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Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN Solution

 2023/09/10   IT & Cyber-Security Solutions   677 visit(s)  8 min to read




In a significant development, the Cisco SD-WAN solution is officially rebranded as Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN. This transformation represents a major step towards simplification and consistency in networking solutions.

Additionally, starting from Cisco IOS XE SD-WAN Release 17.12.1a and Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN Release 20.12.1, Cisco is introducing important component changes:

* Cisco vManage becomes "Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN Manager.

* Cisco vAnalytics becomes "Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN Analytics.

* Cisco vBond becomes "Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN Validator.

* Cisco vSmart becomes "Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN Controller.

These changes are designed to enhance your network management experience, providing a seamless and unified approach to networking.

For a comprehensive list of all component brand name changes, refer to Cisco's latest Release Notes.


The Necessity for Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN Solution

Traditional networking technology has grown progressively expensive and intricate, proving inadequate to meet the demands of contemporary multisite enterprises. Enter the Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN Solution, a software-based, streamlined solution built upon the bedrock of time-tested networking components. It not only curtails the operational costs of enterprise networks but also furnishes uncomplicated tools for simplifying the provisioning and management of intricate networks sprawled across various locations and geographies. Embedded within the Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN Solution are inherent authentication and security mechanisms that safeguard the network and the confidentiality of its data traffic.

The Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN Solution signifies a transformation in networking, transitioning from an aging hardware-centric model to a secure, software-based, virtual IP framework. This Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN fabric, often referred to as an overlay network, establishes a software overlay atop standard network transport services, including public Internet, MPLS, and broadband. Furthermore, this overlay network supports advanced software services, hastening the transition to cloud-based networking.

  • Challenges in Conventional Network Design Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN Solution:

 Challenges in Conventional Network Design The conventional approach to network design grapples with incompatibility with contemporary requirements for four key reasons:

  1. Cost: Legacy networks rely on costly hardware like routers and switches, necessitating time-intensive setup and upkeep. Additionally, these networks mandate pricey transport connections or carrier circuits for network segmentation and security.
  2. Complexity: Legacy networks adhere to the antiquated model of a distributed control plane, demanding configuration of routing and security rules for each network node. Managing remote sites, implementing change control, and maintaining the network pose significant logistical hurdles.
  3. Lengthy Deployment: Legacy networks dependent on dedicated carrier circuits are at the mercy of carriers for circuit installation, often resulting in several months' delay for new branch location launches.
  4. Limited Control: Networks relying on carrier circuits cede control to ISPs, from design to configuration to monitoring. Requesting changes from the ISP is a protracted process prone to communication errors.

The cost and complexity issues intensify for legacy networks when faced with contemporary demands such as stringent end-to-end security, disparate transport networks, high-bandwidth cloud applications hosted across multiple data centers, a growing number of mobile end users, any-to-any connectivity over dynamic topologies, and unique business-specific requirements.

  • Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN Solution:

 The Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN Solution represents a Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN), underpinned by the same routing principles that facilitated the Internet's scalability in the 1990s and 2000s. What sets apart Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN from other SD-WAN solutions is its reimagination of the WAN for the new era of enterprise networks. It decouples the data plane from the control plane and virtualizes much of the routing that formerly necessitated dedicated hardware.

The virtualized network operates as an overlay atop cost-effective hardware, whether physical routers or virtual devices. Centralized controllers, referred to as Cisco SD-WAN Validators, efficiently manage provisioning, maintenance, and security across the entire Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN overlay network's control plane. Additionally, the Cisco SD-WAN Validator automatically authenticates all other Cisco vEdge devices upon their integration into the Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN overlay network.




This allocation of tasks enables each networking layer to concentrate on its specialized functions. The control plane takes charge of managing traffic routing rules within the overlay network, while the data plane handles the actual transmission of data packets among network devices. Together, the control plane and data plane create a flexible and robust framework that you can customize according to your requirements and timeline, all while utilizing existing circuits.

