Cisco resets the SD-WAN market and shows that software rules

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Cisco resets the SD-WAN market and shows that software rules

Cisco’s announcement that it will blend its security offerings with its SD-WAN is a tremendously significant moment for the vendor and its channel.

It’s important because this is really about turning products that Cisco used to sell as hardware into software.

Cisco’s not alone in betting that hard-wired WANs just don’t make sense when traffic flows from an organisation into multiple clouds. Software-defined WANs are therefore super-hot right now because they just make colossal sense.

But because SD-WANs carry important data and connect to sensitive applications, they need security services.

And Cisco’s decided that entire bundle should all be software.

Which is where things get interesting.

Today Cisco will happily sell you and your partners both security appliances, security software, and security-as-a-service, or SD-WAN.

It now sells them all together. And prefers to sell them as software.

There’s still some hardware in the mix: devices like the 1000-series and 4000-series integrated services routers or the 5000 Series Enterprise Network Compute System (a router with a couple of small servers tucked inside) can be the place you run SD-WAN and security services. If you want to go fully virtual, you can use vanilla UCS servers.

Whatever you choose, in Cisco’s world the device between an on-prem access network and the WAN is now basically a place for services to run. And those services are what matters, not the box.

Cisco’s vision is now for those services to run wherever it makes sense for them to run, but for all deployments on any hardware to offer the same policy implementation and propagation, administration and licensing experience.

Which is kinda big because Cisco’s made its hardware only as relevant as you want or need it to be, and its software is now supreme.

Resellers dependent on hardware surely knew moments like these were imminent. Managed services providers live for such moments, because once network functions are services, customers need services providers to keep it all humming.

And Cisco? It hopes that this new plan helps it stand out from the SD-WAN crowd, which is generally pretty good at setting up WANS but can’t match the breadth and depth of Cisco’s security portfolio.

This leaves the channel a familiar choice: assemble solutions with best-of-breed products or go deep with one mega-vendor.

But this time that decision comes with a twist. Cisco is a bit irritated it’s not considered a security titan. The company is probably among the top three security vendors by revenue, but is primarily regarded as a networking titan. This SD-WAN play is therefore partly Cisco trying to re-define the SD-WAN market by making a fully integrated security suite a must-have.

Who’d bet against it succeeding?

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