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Cisco attacks SD-WAN with software from Viptela, Meraki acquisitions

News Analysis
Mar 09, 20185 mins
Cisco SystemsNetworkingSD-WAN

New Cisco software will address SD-WAN challenges with help improving application performance, planning bandwidth allocation, and modeling how policy changes might affect network performance.

sd-wan survey
Credit: istock

Cisco this week took the wraps off new software packages it claims will help customers manage their biggest networking blind spot: the software-defined wide area network or SD-WAN.

The SD-WAN is typically made of diverse networks and technologies that many times are outside the control of IT.  Add to that the increased use of multi-cloud services and other advances, and the traditional complexity of the WAN has been increased, Cisco stated.

+RELATED: SD-WAN: What it is and why you’ll use it some day; How to negotiate a Cisco Enterprise Agreement that works for you+

Cisco cited a recent IDC study that found almost three out of 10 organizations considered network outages to be a top WAN concern, with the same number stating they need better visibility and analytics to manage application and WAN performance. IDC also estimates that worldwide SD-WAN infrastructure and services revenues will hit $8.05 billion by 2021.

In order to address some of these challenges, Cisco rolled out SD-WAN vAnalytics, a cloud-based SaaS application that will collect data from the SD-WAN and let customers spot and fix communications problems quicker, gauge application performance, oversee bandwidth planning, and predict how policy changes might impact the network.

Companies can determine, say, how a rollout of IP-enabled security cameras or a branch rollout of Office 365 might impact the WAN, said Cisco’s Kiran Ghodgaonkar, a senior marketing manager. vAnaytics can help enterprises identify the stress points and necessary policy or bandwidth changes that might be needed.   

vAnalytics is a Viptela-developed package that was under development when Cisco acquired the SD-WAN company for $610 million last summer. Viptela offers a cloud-based SD-WAN package that features routing through its vEdge router, network segmentation and security features for interconnecting enterprise networks.

Viptela’s technology such as vAnalytics is important as Cisco blends it with its own SD-WAN products known as Intelligent WAN or IWAN. At the time of the sale, for example, Cisco said it would commit “significant engineering resources to bring next-generation SD-WAN solutions to market.”  To meet this goal, Cisco said it would use a phased integration of the technology over the next 12 to 24 months:

  • Phase 1: Cisco will continue to support and invest in the Viptela SD-WAN solution, including the Viptela vEdge routers.
  • Phase 2: Viptela features will be incorporated into existing Cisco enterprise routing platforms.
  • Phase 3: Viptela’s cloud management platform will be integrated with Cisco DNA Center.

The second part of this week’s rollout was directed at the installed base of another Cisco acquisition: Meraki, which Cisco bought in 2012 for $1.2 billion. Meraki offers SD-WAN capabilities and unified management of cloud resources, mobile devices, PCs and other networked components from a centralized dashboard.

Expanding that dashboard, Cisco announced Meraki Insight, which the company says is a tool to help customers more quickly identify and troubleshoot SD-WAN problems and performance issues.

Users looking to employ Insight will need a Meraki MX security appliance, which includes a number of features, such as a firewall, integrated intrusion prevention, and SD-WAN support.  

Cisco said Meraki Insight requires a collector to gather the data it uses, and the Meraki MX platform can be upgraded to function as that collector with the addition of a new Meraki Insight license.

“As data flows through LAN and WAN interfaces, deep packet inspection provides valuable information at both the network layer and application layer, helping IT determine the true root cause with simple visibility into performance at every step. Each application gets its own performance score, providing a quick reference to the quality of the user experience relative to a specific Web application, based on the thresholds defined by an IT administrator,” Cisco said.

The idea is to offer IT visibility into how the performance of a specific application is trending over time, letting administrators more accurately predict where and when challenges are likely to begin impacting end-users, Cisco said.

vAnalytics is available now via a Cisco SD-WAN license tier. Cisco Meraki Insight is expected to be available in Q3 via a separate license, the company said.

While bringing analytics and better management capabilities to SD-WAN users was the focus of this week’s announcement, Ghodgaonkar recently blogged about some of the other areas of the SD-WAN arena that might see brisk activity. For example:

  • The acquisitions of both Viptela and VeloCloud indicate that there continues to be significant customer demand but also that SD-WAN has reached maturity. Expect to see more consolidation as both technology vendors and service providers look to expand their portfolios and offerings with SD-WAN.
  • Expect to see MSP’s deploy large-scale networks with virtualized customer-premises equipment, using flexible software licensing for greater agility and investment protection.
  • Look for SD-WAN vendors to start adding more comprehensive security and WAN-optimization functionality, along with support for virtualization into a single platform.
  • SD-WAN will provide connectivity to your end-points, but what is the most optimum path for traffic to be routed over your WAN? Intent-based networking will make it easier to manage and operate your WAN, and it will also use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to become smarter, ensuring your WAN stays healthy under all traffic conditions.
  • Expect to see SD-WAN platforms include more embedded security that uses advanced threat detection techniques. Direct internet access and cloud access require security to protect data passing over the internet, but machine learning will be required to see all threats, even those in encrypted traffic.