Cisco looks to make SD-WAN ‘no-compromise’ with security integration

Scott Harrell, senior vice president and general manager of enterprise networking for Cisco

Scott Harrell, senior vice president and general manager of enterprise networking for Cisco

LAS VEGAS — Citing SD-WAN as one of the biggest growth opportunities for itself and its partners, Cisco announced an update to its SD-WAN portfolio that will see much of its security stack brought directly into its ISR routing family.

The networking giant announced the new strategy — calling it SD-WAN for the cloud age — here ahead of its annual Partner Summit event, which kicks off here Tuesday morning. Scott Harrell, senior vice president and general manager of enterprise networking for Cisco, said changes were necessary because of the way the move towards cloud-based applications has changed the performance and security requirements of both applications and users.

By bringing its security portfolio more directly into its ISR routers and therefore into its SD-WAN strategy, Harrell said the company is seeking to reduce the compromises required by early SD-WAN users between security and IT oversight on one hand, and the need for better user experience and performance on the other, especially in distributed businesses where the traditional path of Internet to data centre to user is disrupted.

The plan sees Cisco bringing its enterprise firewall, intrusion prevention systems, and URL filtering directly into modern ISR routers via a software update, which will also make it significantly easier to connect those routers to Cisco’s Umbrella cloud security offering.

“Only Cisco can bring you the best of security and the best of SD-WAN,” Harrell said. “Every SD-WAN solution that goes out there will have these capabilities.”

In the name of better user experience, the company also announced work with Microsoft to optimize the flow of Office 365 applications across its SD-WAN, aiming to boost performance of the cloud-based software by up to 40 per cent by more intelligently routing every aspect of Office 365-related traffic across the network.

While SD-WAN is a fragmented market and still very much in its early days, Nirav Sheth, vice president of partner solutions, architectures and engineering at Cisco, called it a “here and now” opportunity for the company’s partners. Sheth noted that north of 90 per cent of all the company’s customers have plans to deploy SD-WAN to some degree in the next two years, and that the total market is estimated to be a $10 billion global opportunity by 2022.

Sheth said the fact that it’s being built into the very familiar ISR family will make it easier for partners to find their way into the SD-WAN market, and said that with this level of integration, partners will be able to address upcoming network needs not just from customers’ infrastructure teams, but also from their applications and security teams, creating access to new and different buying centres for the technology in the future. With the ISR already a market leader for branch networks, Sheth called the added security and performance capabilities “an incredible brownfield opportunity” to revisit and upsell existing customers in the near future, and touted the managed service opportunities around SD-WAN as a major potential profitability booster for solution providers.

Nirav Sheth, vice president of partner solutions, architectures and engineering at Cisco

Nirav Sheth, vice president of partner solutions, architectures and engineering at Cisco

Sheth outlined a series of training offerings either currently available from the vendor or soon-to-launch, including a partner version of the SD-WAN Mastery course recently launched internally to the Cisco field, as well as both classroom and on-demand education around SD-WAN in general and its solutions in particular.

On the profitability side of the equation, Sheth said that along with various deal registration programs, its SD-WAN offering will fall under both VIP for hardware sales, and VIP Annuity for software-based recurring revenues.

“We want to make sure partners get rewarded for selling, for expanding the usage of our solutions, and for renewals,” Sheth said.

Frank White, head of networking strategy for Germany-based Cisco partner Computcenter, particularly noted the potential around optimizing the performance of Office 365 traffic on customers’ networks, and identified it as a way to open up additional managed services revenues. 

“Customers moving to Office 365 without a ready network are running into trouble,” he noted.

And Ron Temske, vice president of security and network solutions for U.S.-based Cisco partner Logicalis, said he saw potential in the ability to blur the lines between its existing Network Operations Centre and Security Operations Centre offerings, extending a broader swath of managed services to a wider array of customers.

“It makes a lot of customers who were previously A or B, now A and B,” he said.

While the ISR route is its primary large enterprise SD-WAN play, the company also has SD-WAN capabilities for smaller companies under its Meraki cloud-managed networking lineup to round out the story, and help address the needs of partners whose customers may not quite be at the ISR level of enterprise network.

“We want to win across all types of customers, and we want our partners large and small to win with us,” Sheth said.

Rupinder Singh, director of systems engineering for Cisco Canada

Rupinder Singh, director of systems engineering for Cisco Canada

As in other markets, the SD-WAN market in Canada is in development, said Rupinder Singh, director of systems engineering for Cisco Canada, but the good news for partners is that demand is healthy and the number of proofs of concept and vision the company is doing for customers is on the rise.

“All of our major customer are looking at it, and many have already started deploying it now,” Singh said.

Singh said the company has been working with partners on education around SD-WAN for more than a year now, and that partners are “absolutely ready” to meet the growing demand the Canadian organization is seeing. The addition of the security components should make it even more approachable to partners, he said, given that security is a very common area of expertise, particularly among the company’

Financial services, retail, and healthcare are particularly hot verticals for the technology,  Singh said, leading the way in terms of engagement with Cisco and its partners.

Robert Dutt

Robert Dutt is the founder and head blogger at He has been covering the Canadian solution provider channel community for a variety of publications and Web sites since 1997. 

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