Cisco SD-WAN Review

Stable, cutting-edge, and robust

What is our primary use case?

We implemented and currently support some clients using Cisco SD-WAN.

Essentially, everything is moving to the cloud. There is a big shift from the traditional network operator-based infrastructure to a fully cloud-native kind of infrastructure for companies. People don't want to deal with so many providers. The network provider, the cybersecurity provider, another company managing the routers and firewalls, et cetera. Everything is moving to the cloud to simplify things. The shift to SD-WAN is motivated by business reasons. It allows for cutting costs. Traditional networking forms for data centers are simply too expensive, too slow, and very time-consuming to maintain.

Today with the SASE architecture, it's very easy to immediately deploy the cloud to have one subscription for one set of services. With one subscription, you have full access to a dedicated network that is much faster than the traditional MNTL networks that traditional data centers are using. Plus, you have integrated cybersecurity and a fully dedicated private backbone that is essentially spreading across the globe. People don't want to delegate to British telecom off to Verizon anymore, handing their network into another company managing the security into another company managing the networking infrastructure. With SD-WAN, especially with solutions based on the SASE framework, they pay one subscription fee each month, and one single company is managing everything. 

What is most valuable?

In terms of technology, we are completely agnostic. In many cases, we deal with Cisco simply due to the fact that the client already has a Cisco implementation. Most of the clients started their corporate deployment 10 or 15 years ago, and therefore there are legacy systems. Some of them are built on Cisco and we found that their systems are already implemented. 

I evaluate new technologies continuously each month and we deploy, as I told you, across geographies in multiple companies. Cisco is definitely cutting edge, absolutely cutting edge in terms of robustness on the capability of the network to be very stable with very low delay. It is a proven, tried, and tested technology. It is very reliable software. It is rock solid and very stable with respect to delivering top-performance networking functions. 

It is very stable with very good firmware. In terms of traditional functionality, it's unbeatable as an offer. I would say 10 plus as a vote in terms of traditional networking.

What needs improvement?

There is much room for improvement on the cybersecurity side. For most of the clients, it is unacceptable nowadays to have too many people involved in managing the corporate network, and many clients like to see providers that can deliver a unified solution that integrates together with the network functionalities and the cybersecurity functionalities as they go hand in hand, especially in a regulated industry such as in banking, insurance, or healthcare. All governmental infrastructure must be compliant with very specific guidelines and requirements. It's not always it is possible to meet them with out-of-the-box products. You need to integrate on the top. If Cisco can work more in creating a true SASE solution known simply as an SD-WAN solution, that will be magic. That will be perfect. Right now, they need to do more of the cybersecurity side. 

Cisco is working at the moment. Unfortunately, like all traditional companies, it is very big and quite spread out. That makes it a little bit slower to react than some of the other competitors in the space. Some competitors are much faster in providing out-of-the-box solutions, more innovative solutions. In terms of innovation, in many cases, they're lagging behind.

For how long have I used the solution?

Specifically, with Cisco SD-WAN I have about five years of experience now. With Cisco, it's a long-term kind of connection with the company. We have been serving clients over the past 12 years. Always, Cisco is very present.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The solution is stable. There is very minimal movement and very minimal packet loss. There is very minimal delay in the network. In terms of performance, it's absolutely best of breed, and world-class. There is no discussion about that. In terms of hardware, probably is the best provider. 

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The solution is very scalable. From the branch office to the data center, you have so many Cisco modules, and you can cut the system the way you like. Any shape and size are available from Cisco. I don't see any provider of networking solutions with more options. It's definitely a solution where you can pinpoint exactly the specific needs of a branch, a data center, or an office, and find the right piece of hardware. There are so many sometimes it can be even complicated to choose, however, Cisco provides everything from the ground up without any problem. It's a tried and tested solution, and therefore is very well documented. 

How are customer service and technical support?

The solutions are stable, however, we offer technical support. If it's broken, you always have access to local support. Somebody from Cisco will react very, very rapidly. 

In terms of configuration, usually companies, schools, companies, providers managed service providers like us tend to manage the network. 

In terms of support, it's one of the most well-known and respected companies and universally accepted as a top player. You can trust the support they provide. 

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

The typical brands we deal with are mostly Cisco, Palo Alto, Zscaler, and, in more recent times, Check Point and Citrix.

How was the initial setup?

Typically we have on average, a team of three or four people managing Cisco systems based in New Bailey, where we have representatives specializing in Cisco Systems.

Cisco is very well-known for being easy to use. We help quite a few clients with their Cisco implementations. There are absolutely no issues in terms of performance, or setup. It's more of innovation in their architectural kind of a problem that Cisco has at the moment. They are having trouble keeping pace with the innovation in the sector. That said, it's a very good system, and easy to deploy.

What about the implementation team?

We help our clients implement the solution.

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

Being embedded with Cisco is a matter of negotiation. Therefore, the pricing depends on the negotiation and if the client is a medium-sized company or a large company. It depends on the geography. We already see different pricing when we deploy in India when we deploy New Zealand or we deploy in the Nordics, in Europe, or even in Southern Europe. Prices are always different and depend on the local offices and how big the deal is. 

Pricing varies according to requirements, accessory services, and pure hardware. 

Markets are so hyper-competitive, and pricing is converging for all top providers. If you go to Fortinet, if you go to Palo Alto, it's not that you'll find prices that are so dramatically different. Everyone is completely aligned to compete. Differentiation is not on pricing. When you deploy a system like Cisco, the main selection criteria, is not pricing.

Today, even rich companies are very careful on pricing, however, companies are very mature in terms of structuring deals. The price of a system is very well-known in the market. All the differences are made by two essential elements. One is the ability of your sales team to penetrate within a company. Sales channels are making all the difference - not technology, not anything else. The second point is innovation and quality of accessory services delivered on top of the hardware. Hardware today is a given, is like code for a nice screen. Cisco is able to provide some hardware functions and firmware functions, however, all the difference is made by ancillary services, by additional service, by all the service that you build on the top of your products, and adding a very good success manager that is handling the deployment process and can guarantee that the client is extracting true business value from IT investments. People don't spend money to buy hardware, to buy networks. People spend money to execute their corporate functions in a very effective, efficient way, in a very secure way. They don't care about Cisco. They don't care about the firewall or the router. They need to deliver products and successful expediencies and services across the globe.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

What I'm looking for is for companies - and Cisco is among them - able to provide best-of-breed technologies to support both the network implementation side and the cybersecurity side. 

What other advice do I have?

Typically, we are technology agnostic, therefore, we can support clients in implementing systems, using different kinds of technologies. Among them is Cisco.

We tend to work with hybrid deployments as the major pain point for clients is to harmonize, to have public and private clouds working together. There is no distinction for clients between public and private. Typically, they call us to organize to a single pane of glass, where they can control all the cloud, their network activities in a very simple, seamless way. The difficulty today is exactly putting together to work a very diverse kind of hardware ecosystem ranging from Google Cloud or Amazon Cloud, Azure that is growing exponentially these days, and plus all the enterprise data center, and putting all these elements together.

Sometimes after mergers and acquisitions, we have to patch together pieces of hardware from different organizations that are not even compatible. For example, very recently, we supported the MNA integration of two different companies, and they were using two completely different systems. One was based on Cisco, the other one on Fortinet and Palo Alto, and was using lots of data. That is the problem today. Unifying all the settings, all the controls using a kind of centralized control and making sure that public and private clouds are working together in a very seamless fashion.

I'd rate the solution at a perfect ten out of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

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