Cisco streamlines SD-WAN hardware and software at the edge

Cisco adds new Catalysts, a UCS compute module, and easier-to-use SD-WAN software.

shutterstock 1748437547 cloud computing cloud architecture edge computing
amgun / Shutterstock

Cisco is adding compute power and streamlining edge hardware and software offerings to make SD-WAN easier to deploy and manage.

Taken together enhancements are aimed at helping to better handle growing distributed enterprises but also to help simplify environments—the hardware by allowing users to collapse multiple devices into one, and the software to ease configuration and management of SD-WANs.

On the hardware side, Cisco is adding the 3U, Catalyst 8500-20X6C edge platform to its Catalyst 8000 Edge Platforms Family. It is an edge aggregation device built on the Cisco’s quantum-flow processor (QFP) ASIC and promises more than three times the performance over the existing high-end Catalyst 8500 Series Edge Platform, according to Archana Khetan, head of products in Cisco’s Enterprise Routing group. “With the increased power, customers can support more users and collapse the number of boxes they need to support edge applications as needed,” Khetan said.

The box features up to 6x 40/100GbE and 20 10/1GbE ports and is aimed at campus locations and at aggregation points to act as a central connection hub for distributed sites, Khetan said. It is available now.

The Catalyst 8000 Edge Platforms Family includes three models: the high-end 8500, the 8300 for branch users, and the software-based 8000V for virtual environments. The family can share a feature set that includes advanced routing, SD-WAN, secure-access service edge (SASE). All models run Cisco’s IOS XE operating system software.

Cisco also announced the E-Series M6 compute module for its Unified Computing System servers. The module, available in the first half of the year, promises twice the processing horsepower and 10 times greater I/O capacity compared to previous generations, according to Khetan.  “The M6 is ideal for customer environments where they want to collapse more of their edge compute into the platform and better handle process-intensive business applications and network services,” Khetan said.

The new module fits in the Catalyst 8300 Series Edge Platform aimed at remote branch locations, and it is compatible with Cisco’s existing ISR/ASR routers installed base.

Cisco also upgraded the Catalyst 8000V with a 16 vCPU image that can connect branch offices or aggregate devices and use SD-WAN to connect to the cloud via IPsec. The new vCPU will be available in April.

Staying in the device aggregation realm, Cisco has integrated its Catalyst Wireless Gateway hardware with its Cisco SD-WAN Remote Access. Part of its overarching SD-WAN package, Cisco SD-WAN Remote Access can be located on-prem, in the cloud or a colocation facility and offers SD-WAN access over the internet. 

By integrating the wireless gateway with SD-WAN Remote Access enterprises can deploy SD-WAN to small sites with Wi-Fi and cellular capabilities on a single piece of hardware, Khetan said. The integrated the integrated package can be managed centrally through Cisco’s cloud-based vManage service.

Cisco’s SD-WAN software package version 17.10 includes upgrades as well, aimed at simplifying the configuration and management of the system.

The first new feature is a workflow configuration feature found in vManage that makes it possible for configurations and policies to follow devices even as their location changes, without having to reset them manually, according to JP Shukla, director of product management with Cisco’s Enterprise Cloud and SD-WAN group. In the past the software employed set configuration templates that customers had to update any time resources moved around, Shukla said.  “Now we make end-to-end configuration as part of the workflow. These workflows are defined based on the type of customer, and we are leveraging a lot of smart defaults to make this more flexible in terms of multiple-device configuration.”

A second improvement lets customers set tags on certain devices across the network to better define what network or system that resource is a part of.

“Customers can now tag routers or devices spread across the network saying, ‘Hey, this router belongs,’ for example, ‘to my North America region or Europe region,’” Shukla said. “These devices can have multiple such tags in case they support access to multiple resources. The idea is that customers can more easily and flexibly make your configuration consistent throughout the network.”

Another new feature lets customers more easily set security and routing policies across a multi-region SD-WAN fabric, Shukla said. “If a topology is big enough, then it becomes a little bit complex to define policies across its entirety, but the new feature lets customers define certain parameters of Multi-Region Fabric, and the system automatically optimizes them,” he said.

Cisco SD-WAN Multi Region Fabric (MRF) can divide SD-WAN environments into multiple regional networks that operate distinctly from one another, along with a central core-region network for managing inter-regional traffic, according to Cisco. It can support existing Software Defined Cloud Interconnect (SDCI) systems to significantly expand the reach and control of the SD-WAN environment. SDCI technology is used to link enterprise resources to a variety of cloud, network, and internet service providers. In the past, Cisco customers could use SDCI with their SD-WAN deployments but not MRF.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

The 10 most powerful companies in enterprise networking 2022