SD-WAN, or Software Defined-Wide Area Networking, translates into network operators using SDN (Software-defined Networking) for delivering services across LTE, MPLS, broadband, fixed wireless or even satellite. Hybrid WAN (Wide Area Network), on the other hand, is used for establishing a connection between two geographically separate WANs to a single location using two different connection types to carry their traffic. This, in short, the fundamental point of difference in a Hybrid WAN vs SD-WAN debate.
A Hybrid WAN setup includes two different circuits that carry the traffic between offices, branches, data centers, etc. In case one circuit is experiencing congestion or it fails the traffic automatically gets routed to the second WAN circuit.
It is called a Hybrid WAN as you can have different network combinations. These can be MPLS and an internet circuit, two MPLS circuits, two internet circuits, etc. These features help add a layer of resilience and reliability to the enterprise-wide network ensuring network uptime for business continuity. A study released by Altman Solon said that most companies (about 58%) will use hybrid SD-WAN because of performance related issues that can arise when relying only upon public internet circuits alone vs. a combination of internet and private access circuits such as MPLS.
Further, if the organization is using MPLS services, then adding a Hybrid WAN setup enhances the business’s agility and increases response times with lower costs and higher bandwidths.
The wide-scale digital transformations are indeed the force behind new innovations like Hybrid WAN. However, like most other network technologies hybrid WAN comes with its own set of pros and cons.
SD-WAN means Software-Defined Wide Area Network. SD-WAN is fundamentally a virtual WAN architecture. It allows organizations to leverage a variety of combinations of transport services like MPLS (Multi protocol Label Switching), broadband, LTE, etc. that can be used by their employees to access applications.
Traditional WAN architectures are based on conventional routers hence they are not optimized for the cloud. SD-WAN, on the other hand, employs a centralized function for directing traffic across the WAN securely and intelligently.
Also, the SD-WAN setup is designed to support all applications that are hosted in on-premise data centers, private or public cloud, as well as SaaS services.
With the cloud becoming the driving force behind the business expansion, one cannot stress enough the benefits of technologies like SD-WAN. Most users are directly accessing the applications on the cloud rather than taking the traditional datacenter route.
While SD-WAN has some highly visible benefits, it is not without a few challenges of its own.
Hybrid WAN vs SD-WAN is a widely debated topic in the networking and telecom community. Interestingly, both of these technologies are designed to make your existing WAN setup more flexible as well as agile thereby, solving the problems that may exist in your current WAN design.
Hybrid WAN is popularly considered as a step towards SD-WAN. While MPLS offers large enterprises with service agreements that include additional services, a Hybrid WAN implementation comes with service provisioning, analytics, and other services.
Also, a Hybrid WAN implementation can leave some users wanting more in its wake. Although it eases traffic congestion and delivers efficiencies in bandwidth, it can be highly challenging to define policies for steering application traffic of the right circuit. It can also be difficult to ascertain what traffic went where. Therefore, you may require an SD-WAN implementation to overcome these challenges.
SD-WAN technology is equipped to provision virtual overlays as well as move your network management to the cloud reducing the on-premise expenses. In addition to this, assured application performance and business policy automation makes it ideal for large as well as small enterprises.
These attributes have made it a more popular choice over Hybrid WAN. Therefore, as a Hybrid WAN vs SD-WAN, SD-WAN is still the preferred option and is being implemented by most network managers as a future-proof technology.
It can be challenging for a business to make the right decision regarding their network setup in the absence of expert opinion.
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