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What's the difference between Cisco SD-WAN vs Meraki SD-WAN?

What's the difference between Cisco SD-WAN vs Meraki SD-WAN?

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I tend to think of Cisco SD-WAN as more of a typical product from the 1990's. Of course this isn't the case but the product is really one of the last 'highly configurable' products left when compared to the majority of SD-WAN solutions. If I was to give you one take-away from this comparison article, it would be simply this: If you're a large Enterprise business, consider Cisco SD-WAN as a vendor which makes your shortlist. (I'll obviously quantify this statement)

As I've kind of alluded to, Cisco Viptela is a more granular and complex solution, which is better suited for large enterprises with complex networking requirements. The capability revolves around deep packet inspection, advanced routing, and sophisticated orchestration, making it highly configurable.

The use-cases include WAN optimization and application-aware routing, which ranks SaaS applications based on the optimum path determined by Viptela algorithms. Viptela is often viewed as a co-managed or fully managed solution due to complexity hence why finding there right parter is important.

Cisco SD-WAN centralised management using vManage, which can integrate with external systems such as provisioning transit gateways on AWS.

If Cisco SD-WAN is designed for complex Enterprise businesses, Cisco Meraki is ideal for standard requirements, particularly for branch office and remote user needs. Meraki is simpler and more user-friendly, often considered a DIY solution due to simple configuration policies which can be deployed in seconds.

Meraki provides a unified management platform that integrates various network operations such as SASE security, SD-WAN, Wi-Fi, and switching through a centralised web-based dashboard or API.

Meraki SD-WAN is recognised for features traffic shaping policy capability, AutoVPN technology for secure connectivity, and integrated security features. Meraki is also known for its cloud-based dashboard, which offers features like application performance indicators, user-focused application health, and wired and wireless WAN monitoring.

As of 2024 both Cisco SD-WAN solutions have integrated Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to provide additional enhancements. These integrations improve security and performance through automation, detecting and responding to threats and degradation issues in real time.

The capability across both solutions is clear, but it is also worth noting that the choice could be influenced by the existing infrastructure. For example, if a business has already invested in Meraki MX appliances or certain Cisco routers, it might be more cost-effective to choose Meraki or Viptela, respectively.

Cisco Meraki SD-WAN Features


Feature Benefit
Traffic Shaping Prioritises critical applications
AutoVPN Technology Secures VPN tunnel formation
Cloud Services Integration Facilitates access to AWS, Azure
Integrated Security Includes firewall, monitoring, and analytics

Cloud Integration: Customers gain access to cloud services such as AWS and Azure, courtesy of integrated capabilities. AutoVPN technology secures connectivity by forming concurrent VPN tunnels, which affords network managers granular control.

Integrated Security: Security features are inherent to the solution, including firewalls and real-time monitoring. The system is designed to support network managers in efficiently overseeing and resolving network concerns. Integration with Cisco Secure Connect offers connectivity to Secure Connect cloud regions, ensuring adaptable bandwidths.

Management Efficacy: With cloud management via the Meraki Cloud, network managers have access to settings that enable oversight of security appliances, data, and wireless LANs. Configuration settings are managed through the dashboard, highlighting Meraki’s commitment to streamlined IT management.

Performance Optimisation: The Meraki products allow network administrators to control network performance vis-à-vis user and application requirements, which stands as a testament to the system's efficacy in managing modern network demands.

Cisco Meraki SASE Cybersecurity Features

Cisco Meraki brings forth an integrated Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) framework, which combines networking solutions with security services into a consolidated cloud-native security approach. The Meraki SASE solution offers a suite of features designed to enhance security and control across an organisation's distributed network.

Security and Control: Users gain control over the network architecture through the Meraki dashboard, enabling them to configure and monitor security appliances effortlessly. The dashboard's organizational structure allows for the management of various security components centrally, reducing the operational complexity.

Comprehensive Security Suite: The cybersecurity functionalities encompass:

By deploying these technologies, businesses can ensure thorough protection against modern cyber threats.

Network and Security Convergence: This technology promotes enhanced threat monitoring and detection. It provisions robust security measures without the additional need for traditional VPN solutions. The convergence forms a resilient barrier against security threats in hybrid work environments.

Cloud Management and Mobility: Cisco Meraki provides a cloud management platform which permits users to administer security policies and gain visibility into network traffic. Mobile device management (MDM) grants further flexibility, ensuring secure access and control over corporate resources on mobile devices.

