Microsoft 365 is the most widely used SaaS application as per the latest report from Okta. As enterprises increase their use of Microsoft 365 suite of applications, their attention turns to providing the best application experience for their users, be it for Microsoft Teams, OneDrive, SharePoint, or Outlook. Any drop in application experience results in loss of productivity for their users and costs companies billions of dollars.

This is why both Microsoft and Cisco put emphasis on delivering the best application experience through optimized connectivity to Microsoft 365 applications. To help customers get the best application experience with Microsoft 365, Microsoft has defined a set of connectivity principles as guidelines for customers and networking vendors to follow. These principles are designed to ensure that Microsoft 365 traffic is not subject to unnecessary security inspections, avoids network hairpins, and exits from the branch to the nearest location of Microsoft 365 servers.

Both Microsoft and Cisco have a common interest in ensuring that application traffic is being sent on the best-optimized path as it travels from a user sitting in a branch to Microsoft 365 servers in the cloud. This is to ensure that the end-user experience is not hindered. But how can someone really validate whether the user is not experiencing any application issues?

Cisco SD-WAN path analytics

One way to do it is to gather application feedback from Microsoft on the experience of the user. Microsoft shares this feedback with Cisco in the form of application telemetry using Informed Network Routing. Last year, Cisco partnered with Microsoft to make this sharing of telemetry possible starting with Outlook, and then expanded the integration for Microsoft Teams and SharePoint apps earlier this year.

With the 20.9.x SD-WAN release, Cisco is further extending the Microsoft Informed Network Routing integration through path analytics for Microsoft 365 by providing visibility into network Quality of Experience (QoE) metrics and application feedback shared by Microsoft. Path analytics also provides visibility into Microsoft 365 traffic over a period, so network operators can easily understand and visualize which path is better and which path is being used for Microsoft 365. Network operators can look at the application feedback shared by Microsoft and see how the application experience has changed over time for users in a branch. They can use this information to further correlate changes in network paths with the changes in network and application metrics.

Cisco SD-WAN analytics and Microsoft 365 telemetry

With Microsoft 365 path analytics, enterprises may now be assured that underlying network conditions can be detected more accurately using a combination of network path probing done by Cisco SD-WAN and application telemetry shared by Microsoft. With this information, Cisco SD-WAN can ensure a better user experience by switching traffic to the best available path based on changing network conditions. This helps to establish a self-healing network where changes are made automatically and policies are applied on the fly.

Cisco is a Microsoft 365 networking partner and the first vendor to support Microsoft Informed Network Routing for Microsoft 365 application experience optimization.

Piyush Raj