Cisco tightens its SD-WAN integration with Microsoft Azure

Cisco SD-WAN customers can use Microsoft’s Azure Virtual WAN and its multi-region fabric for worldwide, regional connectivity

Cisco continues to build tighter SD-WAN integration with the leading cloud service providers to better tie together widely distributed resources.

This week Cisco and Microsoft extended their SD-WAN/Microsoft Azure integration to enable building single or multiple overlays on top of Microsoft’s backbone to interconnect enterprise sites worldwide, and to connect sites to workloads running inside Azure, similar to an arrangement Cisco has with Google Cloud.

With Microsoft, Cisco said its SD-WAN package will soon let Azure customers build automated site-to-site connectivity over Microsoft’s global network using the Cisco SD-WAN Cloud Hub and Azure Virtual WAN with its multi-region fabric. The features are part of a new version of the SD-WAN software due out in December.

Microsoft’s fabric can identify a site based on its geographic location and attach sites to regions based on geographic boundaries. This architecture supports dividing SD-WAN overlay networks into multiple regions, wrote Jean-Luc Valente, vice president, product management with Cisco’s Enterprise Routing and SD-WAN group in a blog about the enhancements:

“As enterprises’ digital transformation brings in more cloud and cloud-hosted applications, there’s an increasing need for more agile connection between globally distributed sites. Cisco is working to make the unused global backbone capacity in the public cloud available to enterprises to use for inter-site connectivity. With Cisco SD-WAN Cloud Hub, enterprises who have deployed Cisco SD-WAN fabric for their WAN infrastructure can now securely extend their fabric to the public cloud in a simple and automated way and consider utilizing this for their global site-to-site connectivity.”

Benefits of this architecture include on-demand connectivity among the SD-WAN overlay regions, the ability to apply consistent policies across regions, and the enablement of end-to-end encryption of data  between sites using Cisco SD-WAN, Valente stated.

Cisco’s SD-WAN Cloud Hub tie-in with Google Cloud, which combines Cisco’s SD-WAN policy-, telemetry- and security-setting capabilities with Google's software-defined backbone to ensure that application service-level agreement, security and compliance policies are extended across its network.

As with the Microsoft Azure integration, Cisco SD-WAN Cloud Hub with Google Cloud enables a number of capabilities. For example, applications can request their required network resources by publishing application data in Google Cloud Service Directory. The network can use this data to provision itself for the appropriate SD-WAN policies, according to Cisco.

Cisco and Microsoft earlier this year added support for Microsoft’s Informed Network Routing technology that lets its customers share Microsoft 365 telemetry with networking vendors and receive network-link telemetry from them. That means enterprises with Cisco SD-WAN software will have multiple options to route traffic from branch sites to Microsoft SaaS applications such as Office 365, Team, and SharePoint.

Better Microsoft 365 connectivity

This week Cisco said it extended its Informed Network Routing integration for Microsoft 365 by providing visibility into network quality-of-experience metrics and application feedback shared by Microsoft.

“Path analytics also provides visibility into Microsoft 365 traffic over a period, so network operators can easily understand and visualize which path is better and which path is being used for Microsoft 365,” wrote Piyush Raj, a senior product manager with Cisco SD-WAN Cloud Networking team in a blog about the extension.

“Network operators can look at the application feedback shared by Microsoft and see how the application experience has changed over time for users in a branch,” Raj stated. “They can use this information to further correlate changes in network paths with the changes in network and application metrics.”

With Microsoft 365 path analytics, enterprises may now be assured that underlying network conditions can be detected more accurately using a combination of network path probing done by Cisco SD-WAN and application telemetry shared by Microsoft, Raj stated.  “With this information, Cisco SD-WAN can ensure a better user experience by switching traffic to the best available path based on changing network conditions.”

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