Twenty-first century networking

It seems like a simple idea. All you want is to get the network to do what you intend it to. Nothing more, nothing less. But in today’s world, there are so many factors when it comes to networking: more users, more devices, security concerns, various domains, distributed applications, cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), 5G, IoT — the list goes on and on.

Cisco’s SD-WAN can help you. It transforms a legacy manual network into a software-defined overlay that helps both automate deployment and management and provides more intelligence with policies for path selection to improve user experience. Those policies are then applied consistently across the network, a network that now uses insights and automation to continuously monitor and adjust network performance to meet your business intent. Think of it as a continual feedback loop of incremental improvement.

Building upon the connectivity of SD-WAN, secure access service edge (SASE) is an architecture that combines connectivity and security. Coined by Gartner in 2019, SASE unifies SD-WAN networking and security services into a cloud-delivered architecture to provide access and security from edge to edge — including the data center, remote offices, roaming users, and beyond.

Is your wide area network underpinned by a 1000 Series ISR? Are you running 4000 Series ISRs? Do you have a few ASR 1000 Series units? Did you have a Cisco ONE license? Did you recently renew your Software Support Service (SWSS) on those devices? Consider this: the Cisco routing devices you currently have in your wide area network may already hold your ticket to entry into the world of SD-WAN and SASE.

Tesla Driver Console
Figure 1. Tesla Driver Console

You don’t need a forklift

“How can that be?” you may be wondering. The answer lies in the magic of software.

Think of it this way. In the past, if you wanted to upgrade the performance of a car, you had to swap out hard parts. Camshafts. Differentials. Transmissions. Engines.

Today, many cars just need a software update to the engine control module (ECM). Dinan for BMW. Cobb Tuning for Mitsubishi. And of course, Tesla and its downloadable software updates to unlock the high-performance “Ludicrous Mode.”

Not a car buff? Then how about mobile phones? Same hardware, but new Android or iOS software with added functionality. For example, the iPhone 6S came out in September 2015 running iOS 9. Six years and an equal number of major software releases later (iOS 15.2 was released on December 13, 2021), the iPhone 6S can be still upgraded to iOS 15.2.

Why shouldn’t it be the same for networking hardware? Upgrade the software and enjoy new functionality on your old hardware. Did you know that your Cisco routers are also software-based? This may enable you to migrate from traditional routing to SD-WAN with the hardware you have today. You may even have the Cisco DNA software entitlement already and not know it!

Cisco Router Families
Figure 2. Cisco Router Families

Where the bytes meet the copper

You likely have some or all of the three product families shown above (the ISR 1000 Series, the ISR 4000 Series, and the ASR 1000 Series) supporting your traditional routing network. And they have undoubtedly been doing an exemplary job. But those devices are capable of so much more. In fact, these models can be upgraded to our latest software for routers: Cisco IOS XE SD-WAN. With this new software they can handle your changing traffic pattern: the tsunami of traffic headed to new cloud services and software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications in public clouds and the internet.

Cisco makes this upgrade easy with an SD-WAN conversion tool that greatly facilitates migrating from traditional routing to SD-WAN. This tool analyzes your current router configuration and automatically creates a new router configuration for SD-WAN. Not only does this save countless hours of work, but it also guarantees consistency in the configuration of each branch router. You can even automate the software installation with Cisco vManage zero-touch upgrading.

All it takes to unlock these nascent capabilities is Cisco DNA Software for SD-WAN and Routing. Three subscription tiers are available: Essentials, Advantage, and Premier. Each is aligned to the degree of enhancement network managers need in SD-WAN security, management, and automation. Every Cisco DNA Software for SD-WAN and Routing subscription also includes a perpetual license that covers all aspects of traditional routing, a license that never expires.

Cisco Subscription Licensing for SD-WAN
Figure 3. Cisco Subscription Licensing for SD-WAN

For those of you looking to continue your journey with SD-WAN into the world of SASE, Cisco provides all the core building blocks of a SASE architecture and Cisco DNA Premier is your tier. Once in place, you can layer on Cisco Umbrella for security, Cisco Duo for zero-trust network access, and Cisco ThousandEyes for internet and cloud visibility. This combination of best-in-class networking, connectivity, security, and extended visibility capabilities helps you deliver an exceptional user experience across a distributed IT landscape. 

You don’t want to miss out!

If you recently upgraded your Cisco SWSS for your routers, you may not have noticed that Cisco DNA Essentials for SD-WAN and Routing are included. This means that initiating the jump into SD-WAN may be a no-cost endeavor for you. You really do owe it to yourself to at least explore the possibility of migrating over to SD-WAN to avail yourself of its benefits, especially if you already own the license to enjoy it.

And finally, don’t let that subscription lapse. The traditional routing perpetual license is nice to have, but there are two things you need to be aware of with that license. First, any network management you enjoy through Cisco DNA Center is contingent upon a valid Cisco DNA license. And second, you will lose the entitlement to use any SD-WAN functionality should the subscription license expire.

Let’s get started!

It really is that simple. A Cisco router software upgrade can deliver SD-WAN today to modernize your network and put you on the path to SASE whenever you’re ready.

Get started today by downloading the

Migration to Cisco SD-WAN Quick Start Guide


VIDEO:  Cisco DNA Software for Routing – How to upgrade to SD-WAN


Additional resources:

SD-WAN and Routing Feature Matrix

SD-WAN and Routing Subscription FAQ

SD-WAN and Routing Ordering Guide

Contact Cisco




Brian Loftus

Product Marketing Manager

Enterprise Networking & Mobility