Community and Best Practices: The Meraki Community offers a platform for customers to engage in discussions regarding best practices, troubleshooting, and interaction with peers and experts. This exchange of information fosters improved security postures and development of more efficient cybersecurity strategies.

Businesses embracing Cisco Meraki SASE benefit from a myriad of cybersecurity enhancements, pivotal for maintaining strong security resilience and catering to the dynamic network demands of today's corporate environments.

Cisco Meraki SD-WAN Network Infrastructure

Cisco Meraki provides an integrated range of switches, wireless LAN solutions, and cellular network extensions. These elements form the pillar of a dependable and comprehensive infrastructure suitable for the demands of various organisations. One central web-based dashboard offers secure control over all network operations, enhancing the management process.

The security and SD-WAN appliances, core components of the Meraki offering, are designed to be interoperable with teleworker gateways, wireless access points, and cellular gateways. This ensures connectivity across different network touchpoints and supports network administrators in their quest for cohesive network design.

Meraki Platform Components Functionality
Security Appliances Security and SD-WAN functions, pivotal for SASE architecture
Switches Network foundation, facilitating connectivity and communication within the network
Wireless Access Points Enable wireless connectivity, critical for mobile devices and IoT applications
Cellular Gateways Provide cellular network extensions for continuous connectivity

The entire Meraki cloud architecture enables organisations to implement a multifunctional network with a strong focus on reliability. With an emphasis on cloud management, this approach assists in the efficient distribution of applications across the network. The Meraki platform not only addresses configuration and deployment requirements but also prioritises connectivity to support the sensors and devices that constitute the Internet of Things (IoT).

Consistent and reliable network experiences at scale are achievable with this unified Meraki platform, demonstrating the effectiveness of integrating various hardware components through a cloud management platform. This strategy offers a solid foundation for any tailored network configuration, accommodating the dynamic needs of today's business environment.

Questions surrounding network management and configuration are effectively managed through a Meraki cloudinterface, which provides visibility and control over all components of the infrastructure. This level of integration demonstrates the potential of these technologies in creating effective connectivity solutions for contemporary networks.

Meraki SD-WAN Endpoint Management and IoT

Cisco Meraki solutions facilitate remote monitoring and configuration of mobile devices, whilst offering visibility into environmental conditions via smart sensors. For network administrators, this translates to enhanced oversight and management of critical IT infrastructure.

Smart sensors, managed through the Meraki Dashboard, complement existing security and connectivity infrastructure. Administrators can oversee multiple switches and enforce configuration settings to maintain network integrity across an organisation's inventory. Implementing Cisco Meraki solutions allows for an integrated IoT strategy across a number of devices, including iOS and Android platforms.

The Meraki Dashboard serves as the centralised platform for configuring and managing Meraki devices. It provides cloud management capabilities that can be scaled across an entire organisation. Using cloud-managed access, employees can connect to the network securely, with network administrators able to adjust settings as per the required scale.

Through the Meraki Marketplace, a partner can provide applications and solutions that further enhance the functionality of the network. Administrators reap the benefits of having a variety of tools and solutions at their disposal, without requiring significant changes to network infrastructure. Verification of devices can be achieved by using order numbersor the Cisco Meraki device local status page.

For those seeking cellular network solutions, Meraki offers options that integrate with the primary infrastructure, delivering back-up connectivity and ensuring constant up-time. This strategic approach positions Meraki as a partner for organisations seeking a robust method to manage a diverse array of endpoints and IoT devices.

Cisco Meraki Smart Cameras

Cisco Meraki offers a suite of intelligent smart cameras designed for a multitude of environments, enhancing securitymeasures for various organisations. These devices facilitate high-definition video recording and are equipped to function both indoors and outdoors. Unique to the Meraki ecosystem, cloud management via the Meraki Dashboardgrants administrators effortless deployment and control over the devices.

With machine learning capabilities, these cameras excel in object detection, providing secure access control and contributing to an environment's safety. Administrators can view live and recorded footage securely, from any location and on any compatible device, through secure Wi-Fi connections. This flexibility promotes vigilant oversight of organisational touchpoints.

Data acquired from the cameras' analytics is directly accessible through the Meraki platform, ensuring that customer information remains protected while imparting valuable insights. The Meraki community stands as a resource for partners and administrators, offering know-how on leveraging the full potential of Meraki products.

The cameras serve as pivotal components in the broader Meraki ecosystem, interacting with other Meraki devices for comprehensive coverage. This technological synergy fosters an integrated security infrastructure for any customer.

