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Is it hybrid WAN vs. SD-WAN, or does SD-WAN help implement hybrid WAN?

Expert Lee Doyle tackles the issue of hybrid WAN vs. SD-WAN. Although the technologies are separate, SD-WAN can make hybrid WAN deployment and operation easier.

With the growth of software-defined WAN, the question of hybrid WAN vs. SD-WAN arises. Are the technologies separate from each other, or can they be used together? SD-WAN is a technology that, in its feature set, includes the ability to enable hybrid WAN, which is typically a mix of MPLS and internet links. Many large organizations are moving away from exclusive hybrid WAN vs. SD-WAN choices and are deploying SD-WAN as part of their hybrid WAN options.

Defining SD-WAN. SD-WAN uses software and cloud-based technologies to simplify the delivery of WAN services to branch offices. Software-based virtualization enables network abstraction that results in the simplification of network operations. It enables IT and line-of-business managers to easily and quickly deploy internet-based connectivity -- and the benefits of ubiquity, high bandwidth and low cost -- with reliable, secure and high-quality results.

Defining hybrid WAN. Hybrid WAN utilizes a combination of private WAN links, such as MPLS, and public WAN links, like internet or 4G LTE, to connect geographically distributed locations. Hybrid WAN includes the benefits of private links, such as reliability, predictability and security, and the benefits of public links, including lower cost per bit and versatility. It also gives organizations a more versatile and cost-effective way to connect their offices, while continuing to rely on private links to send mission-critical data.

SD-WAN enables hybrid WAN. SD-WAN provides an overlay to underlying WAN links and offers business policy abstraction and application prioritization. Via a centralized management console, IT staff can enable specific applications and traffic to traverse specific WAN links. For example, organizations can send business-critical and security-sensitive traffic via MPLS and route noncritical traffic over the internet link. Thus, in a transition from a hybrid WAN vs. SD-WAN mindset, enterprises can use SD-WAN to make hybrid WAN easier to deploy and operate, while enabling the right traffic to travel over the best WAN link at a given point in time.

Next Steps

Hybrid WAN and SD-WAN work together

How to choose the right SD-WAN architecture

A deep dive into hybrid WAN

This was last published in December 2016

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