Google and Cisco extend SD-WAN, cloud network-management integration

Column:Industry News Time:2021-03-23
Cisco has integrated its SD-WAN technology with Google's Network Connectivity Center, a new management platform designed to simplify on-prem and cloud networking.

Cisco has integrated its SD-WAN technology with Google's Network Connectivity Center, a new management platform designed to simplify on-prem and cloud networking.

Google and Cisco have extended their technology development relationship to make it easier to marry cloud-based resources with SD-WAN command and control.

The expanded technology agreement is centered around a cloud-based network-management system Google rolled out this week that promises to let customers configure and manage multiple on-prem- and public-cloud networks. The new service, called Network Connectivity Center, offers a central console for connecting and watching over multiple networking aspects, including traffic flows, performance metrics, and VPN connectivity.

"Network Connectivity Center delivers a unified connectivity experience by allowing enterprises to use Google's global infrastructure, leveraging new or existing partners and dedicated interconnects, Cloud VPN connections, and third-party routers/SD-WAN to transfer data reliably across on-premises sites and cloud resources," wrote Rohith Ramkumar, product manager, cloud networking with Google Cloud, in a blog about the news.

Cisco will tie into Google's Network Connectivity Center to integrate SD-WAN access and control in two ways. First, the companies will deliver the SD-WAN site-to-cloud package they have been developing for about a year.

That jointly developed platform, called Cisco SD-WAN Cloud Hub with Google Cloud, combines Cisco's SD-WAN policy-, telemetry- and security-setting capabilities with Google's software-defined backbone to ensure that application service-level agreement, security and compliance policies are extended across the network to Google Cloud resources.

The combination yields a number of capabilities. For example, applications will be able to dynamically request the required network resources by publishing application data in Google Cloud Service Directory. The network will be able to use this data to provision itself for the appropriate SD-WAN policies, according to Cisco.

In addition, a business-critical application that needs low latency would have that requirement listed in its Google Cloud Service Directory entry. The appropriate SD-WAN policies would then be applied on the network. Likewise, as Cisco's SD-WAN controller, vManage, monitors network performance and service health metrics, it could intelligently direct user requests to the most optimal cloud service nodes, Cisco stated.

The platform also has the ability to divert traffic automatically to more highly available or better performing links should latency-sensitive applications require it. With network reachability metrics from Cisco SD-WAN, Google Anthos can make real-time decisions to divert traffic to regions with better network reachability, Cisco stated.

"By using Cisco SD-WAN Cloud Hub with Google Cloud Network Connectivity Center, you have the choice to connect these sites together using Google Cloud's global network, with a unified policy-driven, cloud-scale SD-WAN fabric," wrote JL Valente, vice president, product management, for Cisco enterprise routing, SD-WAN and cloud networking, in a blog about the announcement.

Remote-site connectivity
The second part of the Cisco-Google Network Connectivity Center integration will let customers tie together remote sites using Google's global cloud infrastructure as the backbone.

Customers can set SD-WAN policies in Cisco vManage to define which traffic should go through Google's network and which should go through their existing network, Valente stated. "The intelligent provisioning of this site-to-site connectivity is done by using the simple and intuitive automation offered by Cisco SD-WAN Cloud OnRamp."

SD-WAN Cloud OnRamp is part of Cisco's overarching SD-WAN software package, and it allows customers to set secure tunnels to SaaS application platforms, multi-cloud platform services, and enterprise data-center resources.

The idea is to give customers the choice of using Google Cloud for providing a highly reliable, high-performance global cloud network for site-to-site connectivity that can simplify the overall infrastructure and be deployed in minutes, Valente stated.

Easing enterprise cloud connectivity is a growing trend that vendors are rushing to address, experts say.

"Because many workloads are shifting to cloud and SaaS–Office 365 is the tipping point for many customers–it no longer makes sense to replace the legacy hub-and-spoke WAN routers with just new SD-WAN routers," said Neil Anderson, senior director of network solutions at World Wide Technology, a technology and supply chain services provider. "We advise customers to take a look at where their users are, where their applications are now and in the future, and architect the interconnection fabric that gives users the best experience."

As customers adopt SD-WAN and internet circuits, moving away from MPLS networks, they could be missing a piece of the puzzle, especially in multi-regional or global networks. The MPLS services are highly interconnected, so if you go from one to another, you get a fairly predictable path, Anderson said.

"When you go with internet circuits, the ISPs are less interconnected and have less predictable paths. For example, you could experience multiple hops and latency as well as some reliability concerns if your branch location is in the western US and your data center is in eastern US, or worse, your branches are in [Asia-Pacific regions] and data center is in the U.S."

One way customers can resolve that is to build their own global backbone where their own network spans their properties and provides a more predictable path. "Building out global PoPs in colo data centers and interconnecting them with fiber services you acquire is not for the timid," Anderson said.

To make it much easier, new services are emerging for software-defined global backbones. Essentially, an enterprise can connect its SD-WAN into the nearest PoP/node and ride the backbone to its other sites or to its data centers. These services are offered by the major cloud service providers, including Azure and now Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

"The unique thing about the GCP/Cisco offer is they've made it super easy to turn on. With just a couple clicks in Cisco vManage, you can interconnect your SD-WAN across GCP's global backbone – no provisioning necessary in GCP. Cisco and GCP have done some pretty cool automation there. You can create a global SD-WAN fabric without leaving your desk," Anderson said.

"The side benefit of doing so is your branch sites can 'on ramp' at the nearest GCP PoP, and if traffic is destined to other cloud services like AWS, Azure, or SaaS like Webex and O365 – they have a fast path to those cloud-to-cloud as well," Anderson said.

Now that Cisco has integrated its SD-WAN technology with Google's Network Connectivity Center, Google said it expects other connectivity partners will support it in the future.