Feature Description
Deployment Cloud-based, simplified setup
Video Quality High-definition, suitable for both indoor and outdoor use
Analytics Machine learning for object detection and access control
Accessibility Anytime, anywhere footage review via Wi-Fi-connected devices
User Support Continuous support through the Meraki community
Integration Compatibility with the Meraki ecosystem and other devices

Strategically, Cisco Meraki's approach addresses the critical security needs of modern organisations. Customers benefit from advanced technology without the burden of complex system management.

Cisco SD-WAN Architecture

Cisco SD-WAN architecture embodies the principles of software-defined networking (SDN) in the wide area network, catering to contemporary networks' sophisticated demands through a cloud-scale architecture. This architecture converges networking and security into a unified, comprehensive WAN edge platform that is open, secure, and programmable to facilitate rapid SD-WAN overlay fabric construction.

Planes of Operation: The solution operates across four distinct planes:

  • Data Plane: WAN Edge routers perform the traffic forwarding.
  • Control Plane: vSmart controllers maintain routing information and policy enforcement.
  • Management Plane: vManage provides automation and actionable insights for network monitoring.
  • Orchestration Plane: vBond ensures secure and scalable connection initiation across the fabric.

Overlay Management Protocol (OMP): OMP governs the overlay network, orchestrating exchanges of crucial control plane data that includes route prefixes, traffic management policies, and security keys, thus enabling a default full mesh topology.

High Availability and Resilience: Devices enjoy redundancies, with multiple vSmart controllers aiding control plane continuity and data plane redundancies fulfilled at multiple echelons including site and transport layers.

Performance Metrics Detection: WAN Edge routers utilise Bi-directional Forwarding Detection (BFD) to probe transport link performance, basing routing decisions on metrics such as latency, jitter, and loss.

Workflow and Deployment Efficiency: Deployment of WAN Edge routers is streamlined via configuration templates and Zero-Touch Provisioning, leading to swift establishment of control plane connections and secure IPSec tunnels for the WAN overlay.

Platform Diversity: The system supports diverse hardware and software platforms, ensuring compatibility with infrastructure components from branch to data centre or cloud environments.

Enhanced Cloud Connectivity: Capabilities to optimally interconnect with cloud applications are embedded within the architecture, facilitated by Cloud onRamp for both SaaS and IaaS, thus extending the network to the cloud from any site.

Embedded Security: This architecture is inherently secure, encompassing threat defence mechanisms within WAN Edge routers and integration with Cisco Umbrella for DNS security.

In essence, the Cisco SD-WAN architecture is a layered, distributed model designed for scalability and security, enabling efficient and secure WAN management and optimisation for a variety of applications and services.

Cisco SD-WAN Deployment Flexibility and Services

Cisco SD-WAN offers significant deployment versatility due to the architectural distinction between the control plane and the data plane. This distinction permits the deployment of control components either within a traditional data centre or distributed through cloud services. Deployment of Cisco's WAN Edge routers is notably adaptable, allowing for either physical or virtual installations throughout various network points.

Deployment commences with meticulous planning, especially critical for large-scale operations, followed by the deployment of Cisco SD-WAN controllers—with vBond, vSmart, and vManage needing proper certification and mutual authentication.

With respect to services, Cisco proposes a comprehensive suite encompassing network advisory, design, implementation, optimisation, as well as technical and managed services. These services aim to guide organisations through the transition and ongoing management of their SD-WAN infrastructure.

Key benefits of Cisco SD-WAN comprise improved user experiences and heightened operational agility, underpinned by a secure fabric from the WAN edge to the cloud. The solution supports rapid, consistent application delivery across multiple platforms. It also ensures secure user-to-application connectivity, safeguarding data across every touchpoint.

Endpoint adaptability is another crucial aspect, easing connectivity across branch networks. The unified WAN fabric facilitated by Cisco SD-WAN enables businesses to expand into multi-cloud environments, integrating with solutions like Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and various SaaS providers with relative ease.

The overall service and deployment model for Cisco SD-WAN emphasises the capability to scale and conform to an array of enterprise needs, catering to both on-premises and cloud-adjacent environments with a hybrid and multi-cloud approach. This versatility is critical for organisations operating in today's digitally transformative era.

Cisco SD-WAN Performance, Security, and Cloud Integration

Cisco SD-WAN enhances network performance by facilitating improved network visibility and application performance monitoring. The system supports a variety of transport methods such as broadband and MPLS, enabling optimal connectivity. Quality of Service (QoS) ensures that critical applications receive the bandwidth and low latency they require, enhancing overall network efficiency.

