Cisco, Masergy Target SD-WAN, Remote Access


By: Mary Jander

Two approaches to the trend toward remote work were evident in recent software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) announcements from Masergy and Cisco (CSCO).

First up was Masergy, which on October 13 announced SD-WAN Work from Anywhere, a series of solutions aimed at remote and work from home (WFH) users. Included in the release is SD-WAN Secure Home, available now, which uses a device from Fortinet (FTNT) to give home users firewall, routing, and edge connectivity to SD-WAN via their standard Internet service connections.

A second solution called SD-WAN On the Go uses a software client to establish VPN and IPsec connections over corporate SD-WAN links. It’s set for release in November 2020.

Meanwhile, Cisco today unveiled a new series of edge devices intended as upgrades to its ISR and ASR routers. The Catalyst 8000 Edge Platforms deploy an intent-based networking (IBN) design, which uses analytics to identify trouble spots and boost management. The Catalyst 8500 is meant for data centers or colocation/aggregation sites. It features 40- and 100-Gbit’s Ethernet in a single rack unit and is based on Cisco’s ASICs.

The Catalyst 8300 handles branch sites. Various blades and modules add a range of compute, storage, and connectivity options, including a plug-in module for 5G. A Catalyst 8000V is available that delivers the 8500 capabilities in software for cloud deployments. And a Catalyst Cellular Gateway provisions remote sites with wireless SD-WAN links.

The SD-WAN Branch Office Trends Homeward

Both Masergy and Cisco are joining a party that’s been picking up momentum throughout the year. According to Futuriom’s 2020 SD-WAN Growth Report, the push toward WFH and remote work has boosted SD-WAN’s virtual private network (VPN) functionality and created a market for advanced branch solutions, whether for remote sites or homes.

When it comes to addressing WFH users with kit for the cottage, a number of vendors have rushed into this space. Citrix (CTXS), VMware (VMW), Versa Networks, as well as Aryaka, Nokia’s Nuage Networks, and others offer SD-WAN for the home. Barracuda Networks recently announced that it’s implemented its SD-WAN as a virtual appliance in Microsoft Azure Virtual WAN hubs for remote access.

In services, AT&T (T) offers SD-WAN for home users, and others, including Colt Technology (COLT) and Comcast (CMCSA) are reportedly evaluating similar offerings.

Masergy may have hit on a key differentiator in basing its product on Fortinet’s security and SD-WAN support, which has been a successful combination for that vendor. Pricing may also be a factor. In many instances, home equipment for SD-WAN is a several hundred-dollar proposition. Masergy says a base offer for SD-WAN Secure Home, including a FortiGate FG-40F with WiFi only and no unified threat management, starts at a list price of $250 per site. Clearly, options are going to be added, but the starting price sounds fairly low.

Cisco: Getting with Remote

Cisco’s latest release follows a similar path to that of its chief rivals — namely, building out software and de-emphasizing hardware, all with an eye to the edge and beyond. Juniper Networks (JNPR), for instance, just announced it will buy startup 128 Technology in order to make its SD-WAN software more lightweight and friendly to users — including home users.

Cisco has been among those vendors most affected by the WFH market. But whether the company recognizes the opportunities in WFH is a question.

While Cisco's well documented identity crisis appears to grind on, the company has been recently hit with a humiliating and enormous patent-infringement penalty, which could add further distractions.

Both Masergy's and Cisco's announcements, though, show that SD-WAN's path is getting closer to the end user. And given the current trends, that means closer to home.