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SD-WAN

AT&T SD-WAN is homeward bound with new Cisco service

To address the rising remote workforce, AT&T now provides an SD-WAN service for the home network, in partnership with Cisco.

The service provider is launching the new teleworker SD-WAN service to address a growing hybrid workforce that is accessing business applications both on-premises and in the home, explains Will Eborall, AVP of product marketing management for AT&T Business, in a statement. "AT&T continues to adapt its offerings to align with the customer needs of today, with these enhancements to SD-WAN with Cisco," he adds. "As a leader in supporting all shapes and sizes of businesses, and the largest SD-WAN provider in North America, we're giving businesses the tools to not just manage their needs today, but prepare for the future."

AT&T says the new teleworker SD-WAN service can be deployed on Cisco's cEdge hardware platform on the integrated service router (ISR) 1100 series boxes, which includes one of four box options – each have integrated Wi-Fi and two have integrated LTE.

The SD-WAN service for home workers also provides customers with a co-managed option to self-manage business policies while leaning on AT&T for support in service configuration, fault and performance management.

From a security standpoint, AT&T's new SD-WAN service with Cisco "provides a level of security by encrypting and tunneling traffic including data and control plane and stateful inspection firewall," a spokesperson for the service provider told Light Reading over email. As with many SD-WAN services, business applications are prioritized over non-business traffic.

In addition to partnering with Cisco, AT&T provides SD-WAN with Silver Peak and VMware. The service provider is also working with Fortinet Networks on SASE services that include SD-WAN.

Weighing the benefits of SD-WAN for home networks

While SD-WAN for remote workers seems like a natural extension of providing the service at enterprise premise locations, customer uptake has been slow in some cases. In a recent Light Reading podcast, MetTel CTO Ed Fox says he's been surprised that SD-WAN for remote workers hasn't been as popular as he would have expected.

"Extending SD-WAN to the home – we've done it sparingly and not as much as you would have thought," says Fox. However, as employees return to the office, Fox forecasts that enterprises will rethink their approach to using VPNs, SD-WANs and SASE services as they balance the need for IT teams to support both a remote and on-premises workforce.

"There was a lot of trepidation [from enterprise customers] about extending the network to home," says Fox. "Also, the IT departments didn't want to do it because now I have to deal with 'Joe's' cable modem and all of a sudden I'm in his home network? Those are some of the things we saw that really surprised us."

Fox says he spent hours on the phone with one large customer attempting to fit SD-WAN to the needs of their remote workers and ultimately the customer chose to deploy a VPN.

As more SD-WAN and SASE services tailored for home networks emerge, perhaps customers will be more obliged to go that route versus relying on traditional VPNs, for example. In the meantime, vendors in the space are churning out new flavors of SD-WAN for remote workers.

Versa recently updated its Versa Titan platform to deploy SD-WAN for remote workers – a service the company says is best suited for small business with "Lean" IT teams. Fortinet also updated its OS to FortiOS 7.0 in February; the update included Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) capabilities which is a firewall-based ZTNA provides users with a remote access alternative to traditional VPNs.

As the saying goes: "If you build it, they will come." Unfortunately, that saying doesn't specify a timeframe for winning customers over.

*AT&T has also updated its Cisco SD-WAN service to meet Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) compliance for government agencies, which is a federal information security standard requiring federal government agencies to develop, deploy and document an information security and protection program. The new service, AT&T SD-WAN with Cisco Teleworker, is not currently FISMA compliant.

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(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that AT&T SD-WAN with Cisco Teleworker is FISMA compliant, but it is not. However, AT&T SD-WAN with Cisco is FISMA compliant.)

— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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