In terms of network security, Cisco SD-WAN provides encrypted communications and integrity checks, embracing a zero-trust security model. This model verifies that only authenticated devices can access the network. The integration with Cisco Umbrella enhances security further by adding another layer of threat protection, while automated integrations provide a zero-touch experience.

Cloud integration is a key aspect, with Cisco SD-WAN Cloud OnRamp automating connectivity between sites and cloud providers. This optimises the application experience over cloud backbone networks and provides the ability to automate the inclusion of public cloud infrastructure within the SD-WAN fabric. Multicloud capability is supported, enabling policy and security consistency across diverse environments.

The architecture offers advanced routing protocols, such as BGP and OSPF, which facilitate communication between the different network segments and improve route discovery. Cisco SD-WAN's analytical tools yield valuable data on WAN optimisation, with reporting capabilities that provide insights into network performance and user experience.

The platform also simplifies the deployment and management of VPN connections, ensuring secure access for remote and branch users. With UTM features, organisations benefit from a comprehensive security solution that reduces the complexity of managing separate point products.

Cisco SD-WAN Network Segmentation

Cisco SD-WAN offers network segmentation as a fundamental component, contributing to the isolation and protection of vital assets within an organisation's network. By employing Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), Cisco SD-WAN enables segregation at Layer 3, akin to Virtual Routing and Forwarding (VRF) instances present in conventional network designs.

The segmentation at the edge of a router within the Cisco SD-WAN overlay network utilises identifiers within packets to maintain separation of distinct sections. Each VPN bears a unique label, facilitating the discrete propagation of routing data while ensuring segment isolation.

Feature Detail
Scope of Segmentation Expansive, with support for numerous VRF instances
Layer 3 Security Embedded; Extends to Layer 7 with direct cloud security per tenant
Granular Control Each VPN permits customised topologies
Release Enhancements Prior releases supported 300 VRFs, increased support for up to 2,000 VRFs in the network

In terms of security, Cisco SD-WAN's segmentation transcends merely segregating traffic; it aims to augment safety mechanisms throughout the network. The approach offers an extensive security protocol from Layer 3 through to Layer 7, incorporating direct cloud security for each tenant within a segment, thereby establishing secure segmentation at scale to tackle contemporary cyber threats.

The architectural design of Cisco SD-WAN's segmentation is crafted for manageable yet expansive topologies, catering to various configurations per VPN, encompassing full-mesh, partial-mesh, hub-and-spoke, and point-to-point. Such adaptability in segmentation conveys Cisco's commitment to secure, redundant, and efficient management of network resources, promoting optimal data flow within the SD-WAN infrastructure and extending to branch office networking.

Cisco SD-WAN Scalability and Operational Efficiency

Within the sphere of enterprise networking, Cisco SD-WAN stands out with its capability to facilitate extensive network segmentation via Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). This enables secure, efficient separation of critical assets across an enterprise's network infrastructure.

Network segmentation occurs at the edge of the routers, carrying identifiers for each distinct segment. Cisco's model allows for a substantial number of VPNs, currently enabling support for increased numbers of Virtual Routing and Forwarding (VRF) instances, signalling a significant advancement in scalability.

Key to Cisco SD-WAN scalability:

  • VPN Support: Expanded from 300 to 2,000 VRFs in the overlay network, and up to 500 VRFs for a single device.
  • Topologies: Diverse topologies for VPNs, including full-mesh, partial-mesh, hub-and-spoke, and point-to-point.

The network management system prioritises not just scalability, but also comprehensive security ranging from Layer 3 to Layer 7. These security measures include direct cloud security integration, which is imperative for thwarting contemporary cyber threats.

Regarding operational efficiency, Cisco SD-WAN employs automation to enhance productivity. This includes dynamic path selection for optimal data routing, and integration with features designed to simplify network operations, such as the Cisco vManage console.

Key to Cisco SD-WAN operational efficiency:

  • Automation: Simplifies the provisioning and ongoing management of SD-WAN.
  • Dynamic Path Selection: Ensures efficient routing based on current network conditions.
  • Cisco vManage: Centralised network management tool offering unparalleled control.

Cisco SD-WAN provides organisations with the tools required to manage networking demands effectively, while also supporting an extensive range of WAN connections and broadband circuits. This ensures that scalability and operational efficiency go hand in hand, setting a benchmark for the management of complex network architectures.

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