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Contributed by Mark Ibrahim, Steve Wood and Vipul Shah.

In the cloud age, providing smooth and fast connectivity for customers is a core business focus. Since enterprise applications and end-users can now span multiple IT environments, bringing applications closer to users by avoiding traditional DC backhaul is a way for enterprises to improve user experience and application performance.

With businesses needing to connect to the cloud faster, all while converging legacy data centers and critical applications in distributed environments, it's no surprise that enterprises using on-demand consumption models in their WAN services will rise from less than 5 percent in 2021 to 30 percent by 2025.1

So, for businesses to enhance on-demand cloud connectivity to their networks, they must optimize their middle-mile. 

What is the middle-mile?

Responsible for carrying traffic a majority of the distance from the branch to the cloud.
A high-capacity, low latency IP backbone network that can be used to build a global WAN on-demand and accessed via global colocation facilities around the world. Often, enterprises overlook the middle-mile and only consider the last portion of connectivity on their network. 

Cisco SD-WAN Middle Mile Optimization solution allows organizations to leverage private cloud connectivity to improve performance across their entire network, adding agility and reliability to their cloud-based IT infrastructure.

It can be costly and time-consuming for organizations like yours to bring together traditional data centers and cloud provider data centers using internet access alone. This also creates a breeding ground for insecure and unreliable connectivity, resulting in poor performance outcomes and limited user access.

A private cloud connectivity method allows you to gain control over your network connections. The increasingly popular choice is a private backbone of networks consisting of Software-Defined Cloud Interconnect (SDCI) and Public Cloud Providers, integrated by Cisco.

Software-defined middle-mile networks provide flexibility, agility and savings for on-demand cloud connectivity. 

SDCI and public cloud backbone providers are increasingly supplying more middle-mile network infrastructure. By the end of 2025, 30 percent of enterprises will use SDCI services to connect to public CSPs, which is an increase from fewer than 10 percent in 2020.2  The influx of subscribers can be attributed to SDCI's architecture, which provides software-defined private connectivity to any Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) environment, using globally dispersed Points of Presence (PoPs) and SD-WANs to interconnect locations to the cloud.

Cisco SD-WAN integration with SDCI and public cloud backbone providers supports the flexible and on-demand connection of the middle-mile by automating the network end to end. And unlike traditional circuits like Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), there are no regional or contract limitations that result in latency and rigidity down the road. 

Because the middle-mile can be used for site-to-cloud and site-to-site connectivity, regardless of location type, you can successfully gain control of connections in any location, whether it be an office, branch or data center. Plus, you can utilize any transport, including satellite, internet, or 5G/LTE, to leverage that flexibility for your last-mile connectivity. 

Optimizing isn't just about performance; it can also save you money. The provision-as-needed model of the middle-mile mimics that of many pay-as-you-go cloud providers, giving businesses a way to lower costs over time. 

Many middle-mile network vendors reduce CapEx costs, allowing them to pass potential savings on to their customers. For example, Megaport and Equinix offer direct-connect integrations with cloud service providers, which enables them to offer lower data egress rates for significant savings.

With Cisco SD-WAN, you can create a cloud-provider-independent network and easily change SDCI providers depending on cost and requirements in your regional networks.

Cisco SD-WAN overlay delivers applications to users and devices with increased visibility and control. 

When the middle-mile underlay network setup is combined with Cisco SD-WAN overlay, there's an easier flow of operations for on-demand cloud connectivity. Cisco has integrated the private backbone (middle-mile) services of SDCI providers Megaport and Equinix, as well as Public Cloud Providers, Google's Network Connectivity Center (NCC), and announced integration with AWS's Cloud WAN for easier management across your environment. 

Management also happens on a single pane of glass. You have complete automation and visibility into your entire cloud-based IT infrastructure from start to finish, allowing you to automate your network deployments and create end-to-end security rapidly. With this automation, you can now connect site-to-cloud, cloud-to-cloud and site-to-site. 

With Cisco SD-WAN's high availability network designs and the guaranteed SLA of the private backbone providers, you can benefit from little or no downtime.

By overlaying Cisco SD-WAN on top of the middle-mile backbone, you gain the ability to monitor your data across your network and reduce the insecurity and performance issues of internet connections. This increases your network's reliability exponentially, resulting in higher-performing workloads for your end users.

