What Is an Edge Router?

An edge platform, also called an edge router, is a single device for connecting and securing enterprise traffic to the cloud.

What are the functions of edge platforms?

Edge platforms offer networking, security, and other IT services in a compact form factor. They're power-efficient and simple enough for nontechnical professionals to connect.

What kinds of cloud connections do edge platforms support?

Edge platforms are able to connect and secure any location over any transport—such as 5G cellular, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), broadband, or satellite—to any cloud application (see SD-WAN).

Types of edge platforms

Aggregation edge platforms

In large core and campus locations as well as colocation facilities, aggregation routing and SD-WAN platforms act as central connection points for distributed WAN traffic at scale, such as traffic to and from remote workers at branch locations. The aggregated traffic is then sent to external networks, including the cloud.

See Catalyst 8500 Series Edge Platforms

Branch edge platforms

Branch edge platforms aren't engineered to manage aggregated traffic from other WAN locations. Instead, branch platforms connect traffic from within a branch or remote location and intelligently route over the internet, MPLS, or another link type to external networks, including the cloud.

See Branch routers

Virtual edge platforms

Virtual edge platforms deliver agility, security, and visibility for SD-WAN fabrics and multicloud architectures. They're designed to be deployed in the cloud or on x86 hardware as a virtual network function (VNF), empowering IT teams to apply policies from the branch to the cloud and optimize applications for enhancing user experience.

See Catalyst 8000V Edge Software

Benefits of edge platforms


Because of their role as edge devices processing traffic to and from external networks, edge platforms should contain multilayered security functions that can either run on the device or optimize traffic for cloud-delivered security in SASE architectures.

Quality of service (QoS)

As a single point of connection to the internet and other essential services, an edge platform is the foundation of a high-performance enterprise network. QoS and application stability are critical.

Remote access

Edge platforms can prioritize LAN services and support thousands of VPN tunnels to provide fast, secure remote access for distributed workers.

Service flexibility

Edge platforms are able to run and service-chain a portfolio of virtual services: routing, switching, compute, optimization, firewall, and more. 

Features of edge platforms

Advanced network intelligence

Edge platforms should support a variety of edge interconnection protocols, such as IPv4, IPv6, and MPLS, as well as IP routing protocols such as OSPF (Open Shortest Path First), IS-IS (Intermediate System-to-Intermediate System), and BGP (Border Gateway Protocol).


Edge platforms contain robust security controls, such as traffic decryption and packet inspection; application identification and access control; malware and malicious-URL filtration; and intrusion detection and prevention. They also enhance cloud security deployments with robust tunneling capabilities. Edge platforms contain hardware-anchored security capabilities for encryption-key storage and device-authenticity checks.  

Data and telemetry collection

Edge routers can support network data and telemetry management with collection of data on bytes received or transmitted, based on parameters such as file type, user, LAN, or application.

Dynamic connectivity

Edge platforms include numerous Ethernet ports to connect cellular gateways and wireless access points. To support the size and expected growth of an enterprise, an edge platform should support the latest link types, including 5G, along with advanced network protocols to provide dynamic connectivity at the edge.


A single point of access for all devices accessing applications can be a vulnerability in the case of a network bottleneck or as a cyberattack surface. Edge platforms are engineered to be more than basic data pipes: They must be fast and reliable while providing hardware-anchored defenses against exploit.