Posted on behalf of contributing author: Robin James
Robin James is a Product Manager at Cisco Systems Inc., focusing on WAN solutions for enterprise networks. In his role, he is responsible for driving customer adoption of Cisco’s SD-WAN solution and leading technical discussions with enterprises on cloud networking and specifically SaaS connectivity strategies. Before joining this role, he worked as a Technical Leader with the startup Viptela which was acquired by Cisco.
As more applications move to the cloud, the traditional approach of backhauling traffic over expensive WAN circuits to the data center or a centralized Internet gateway via a hub-and-spoke architecture is no longer relevant. Traditional WAN infrastructure was not designed for accessing applications in the cloud. It is expensive and introduces unnecessary latency that degrades the user experience. The scale-up effect of the centralized network egress model coupled with perimeter stacks optimized to handle conventional Internet browsing often pose bottlenecks and capacity ceilings, which can hinder or bring to a stall customer transition to the SaaS cloud.
As enterprises aggressively adopt SaaS applications such as Office 365, the legacy network architecture poses major problems related to complexity and user experience. In many cases, network administrators have minimal visibility into the network performance characteristics between the end user and software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications. ‘One size fits all’ approach focusing on perimeter security without application awareness, which legacy network architectures often have, do not allow enterprises to differentiate and optimize sanctioned and more trusted cloud business applications from recreational Internet use, resulting the former to be subject to expensive and intrusive security scanning further slowing down user experience.
Massive transformations are occurring in enterprise networking as network architects are reevaluating the design of their WANs to support a cloud transition, reduce network costs, increase visibility and manageability of their cloud traffic, while ensuring an excellent user experience. These architects are turning to software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) to take advantage of inexpensive broadband Internet services and to find ways to intelligently route trusted SaaS cloud bound traffic directly from remote branches. Cisco SD-WAN fabric is an industry-leading platform that delivers an elegant and simplified secure, end-to-end hybrid WAN solution that can facilitate policy based, local and direct connectivity from users to your trusted, mission critical SaaS applications, such as Office 365, straight from your branch office. Enterprises can use this fabric to build large-scale SD-WAN networks that have advanced routing, segmentation, and security capabilities with zero-touch bring-up, centralized orchestration, visibility and policy control. The result is a SaaS cloud-ready network that is easy to manage and more cost-efficient to operationalize and that empowers enterprises to deliver on their business objectives.
A fundamental tenet of the Cisco SD-WAN fabric is connecting users at the branch to applications in the cloud in a seamless, secure, and reliable fashion. Cisco delivers this comprehensive capability for SaaS applications with the Cloud onRamp for SaaS solution in alignment with Microsoft’s connectivity principles for Office 365 (aka.ms/pnc).
With Cloud OnRamp for SaaS, the SD-WAN fabric continuously measures the performance of a designated SaaS application through all permissible paths from a branch and assign a score. This score gives network administrators visibility into application performance that has never before been available. Most importantly, the fabric automatically makes real-time decisions to choose the best-performing path between the end users at a remote branch and the cloud SaaS application. Enterprises have the flexibility to deploy this capability in multiple ways, according to their business needs and security requirements.
In some deployments, enterprises connect remote branches to the SD-WAN fabric using inexpensive broadband Internet circuits, and they want to apply differentiated security policies depending on the type of services users are connecting to. For example, instead of sending all branch traffic to a secure web gateway (SWG) or cloud access security broker (CASB), an enterprise may wish to enforce their IT security policies in a targeted manner – by routing regular Internet traffic through SWG, while allowing performance optimal direct connectivity for a limited set of sanctioned and trusted SaaS applications, such as Office 365. In such scenarios, Cloud onRamp for SaaS can be set up to dynamically choose the optimal path among multiple ISPs for both applications permitted to go directly and for applications routable per enterprise policy through SWG.
If you’re attending Microsoft Ignite in Orlando next week, make sure to visit Cisco at booth #418. I’d love to show you how to improve your Office 365 connectivity and user experience using Cisco SD-WAN.
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