web Page they have one of the funniest marketing reports I have seen in a long time that tells a different story than Gartner, Forrester and all others when it comes to the WAN Optimization Market. IT Brand Pulse came up with this marketing report for Cisco. As you could guess, since Cisco paid for it they are the leaders in everything (guess that's why they are number 6 in the 2012 Gartner Report seen here).

What customers will believe this with Gartner and Forrester telling a different story and even Cisco in their reports explaining Cisco WAAS sales are down and they are losing most deals to Riverbed? Other reports have them losing to Silver Peak in many data center deals. Gartner analysts Joe Skorupa and Severine Real revealed the following tidbits about Cisco in their January 2012 Magic Quandrant WAN optimization controllers (WOCs) report:

"In general, Cisco is a slow follower whose vision is limited to an incremental product road map. The company is consistently very late with support for new protocols... Initial software quality has been problematic, with some problems remaining unsolved for months or longer. "We still hear about client issues, such as complicated installation and configuration. The products can be very difficult to install and maintain, particularly in complex networks. Uneven presales and post-sales support exacerbates the problem globally. "The management interface continues to appear clumsy, with a lack of functional integration among Cisco WAN products."

Also in this report IT Brands Pulse has nice gains for Juniper for the last year. Juniper stopped the product two years ago and really got out of the market.

Two things I was hoping to see this year were product fixes for the ISR Router Card and the Mobile Controller. Cisco has yet to integrate the router card into the IOS on the router, which means after you configure the router IOS you have to go and do a separate configuration for the WAAS card. Also, there is still no integration with the mobile controller or clients in the WAAS. It is still a totally separate system you have to manage if you want it to work.

Cisco is now the market leader in "encrypted communications." I wonder if mapi, smb and sm2 encrypted optimization found their way to the mobile controller or clients. Since it is a separate platform and system I really doubt it, which means no upgrades for the mobile. With Chambers and Warrior always talking about Cisco going mobile and is a mobile leader, why can they not fix this problem? It took them four years to get these three features on the WAAS. I guess it will be another four before you see it on the mobile.

Cisco still lacks in features and support compared to others, they just try to make up for it with discounts and marketing. But how good is a product really if they have to give it away for free with a router purchase or give over 60% discount off list so people will buy it over other companies higher in the Gartner report?

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

SD-WAN buyers guide: Key questions to ask vendors (and yourself)