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.

Understanding Hybrid WAN

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.

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.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Hybrid WAN

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 advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages – Why To Choose Hybrid WAN

  • Hybrid WAN allows enterprises to provision cost-effective LTE and broadband internet, thereby lowering the overall bandwidth costs.
  • It also contributes to optimized and flexible bandwidth utilization. This is carried out by using policies for steering any non-critical applications over the internet thereby, freeing up the network for more mission-critical packets. Even the non-critical application traffic can be managed daily without having to go via the datacenter. This helps in reducing the latency and increasing the performance even where non-critical applications are concerned.
  • Hybrid WAN is capable of using path selection for managing traffic over the most ideal performing WAN circuit.

Disadvantages – Where Hybrid WAN Lacks

  • The bandwidth is not sufficiently utilized in a hybrid WAN setup. This is because the traffic is sent on one active link while the other is not utilized and it sits idle.
  • There is a high possibility of unreliable performance when using broadband links in a hybrid WAN setup. The changing network conditions can also lead to low productivity due to congestion.
  • It is not easy to efficiently troubleshoot poor application performance due to limitations on visibility and analytics in a Hybrid WAN setup.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Hybrid WAN

Understanding SD-WAN

SD-WAN is fundamentally a virtual WAN architecture. It allows organizations to leverage a variety of combinations of transport services like MPLS, 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.

Advantages and Disadvantages of SD-WAN

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.

Advantages – Why SD WAN has become a rage

  • The most interesting advantage of SD-WAN is that it allows direct access to the cloud even at the remote branch level.
  • Security is available with encryption which tunnels your data securely across the dual internet circuits. You can add additional firewall devices and add various SD-WAN cloud security options that are offered by the provider.
  • Configuring SD-WAN allows a business to prioritize critical traffic including services like VoIP that run in real-time so that they can be effectively steered over the most suitable route. These high-performance features also help reduce packet loss and latency of the network.
  • SD-WAN helps improve security while ensuring flexibility and ease of use at the same time. However, it is always recommended to employ additional security measures as the built-in functions of SD-WAN to ensure secure data transfer may not be enough.
  • The automated monitoring and centralized traffic management tasks make the SD-WAN solution easy to work with. This helps increase productivity as it reduces the burden on the network administration team.

Disadvantages – What future evolutions are expected

  • There is no true QoS provision for voice services.
  • Also, SD-WAN vendors can vary making it difficult to achieve the original vision of the SD-WAN implementation.
  • Implementing SD-WAN requires certain technical expertise that may not be available in-house.

How SD WAN monitors and enhances the network

Hybrid WAN vs SD-WAN

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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