Help me, cloudy-WAN-Ciscobi, my SaaS needs A New Hope

Viptela and Meraki add WAN-wranglers as Cisco decides wide-area networks need love

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Cisco has decided that wide area networks need more automated attention, so has released two complementary WAN analytics products.

The company’s interest in WAN performance comes from its observation that plenty of organisations are more WAN-reliant than ever before, either to connect remote offices to HQ or to access infrastructure or software hosted in clouds. Cisco reckons WAN dependency and spend is up, but manageability has remained steady. That means organisations often run a WAN that sends traffic back to HQ, even though it is bound for SaaS applications. Taking that traffic the long way around is expensive, stresses networks and makes for slow traffic.

One of Cisco’s responses is a SD-WAN vAnalytics, an extension of the vManage tools Cisco acquired along with Viptela in May 2017.

In an interview with The Reg, Scott Harrell, senior veep and general manager of Cisco’s enterprise networking group said vAnalytics provides realtime intelligence on WAN performance and can also make recommendations about future bandwidth requirements. Those recommendations can be made using observations of your traffic, or using aggregated and anonymised data from other users. Cisco feels the latter source will be handy given it represents many experiences of using SaaS and cloud.

Whatever data source you use, the hoped-for outcome is a faster WAN that sends traffic over the best link, while still presenting all connections as a single logical WAN.

vAnalytics was under development when Cisco acquired Viptela, he said, and is now ready to go on sale as an additional capability for the vManage suite. It’s on sale now as a SD-WAN licence tier

Meraki Insight is Cisco’s second new WAN-wrangler. This tool, delivered as SaaS, focuses on probing the WAN to see if it is the source of problems that impact the customers’ experience of online services. Users will be shown real-time metrics on WAN performance, but the tool can also examine the rest of an environment to figure out if the problem lies within the network or if an application or other infrastructure is to blame. The tool offers dashboards to fix things without reverting to the command line interface. The product will require a new licence.

The products overlap a little, but Cisco feels that the pool of organisations that run both Viptela and Meraki isn’t large and that even for those who do, the complementary functionality may see them acquire both.

Software-defined WANs are hot right now. Carriers have woken up to their customers’ desire for flexible connections, rather than long-term commitments, and have used software to offer more malleable products. The likes of Citrix and VMware are trying to do likewise. And now Cisco has come to the party. The result should be WANs that are more flexible and span plenty of connections without giving users more complexity to manage. ®


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