Cisco SD-WAN Review

Quick to innovate with new features, but requires more security out of the box

What is our primary use case?

As a company, we are a Cisco Premier Partner and we work as a system integrator and reseller. As for myself, I currently work simultaneously with Cisco and Fortinet for SD-WAN solutions.

Because we're only an integrator and not an ISP-level company, we haven't engaged with that many SD-WAN projects, and our typical line of work involves using Cisco products in bank solutions, such as for branch connectivity.

What is most valuable?

From my observations, Cisco has been rolling out new features every other day, so I would say their speed of innovation is one of the most valuable aspects for me.

I would also point to their superior features when it comes to general connectivity, configuration, and reporting.

What needs improvement?

One of the major areas that Cisco can improve on with their SD-WAN offering is their security features. When compared with Fortinet, who have what they call their 'security pillars' (e.g. firewall and security features built-in to their SD-WAN solutions), Cisco generally comes up short. With Cisco, if you need a security component, you have to pay more to get it done. So if they could add more security features that come part and parcel with their existing solutions, then I think Cisco could be very aggressive in the market.

Essentially, they have to incorporate different security features on top of their SD-WAN box. At the end of the day, I should be able to give one single box to the customer which includes SD-WAN and all the necessary features such as security.

When it comes to IoT edges, they could possibly incorporate their SD-WAN features into the LAN side together with Cisco's DNA networking, just as Aruba is doing with their ESP solution. If Cisco could come up with a similar solution to that, then I think they will have the upper hand in the market compared to their competitors' brands. They have to come to a point where they can better integrate WAN and LAN into one single platform.

Regarding the data center sites, when we're talking about software-defined networking, Cisco has the SD-WAN segment, software-defined access for the LAN segment, and application-centric infrastructure for their data center segment, and they have to combine all three segments into one platform. Just like how the other guys are doing it. Again, if they can accomplish this, then technically they have a fair share in the market.

Otherwise, Cisco could also integrate more features on the cloud side of things, like with SD-WAN in the cloud, or SD-WAN in AWS, some of which I believe they have implemented already.

Beyond that, I can't say too much about what I'd like to see when it comes to new features because almost every day I've seen Cisco add more features to their SD-WAN and SD-LAN portfolios. At the rate they're going, it could be only a few months before they add the security features I've mentioned. So from my perspective, I think they're doing okay.

Finally, in terms of stability, there could be some improvement. In my experience with our current project, there have been some instances where stability has been an issue. But I can't speak for everyone here; other partners who have completed more projects may disagree and this is only my own observations so far.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using Cisco SD-WAN for two to three years. 

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I can't say that Cisco SD-WAN is incredibly stable, especially since Cisco has acquired Viptela and they are now busy with trying to improve Viptela's features and tools. So in some situations, it has been my experience that Cisco's SD-WAN is solid but it does succumb to stability issues at times.

So far we have completed only one project with Cisco, while other one is still ongoing. With that experience, I can say some stability improvements are needed, but I don't know about the other partners who have completed ten or more projects, for example.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability-wise, it's good, because when the customer's application load or data traffic increases, I can easily scale out the same product to match the increase.

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support is good. When it comes to Cisco's TAC (Technical Assistance Center) and solutions support as a country in the Asian market, they are doing good. 

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Alongside Cisco, we also use Fortinet. If we have a firewall or edge/perimeter security or other security measures in place already, we can simply go with Cisco. This is because the interconnectivity, branch connectivity, configuration level, solidness, and other features of Cisco are already adequate and, in some cases, superior. So when it comes to the networking components alone, I prefer Cisco.

But if the customer is asking for networking plus the perimeter level security, then I have to look into products like Fortinet, because with their lower pricing and so on, Fortinet comes out on top. Fortinet is much cheaper than Cisco. And for configuration, Fortinet's interfaces are also very comfortable to use when it comes to complex configurations.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Cisco's pricing is not entirely satisfactory when you compare the SD-WAN solutions in Asian markets — like the South Asian market in Sri Lanka — because there are several competing brands including Fortinet and Citrix, who provide much the same product for a generally lower price. And when it comes to firewall vendors like Palo Alto and SonicWall, they're also selling here. It's the same with VMware, too; they have much the same features.

So when you do a comparative showdown among these giants, you can see that Cisco and their customers could benefit from adjustments in terms of pricing. Fortinet, for one, is much cheaper than Cisco currently.

What other advice do I have?

My overall advice is that if you already have your network security established, then Cisco SD-WAN is a good, solid solution for the rest of the networking components. However, if you require more of an all-in-one SD-WAN solution that incorporates security from the beginning, you might want to look elsewhere.

I would rate Cisco SD-WAN a seven out of ten. 

**Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: reseller
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