Today, I am pleased to announce that we will be showcasing the  Cisco Intelligent WAN (IWAN) Application for the APIC-EM controller with early adopter customers at Cisco Live San Diego next week. For those of you familiar with Cisco’s SDN solutions, the APIC-EM builds on Cisco’s ACI architecture to extend Software Defined Networking from the Data Center to the WAN and Access areas of your network.

Before diving into the IWAN App, you might be wondering what is “Software Defined Networking for the WAN” or “SD-WAN” is. The simple answer is that the same benefits that SDN brings to the Data Center can be applied to the Wide Area Network. SDN for the WAN is all about moving from feature by feature configuration to policy and intent driven management. Benefits achieved include reduced costs to operate the WAN and optimize bandwidth. It’s about improving your application experience, enabling digital experiences in your remote branches, and enabling you to move to cloud based applications without giving up on application performance. Finally, it’s about WAN resiliency. Crucially, you must achieve all of this while maintaining end-to-end security and this requires enhancing security capabilities.

Sounds like a lot? It is, and that’s why we (and most of the industry) are so excited about the changes happening in the WAN. To boil it down, as I talk to customers about evolving their WAN architecture to meet the growing bandwidth and performance demands generated by mobile devices, digital stores, cloud based applications, and IoT sensors – to name a few – customers are focused on a short list of business outcomes:

  • Greater business agility with faster application delivery
  • Reducing costs with simplified operations and management
  • Improving business continuity with high availability and resiliency

If these business outcomes sound familiar it is because we are addressing them today with our Intelligent WAN Solution (IWAN) and have been talking about them for the past few years. What’s unique about Cisco is that we have built IWAN to be integrated with our industry leading ISR and ASR 1000 routers while many others have chosen to go with a pure overlay. By combining the strengths of IOS XE software with rock solid hardware to provide detailed visibility across all layers of the network, the Cisco IWAN solution has a much more intimate understanding of network conditions and can make better and faster decisions about how to direct traffic over the WAN. IWAN also retains all of the inherent resiliency, security, and self-healing aspects that routing protocols were developed to provide. Combine this with Cisco’s industry-leading security portfolio as well as our end-to-end vision for policy based infrastructure (ACI) and we have a solution is pretty hard to beat.

While we’ve been refining these technologies for some time, with the new IWAN Application, Cisco offers a simple interface for automation and orchestration when managing your branch infrastructure. When combined, the rich application and security services of the Cisco Integrated Services Routers (ISR) and the simplified management and operations of the IWAN Application deliver an SD-WAN solution and much more for our customers.

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SD-WAN is still an emerging technology and as vendors continue to innovate the definition will continue to evolve but for the time being a good source of information is the Open Networking User Group (ONUG). Within ONUG there is an SD-WAN working group, which has defined ten business requirements for an SD-WAN solution. ONUG recently invited vendors to test their solution against these ten requirements and Cisco’s Intelligent WAN solution passed all tests as expected. You can learn more about the ten requirements in this blog.

So what exactly does the IWAN Application do? The IWAN Application simplifies WAN deployments by providing a highly intuitive, policy based interface that helps IT abstract network complexity and design for business intent. Business policies are automatically translated into network policies that are propagated across the network. Some of the key features include:

  • Automated SD WAN orchestration
  • Centralized hybrid WAN management
  • Plug and play
  • Centralized business policy administration
  • Network wide visibility and segmentation
  • CVD based IWAN deployment workflows


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For those of you with Cisco ISR 4000 routers or the virtual CSR 1000V the solution to meeting your business goals is right in front of you. With the addition of APIC-EM and the IWAN Application you can have an SD-WAN solution and much more without replacing your existing routers or adding more devices to your branch offices. Get started today and learn more about the IWAN Application by clicking here.

If you are not convinced that Cisco Intelligent WAN is for you, look out for more blog posts as we explore in detail what questions you should be asking as you evolve your WAN architecture to an SD-WAN.


Jason Rolleston

Sr. Director of Product Management

Cisco's Connected Mobile Experience (CMX)