AT&T broadens its SD-WAN reach with Cisco for better security across branches and cloud

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AT&T expands its SD-WAN portfolio by working with Cisco to offer businesses better security capabilities. (Getty Images)

With workforces becoming more distributed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, AT&T is serving up more security and better cloud support with a new SD-WAN service based on Cisco Secure SD-WAN technology.  

The new SD-WAN solution, which is based on Cisco's Viptela technology, offers Cisco's security capabilities across branches, cloud connections and data centers. AT&T's Rupesh Chokshi, assistant vice president, edge solutions product marketing management, said the new flavor of SD-WAN covers the full market spectrum for enterprises, mid-market organizations and small-to-medium businesses.

"We are seeing a lot of growth in the market place with SD-WAN, both in terms of pre-pandemic and post-pandemic." Chokshi said in an interview with FierceTelecom. "Some of the use cases have changed post-pandemic in terms of how the workforce has been distributed to working from home and how organizations are looking at their operating environments going forward.

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"We do see the ongoing trends in terms of more and more network optimization, network modernization, and intelligent networking to deliver to the customer business outcomes. We're very excited to deepen our relationships with Cisco. We're able to bring very robust underlay/overlay capabilities, as well as a managed SD-WAN solution, for our customers globally."

AT&T's new SD-WAN offering, which has been deployed by some of its customers, includes a reset of sorts to the hardware and software devices from Cisco. The hardware devices include Cisco's ISR and ASR routers as well as Cisco's ENCS white boxes.

RELATED: AT&T adds more VNFs for businesses with Cisco's ENCS

About a year ago, AT&T expanded its Edge Solutions portfolio with Cisco's 5000 Series Enterprise Network Compute System (ENCS) in order to offer its business customers more virtualized network functions (VNF) choices.

The new SD-WAN offering includes Cisco's IOS XE operating system, integrated security features through Cisco's Umbrella, and application-aware firewall protection. It also has a single-cloud-based dashboard, intrusion prevention, URL filtering, and malware protection.

AT&T Managed Services is working with AT&T Cybersecurity to support and manage the new SD-WAN service by using Cisco's vManage controller for a single management interface for both the network and security.

"We have integrated elements of Wi-Fi, 5G readiness, backhaul and other elements," said Cisco's JL Valente, vice president of product management, managed services, intent-based networking group. "That's really part of the evolution of offerings that we actually bring to market with AT&T. So leveraging all the capabilities that we have today for cloud networking and security, but also in the context of a branch office becoming more of a home office.

"It also includes bringing some of the capabilities for security purposes in the context of SASE applications and cloud applications."

RELATED: Cisco gets SASE with its latest SD-WAN software update

During last month's virtual Cisco Live event, Cisco announced it had integrated the secure access service edge (SASE) model across its latest SD-WAN software release and other parts of its portfolio. Last year Gartner analysts coined the SASE term and positioned it as the unification of enterprise access security initiatives and WAN networking platforms, including SD-WAN.

With the 17.2 software release, Cisco blended its Cisco Umbrella Cloud Security portfolio, which includes Cisco's secure internet gateway, with its Viptela-based SD-WAN offering.

Among other SD-WAN vendors, AT&T has deployed VMware's VeloCloud SD-WAN solution. Like Cisco, VMware recently made a point of touting its integration of SASE across its portfolio, including SD-WAN.

Chokshi said AT&T's new managed SD-WAN servcie can deliver some of the same capabilities to branches and small home offices, and that AT&T and Cisco were working to further expand the solution for distributed workforces. Chokshi said some of the verticals that have expressed interest in the new managed SD-WAN service include retail, healthcare and financial services.

Pandemic changes the game for enterprises

While there was initial concern that the coronavirus pandemic would slow down enterprises and other organizations' business decision processes, Chokshi said the reverse was actually true.

"From our perspective, we are seeing strong interest and demand from the enterprise customers to modernize and transform their networks and SD-WAN is a big element of that," he said. "We are seeing more demand than ever before. We've closed a lot of deals over the last 30, 60, 90 days. So the momentum is strong."

With distributed workforces, curbside pickups and more e-commerce offerings, workloads have changed due to the pandemic. But SD-WAN and AT&T's underlay/overlay network has given customers the ability to modernize and transform their businesses at an accelerated clip, according to Chokshi.

Going forward, Cisco's Valente sees more SASE-based applications and security features for SD-WAN. With more applications moving to the cloud, he said there would be an evolution towards multi-cloud support as the applications get more sophisticated. That evolution, which would go beyond branch-to-cloud or office-to-cloud, could include part of an application running in a public cloud while another part runs in a private cloud.

"We're seeing strong growth, strong demand," AT&T's Chokshi said. "Depending upon what research you look at, the CAGR over the next three to five years is anywhere from 30% to 40% to 50% growth for SD-WAN.

"We believe there's a lot of transformation that has yet to be take place, and this is happening at a global scale. Over the next two to three years, we're going to see strong demand."

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