Cisco SD-WAN Manager offers a user-friendly yet potent set of visual dashboards to monitor network performance across all devices within the overlay network, all from a centralized monitoring hub. Additionally, Cisco SD-WAN Manager facilitates centralized tasks like software installation, upgrades, and provisioning, whether it's for a single device or a simultaneous operation involving multiple devices.

Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN is exceptionally well-suited to the demands of cloud-based networking. Its virtual IP fabric supports software services that streamline and enhance cloud networking, enabling you to fully harness the capabilities of the overlay network for individual cloud applications.


The Virtual IP Fabric

The complexity inherent in traditional enterprise networks arises from three primary sources:

  1. Lack of Clear Separation: These networks lack a clear demarcation between the entities responsible for data traffic exchange and the transport network that binds them together. In essence, there is no distinct segregation between hosts, devices, and servers on the service side of the network and the connections between routers on the transport side of the network.
  2. Embedded Policy and Control Decisions: Policy and control decisions are integrated at every node across the enterprise network, adding layers of complexity to network management.
  3. Manual Security Processes: Security measures are time-consuming and often manual, requiring implementation at each network node or reliance on centralized security servers to handle group keys.

Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN employs established networking components in innovative ways to construct a secure virtual IP fabric. These networking elements encompass:

  • Leveraging routing and routing advertisements to establish and maintain traffic flow across the network.
  • Implementing Layer 3 segmentation, also known as virtual routing and forwarding (VRF), to isolate various traffic streams. This separation is valuable for segregating traffic from different customers or distinct business units within an enterprise.
  • Utilizing peer-to-peer concepts to establish and sustain bidirectional connections between pairs of protocol entities.
  • Incorporating authentication and encryption measures.
  • Implementing policies for routing and data traffic.

With five straightforward steps, the Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN virtual IP fabric simplifies the transformation of a complex legacy network into an easily manageable and scalable network:

Step 1: Segregate Transport from the Service Side of the Network.

Step 2: Centralize Routing Intelligence and Enable Segmentation.

Step 3: Automatically Enhance Network Security.

Step 4: Influence Reachability Through Centralized Policy.

Step 5: Streamline Orchestration and Provisioning.

Step 1: Separate Transport from the Service Side of the Network:

The transport network's primary role is to carry packets from one transport router to another. It only requires knowledge of the routes necessary to reach the next-hop or destination router. It does not need information about the prefixes for non-transport routers, which are the routers situated behind the transport routers in their local service networks.

By segregating network transport from the service side, network administrators gain the ability to influence router-to-router communication independently of user or host communication.




 This approach offers several advantages:

  1. Flexible Circuit Selection: Network administrators have the freedom to select transport circuits based on SLAs and cost considerations.
  2. Enhanced Routing Capabilities: The routing system can attribute characteristics to transport links, facilitating optimal routing, load distribution, and policy-driven routing decisions.

Step 2: Centralize Routing Intelligence and Enable Segmentation

In a network, every router positioned at the network's perimeter serves two routing purposes: one towards the transport network and one towards the service side of the network. To enable seamless communication between all routers, it's imperative for each router to acquire knowledge of all network prefixes. Traditionally, routers achieve this by utilizing full-mesh Interior Gateway Protocol (IGP) or Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) configurations, or by enabling routing within an overlay tunnel (e.g., running BGP or IGP over MPLS or GRE). Several techniques are available to address scalability challenges linked to full-mesh routing adjacencies, including the utilization of a route reflector for BGP.



The Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN fabric expands upon the route reflector model by consolidating routing intelligence. In essence, all the network prefixes acquired from the service side on a router are shared with a centralized controller, which then disseminates this information to other routers through the network's control plane. These controllers are exclusively involved in control plane communication and don't handle any data traffic.

This approach offers several advantages:

  1. Cost-Efficient Control Plane Processing: The centralized controller can employ cost-effective or commodity servers for control plane operations.
  2. Utilization of Standard Hardware: Routers can utilize readily available silicon components, resulting in cost advantages through economies of scale.
  3. Elimination of Scaling Challenges: The issues related to scaling in a full-mesh routing setup on the transport side of the network are eliminated.
  4. Simplified Network Segmentation: Network administrators can establish multiple segments without the requirement for intricate signaling protocols. For instance, in the illustration provided, all Px prefixes can be part of one VPN, while all Sx prefixes can be associated with a different VPN.


