About 160 Viptela people, more than 95 percent of its employees, joined Cisco when the $610 million acquisition closed in August. And the people and technology have already merged with Cisco’s IWAN, forming what Cisco now calls “Cisco SD-WAN.”
“We’re not inside Cisco as a single entity,” said Ramesh Prabagaran, senior director of product for Cisco SD-WAN. The Viptela technology has been rolled up with the IWAN technology, “driving a single go-forward motion,” he said.
While Prabagaran handles the product piece, James Winebrenner is in charge of SD-WAN sales, and Nehal Bhau is director of SD-WAN engineering. The product is part of Cisco’s Enterprise Business group.
Cisco SD-WAN is “90 percent based on Viptela,” said Prabagaran. “At the same time, we want to make sure this technology can proliferate to other portions of the routing infrastructure.”
Integrating with Routers
He said the fact that Viptela’s software could easily be integrated into Cisco’s platforms is one of the big reasons the acquisition made sense. Prior to Viptela, Cisco’s SD-WAN solution used its IWAN software. But it was complicated.
Prabagaran said IWAN is “a collection of technologies under the covers that have existed in the Cisco portfolio for quite some time. It was a packaging exercise with its own set of challenges.” Cisco plans to continue support for the huge installed base of customers that use IWAN. “But in terms of new innovations, we want to use Cisco SD-WAN as the base layer,” he said.
He said Cisco plans to use Viptela software and integrate it natively into some of Cisco’s routing platforms. Existing routers will get a software upgrade to support SD-WAN. “Then we bring cloud management and control in order to provide the SD-WAN functionality,” he said. For example, customers that have the ISR 4000 will be able, through a software upgrade, to get the SD-WAN functionality in the near future.
“We are coming out with this for a select group in March 2018,” he said. “Come summer next year, we’ll be able to upgrade with a regular software upgrade. Then those devices automatically talk to the cloud control and management pieces. Suddenly, the network has gone from a discreet set of routers to full SD-WAN. There’s nothing super complicated. It just needs to be done in a methodical way.”
Prabagaran also noted a couple of trends in SD-WAN. He said deployment cycles are starting to shrink dramatically. For example, one large bank customer began working with Viptela right before its acquisition by Cisco. “This customer has gone from a proof of concept in their lab to full deployment of 1,100 sites in four months,” he said.
He also noted that SD-WAN may present opportunity for integrators such as Accenture and IBM, for example. Integrators could provide SD-WAN as a service even though they don’t own the underlying circuit.