Cisco, Microsoft team to route SD-WAN traffic over Azure backbone

Cisco and Microsoft took an existing SD-WAN partnership to the next level, collaborating to allow customers to sidestep the public internet and MPLS to send their Cisco SD-WAN traffic over the latter’s Azure cloud backbone. Jeevan Sharma, a senior manager of product management for Cisco SD-WAN and Cloud Networking, told Fierce the move reflects growing adoption of cloud infrastructure but insisted the solution isn’t designed to replace MPLS entirely.

Dubbed Cisco SD-WAN Cloud Hub, the product allows enterprise customers which have deployed the company’s SD-WAN fabric to leverage unused Azure backbone capacity for site-to-site IP transit. Sharma said traffic routed this way essentially travels through an encrypted tunnel, ensuring end-to-end security.

According to Sharma, the service’s primary benefit is that it eliminates the need for enterprises to hop on MPLS circuits or the public internet. This in turn provides speed and cost benefits.

“Today if you look at it, MPLS costs more because you have to provision this over long-haul circuits,” he explained. “It also takes time to provision such a circuit. So, if you bring up your sites in different parts of the world it will take time to sign the contracts and get a private MPLS circuit between those locations and then connect them. Using this integration we have built, we can pretty much bring up that connectivity within 30 minutes.”

Additionally, he noted the service uses a consumption-based model, where costs are determined by how much traffic is routed over the cloud backbone. That compares to the fixed costs associated with running MPLS circuits.

Cisco’s SD-WAN Cloud Hub already allowed traffic to flow over Google Cloud’s and Amazon Web Services’ respective backbones. Sharma stated the shift toward the cloud represents “a new trend, a new paradigm of connectivity that’s fast emerging.”

That said, he noted the cloud transport isn’t designed to replace MPLS entirely. “This just provides an option for the customer,” he said. Some enterprises might maintain an MPLS circuit for their primary connectivity and use the Cloud Hub as a backup while others might use the Cloud Hub as a placeholder until an MPLS circuit can be installed, he said.

“It’s just a matter of convenience,” Sharma concluded.