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WAN Insights is Cisco’s first foray into predictive network intelligence

The company has worked on the technology for years but WAN Insights is the first product that has been made available to businesses

A sign with the word Cisco written in blue next to the word live! written in yellow, both of which are sat on a dark conference room floor

Cisco has launched Cisco ThousandEyes WAN Insights, a product that provides predictive networking intelligence that can help prevent outages and can provide optimal network configurations for businesses.

WAN Insights gathers Cisco SD-WAN data and uses it to make predictions about a customer’s networks, when outages may arise, and stop them before the network issues hit customers.

Its market-first feature is that it has the capability to make optimal configuration recommendations based on the analysed Cisco SD-WAN data.

There are existing SD-WAN products that can alert customers to potential future outages, but none are currently telling business what they should be doing to optimise their network configurations, Cisco said. Many businesses simply run default configurations, which WAN Insights is able to then improve upon.

WAN Insights only uses Cisco SD-WAN data today, but will look to expand later in its development and aim to ingest more data points from other SD-WAN providers in the future, or data points from customers’ environments that don’t have SD-WAN analytics, the company explained.

The next goal for the product is to add an automation layer that will allow WAN Insights to automatically make network changes based on predicted events, such as outages, or make configuration changes to improve the customer experience.

Having the tool make automated changes will require the trust of customers, said Todd Nightingale, EVP and GM at Cisco enterprise networking and cloud, and Mohit Lad, co-founder and GM at Cisco ThousandEyes, speaking at Cisco Live this week.

The product does not have the level of access to the network to make automated changes just yet, the tool simply provides recommendations that businesses can choose to apply manually or not, the company explained.

“I do think the trust on this stuff will be built pretty quickly,” said Nightingale. “There’s a lot of comfort around this idea that the SD-WAN path selection, probably should be, eventually, fully automated.”

Lad revealed that the technology is already being used by customers such as Salesforce, and the technology will be integrated within Cisco Meraki “imminently”, according to Nightingale.

Another use of WAN Insights is to expose technology debt with every outage that was detected, Lad said, and also to solve intermittent issues.

Cisco has been working on predictive analytics as a development initiative for years, according to Angelique Medina, head of internet intelligence and PMM director at ThousandEyes, and ThousandEyes is the first actual business unit that has brought to market a product based off of it.

“Today, this is about showing the possibilities to customers, giving them the recommendations that they need to implement and then showing them how successful they are,” she said.

“They can get really confident that these are accurate predictions, and then they can actually implement policies based on that. I think that once we get to the point where we have that level of competence, having customers turn this on and automate those changes with their SD-WAN solution, it’s going to be really powerful. So, I think we consider this really just step one to getting to that point.”

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Future product evolution will also see the technology embedded within Cisco’s broader secure access service edge (SASE) approach to cloud security, building on the themes for Cisco’s product development announced earlier in the company’s annual conference. With hybrid work on the up, Medina said being integrated into SASE is inevitable.

There are also plans to expand the number of applications for which WAN Insights can provide optimal configurations, beyond the five that are supported today. These are: Office 365, Voice, G-Suite, GoTo Meeting, and Salesforce. When the product goes generally available, Medina said it was likely that it would support more applications, as well as custom applications too.

WAN Insights will also provide businesses with a way of quantifying the application’s impact. Customers will be able to analyse the network and see how many users will be affected by a sub-optimal configuration or impending outage, providing measurable data on its effectiveness.

The product is available now and comes from the ThousandEyes arm of Cisco, a company Cisco acquired in 2020.

If a business is already using Cisco SD-WAN analytics, Medina said they can expect to be up and running within 24 hours after purchase. “We do need this certain period of time when we're taking in data before we can offer recommendations, but it's a very short period of time”.

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