In August 2017, Cisco completed its acquisition of Viptela, putting in place a new trifecta of Cisco Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) solutions that now includes the company’s Intelligent WAN (iWAN) product, its Cisco Meraki technology for security appliances, and now Viptela’s high-profile cloud-based SD-WAN. With the acquisition, Cisco SD-WAN based on Viptela will likely be the preferred solution for large, complex deployments, and Meraki will be the ideal product for simple, small-to-midsized businesses (SMBs)—possibly meaning the end of iWAN.
Cisco’s iWAN is an SD-WAN product (built from an existing Cisco product also called iWAN) that provides traffic control and security features for the Wide Area Network (WAN). The technology is integrated into Cisco branch-office routers. According to Cisco, iWAN provides capabilities similar to MPLS VPN, such as quality of service, WAN optimization, and VPN tunneling. Businesses deploying iWAN have the ability to easily switch from expensive MPLS WAN connections to less costly Internet transport without compromising application performance, reliability, or security.
However, with the acquisition of Viptela’s cloud-based SD-WAN technology, Cisco iWAN is probably headed toward deprecation.
Cisco acquired Meraki in 2012 as a way to improve its WLAN and cloud networking business—in particular to allow enterprises to pick the gear they want, and then select the level of management and software. Cisco said its customers wanted simplified SD-WAN, and indeed, the company positions Meraki’s feature set as easy enough to be used by IT generalists without training: “Meraki simplifies day-to-day operations and puts intuitive yet powerful tools in the hands of network administrators,” states the company website.
Using zero-touch cloud provisioning, businesses can remotely deploy Cisco Meraki security appliances in minutes. Administrators can use templates to synchronize security settings across thousands of sites. And in a mere three clicks on a web-based dashboard, they can securely connect branches with Auto VPN technology.
Cisco acquired Viptela in a blockbuster deal in early 2017. Viptela’s cloud-native technology provides a rich set of capabilities and scale. According to Cisco, Viptela provides a compelling SD-WAN solution with advanced routing, segmentation, and security capabilities for interconnecting complex enterprise networks. Cisco is committing significant engineering resources to bring next-generation SD-WAN solutions based on Viptela’s technology to market. It will combine Viptela’s cloud-first network management, orchestration, and overlay technologies with Cisco’s existing enterprise routing platforms and solutions.
According to Cisco Senior Vice President of Product Management Scott Harrell, Viptela’s SD-WAN will be Cisco’s first option. “For customers and partners that require cloud-first SD-WAN solutions with advanced routing, complex topologies, or granular segmentation capabilities, Cisco’s SD-WAN solution based on Viptela will be the preferred solution,” Harrell wrote.
Cisco SD-WAN Future
Cisco is undergoing a shift from hardware-focused to software-driven networking—including Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV)—investing in the concept of digital transformation with its next-generation SD-WAN solutions. According to Cisco Senior Vice President of Engineering Anad Oswal, “Viptela has much to offer in this particular area of their expertise, and the melding of our two approaches is going to boost Cisco’s SD-WAN offerings to a substantial degree.”