Step 3: Automatically Enhance Network Security and Links

The Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN fabric identifies links on the transport side and automatically applies encryption to the traffic exchanged between various sites. The encryption keys associated with these links are securely exchanged through a session with the centralized controller. The establishment of secure sessions with the controller is an automated process utilizing RSA and certificate infrastructure.

This approach yields several advantages:

  1. Comprehensive Device Authentication: The Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN fabric autonomously authenticates all devices participating in the network, a critical step in safeguarding the infrastructure.
  2. Effortless Key Exchange: The fabric automates the exchange of encryption keys linked to transport links, eliminating the need for configuring numerous pairwise keys.
  3. Enhanced Transport Side Security: The fabric fortifies the network against potential threats originating from the transport side.

Step 4: Shape Connectivity via Centralized Policy

Policies configured on a centralized controller exert a significant influence on how prefixes are propagated among the routers. For instance, if it's necessary for all traffic between routers P3 and P4 (as illustrated) to be routed through router vEdge-1, the network administrator can implement a straightforward route policy on the centralized controller. The controller subsequently conveys this policy to the relevant edge routers, obviating the need for manual provisioning of the policy on each individual router.




 Step 5: Streamline Provisioning and Management

Traditional network devices require manual provisioning and monitoring through a Command Line Interface (CLI). Network administrators are tasked with inputting configurations line by line and issuing operational commands individually on each device to access and review status information. This manual approach is susceptible to errors, time-consuming during network provisioning and troubleshooting, and poses significant challenges when devices are located remotely or when management ports are not easily accessible.

The advantages of this approach are manifold:

  1. Centralized Access Control: The controller centrally governs access control, determining which prefixes are permitted to communicate within a VPN.
  2. Enhanced User Experience: The controller optimizes user experiences by guiding the selection of transport links based on SLAs or other attributes. Network administrators can assign colors to transport links (e.g., gold and bronze) and enable applications to associate these colors with suitable transport links.
  3. Centralized Business Logic: Network administrators can centrally map business logic from a single point, simplifying management.
  4. Rapid Response: The network can swiftly adapt to planned or unforeseen circumstances, such as rerouting all traffic from high-risk countries through an intermediary point.
  5. Centralized Services: The network can consolidate services like firewalls, Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems (IDPS), and Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS). Instead of dispersing these services across numerous branch and campus locations, the network administrator can centralize them, achieving economies of scale and reducing the number of provisioning touchpoints.




Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN introduces a centralized and remarkably simplified provisioning and management system through Cisco SD-WAN Manager. This intuitive, graphical dashboard empowers administrators to monitor, configure, and maintain all Cisco vEdge devices and links within the overlay network from a single, user-friendly interface. For instance, the GUI dashboard offers templates for various configurations, streamlining the provisioning of services. This means that common elements, such as Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting (AAA) settings and company-specific server configurations, can be effortlessly deployed to multiple devices with a single click, all from one centralized location.

This approach presents several compelling benefits:

  1. Efficient Holistic Management: Network administrators can provision and manage the entire network with efficiency and ease, eliminating the need for a fragmented, device-by-device approach.
  2. Enhanced Network Visibility: The network administrator gains improved visibility into the network, including the ability to view network-wide VPN statistics, all from a centralized point of control.
  3. Simplified Troubleshooting: Troubleshooting tasks are simplified and presented visually, reducing the reliance on reading lengthy configurations and output from individual devices, thereby streamlining the resolution of network issues.


 To delve further into this topic and explore the remaining content, please visit our link: https://www.ctelecoms.com.sa/en/Blog560/Cisco-Catalyst-SD-WAN-Components-Building-a-Secure-and-Agile-Network-Infrastructure . We invite you to continue reading and uncover more insights.

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