Cisco SD-WAN focuses on user-centric connectivity by integrating directly with cloud and SaaS environments. 

Another key benefit of Cisco SD-WAN overlay fabric is the IaaS nature of SDCI backbone, which provides on-demand cloud and SaaS access.

Optimizing your middle-mile with Cisco SD-WAN begins with a software-defined approach. This API-driven approach gives on-demand access to the cloud, allowing new connections to be provisioned in minutes, not days or weeks. This increases your business agility and creates an on-demand network for your IT infrastructure to build on.

With a virtualized, dedicated connection, your pathways are yours alone, completely isolated from other traffic. Because of the software-defined middle-mile network's underlay, you have complete control over where your data goes and how it gets there, allowing you to connect any user to any application anywhere in the world, almost instantly. 

Having sovereignty over your network connection also allows you immense agility when it comes to refining your business goals and adjusting your network. Cisco SD-WAN Middle Mile Optimization solution is provided as a service, giving you more governance over your network connections. 

As the industry continues to stretch to accommodate a hyper-connected world, speed of change and elasticity become increasingly important to consider for Cisco SD-WAN's middle-mile integration.

Carrier Neutral Facilities can also increase your network connection's reliability while building agility for your deployments.

Four Benefits of Carrier Neutral Facilities 

Carrier Neutral Facilities (CNFs) interconnect your customers, partners, and service providers. 

  1. Cost-effective:  SDCI provides cost savings over traditional managed WAN services such as MPLS.
  2. Global Reach:  CNFs allow you to bring your applications closer to your users and resources in every major metropolitan area around the world.
  3. Agile deployments:  With diverse options like bare metal compute and virtualized network functions (VNFs), you can deploy virtual network devices in minutes and explore comprehensive growth strategies seamlessly and with low latency.
  4. Added Flexibility:  Because of the large network of accessible services with a multitude of Cloud, SaaS and Service connectivity options, you can build an ecosystem of providers and offerings that match your exact business needs.
Understand how a carrier-neutral facility will fit into your infrastructure architecture.Watch video

Since there are a number of choices when it comes to optimizing your middle-mile, it can be beneficial to consult an advisor like WWT to provide a strategy-first approach to optimization.

One of the benefits of working with a vendor-agnostic consultant like WWT is the ability to see measurable performance outcomes and understand your connection capabilities in any environment by testing your solution in WWT's cloud-connected Advanced Technology Center (ATC). The ATC helps you run a proof-of-concept for on-premise, off-premise, and public cloud, all through Equinix extension. Leverage this collaborative ecosystem to design, build, educate, demonstrate and deploy your middle-mile solutions.

Consider security and reliability when choosing a middle-mile provider.

To ensure predictable access to the cloud and a better application experience no matter the type of users, or where they're located, you need a resilient and secure global network connection.

Secure Service Edge (SSE) technologies help you support your users anywhere and anytime, using a cloud-centric approach to enforce security policies—so your data and devices are protected. SSE includes offerings that can reduce complexity and improve user experience by consolidating multiple disparate security capabilities and delivering them from the cloud. 

Providers like Cisco can enable choice for customers by supporting multiple forms of security architecture with private connectivity methods in order to make SD-WAN more conducive to multicloud networking and SaaS applications.

Since the middle-mile touches every point of traffic flowing in and out of your organization, the most important security element is the redundancy factor. Make sure your integrated private backbone provider has redundant access points to an augmented middle-mile network while providing guaranteed end-to-end SLAs. 

You'll also need to consider choosing a middle-mile provider with a strong PoP that has locations across multiple geographies of interest in order to connect the ISP to the end user—essentially connecting the middle-mile to the last mile of connectivity.

WWT and Cisco work together to break down the complexity of middle-mile optimization. 

This trusted partnership provides you with a comprehensive, strategic approach to middle-mile optimization that takes into account the complete picture of your network connectivity, given your IT infrastructure environments, resulting in a fully managed and integrated solution provided by Cisco's expert architects. 

See how we can deliver highly optimized private connectivity for your network.



  1. Top 5 Predictions from Gartner Related to Cloud and the Edge
  2. How NaaS and SDCI Can Lower Your Cloud Spend