LAS VEGAS — Four service providers — British Telecom (BT), Verizon, Orange Business Services, and Telstra — are using Cisco to help provide software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) to their business customers. But ask Cisco the name of its SD-WAN product, and it gets complicated.
The complexity comes from the fact that Cisco is building its SD-WAN with existing products, rather than starting from scratch like many SD-WAN vendors. Cisco’s product is based on the Intelligent WAN (IWAN) traffic control product that it developed a few years ago.
“We recognized that things were changing in the branch, and we came up with IWAN,” says Cisco senior marketing manager Kiran Ghodgaonkar. “It was very CLI-driven.”
IWAN, which works with Cisco’s Integrated Services Router (ISR) platform, had garnered customers that were looking for WAN optimization and also wanted to move some traffic off MPLS to lower-cost connections.
For example, British Telecom (BT) is offering its enterprise customers SD-WAN managed services using Cisco routers that are already in place as MPLS network termination boxes. Since the service provider already provides a Cisco router to its enterprise VPN customers, it decided to use those boxes for SD-WAN.
Cisco SD-WAN Controllers
Although IWAN has been around for a while, Cisco more recently, developed its Application Policy Infrastructure Controller Enterprise Module (APIC-EM) to automate IWAN feature configuration. APIC-EM is a controller for managing and operating software-defined networking (SDN).
Perhaps your eyes are starting to cross at this point? But the acronyms continue.
APIC-EM lets enterprise customers to control IWAN for their branch offices. But it’s not designed for service providers to offer managed SD-WAN for their enterprise customers.
Some of Cisco’s service provider customers are using their own orchestration. “And in some cases, we have them using Network Services Orchestrator (NSO),” Ghodgaonkar says.
APIC-EM is for enterprises and NSO is for service providers. NSO is enabled by the technology Cisco acquired with Tail-f.
Future-Proofing the Branch
A slew of SD-WAN vendors is tapping into the desire of businesses to save money on MPLS connections to branch offices. But Cisco is trying to make the case that businesses should plan for the branch office of the future.
“As your business changes, you’re going to need services in the branch,” says Ghodgaonkar. “IoT, security, big data and analytics — if you want to do those services in the branch, you’re going to need some type of multi-services architecture. Otherwise, you have to send all that data back to some central location because you don’t have capabilities at the edge.”
Along those lines, at Cisco Live this week, the company introduced two new security products that embed security into Cisco’s ISR branch office routers.