by Atchison Frazer
Back in 2015, we offered some popular advice on “how to create a virtual WAN” (VWAN), a concept that was widely covered in the media at the time as a game-changing alternative to MPLS. However, the name quickly became outdated, as discussions about the future of networking shifted to software-defined WANs (SD-WANs) and hybrid WANs that actually complement MPLS. Today, the VWAN descriptor is rarely used, except as an occasional synonym for SD-WAN.
While the preferred names and associated solutions have changed, the goal for both enterprises and service providers remain the same: Find an intuitive and cost-effective way to support their ongoing organizational trends toward the consumption of cloud services and the implementation of Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructures. SD-WAN enabling hybrid WAN is the ticket.
SD-WAN Versus Hybrid WAN Versus VWAN
However, it’s still easy to get confused when evaluating SD-WAN vendors and trying to keep different product names straight (which can rapidly come and go, as we saw with VWAN). You might end up asking questions like: If I set up a so-called VWAN a few years ago, am I now missing out by not upgrading to a hybrid WAN? Or are SD-WAN and hybrid WAN actually the same thing?
Let’s sort out the nomenclature here:
- SD-WAN: A next-generation edge solution for today’s organizations. Major SD-WAN benefits include branch office transformation through dynamic bandwidth allocation, superior Quality of Service (QoS) and stable delivery of complex traffic over any underlying transport or network architecture.
- Hybrid WAN: A WAN that combines different data services to connect disparate locations, including far-flung clouds and data centers. A hybrid WAN may feature MPLS, carrier Ethernet, LTE, broadband and/or satellite links. Its cost-effective Internet connections in particular make it ideal for accessing both the public cloud and the IoT.
- VWAN: A subset of SD-WAN. It usually refers to the replacement of legacy WAN infrastructures with broadband in addition to some features for security and optimization.
There is a good case to be made for retiring the VWAN moniker and then combining the SD-WAN and hybrid WAN terms, since they are so closely related. Think of it this way: An SD-WAN is sort of like the “key” for starting the hybrid WAN “car.”
More specifically, SD-WAN enables hybrid WAN by creating an overlay of underlying WAN links. It provides the boost and the reliability for creating a truly failsafe WAN, one that maximizes existing MPLS investments while opening a path into sustainable cloud connectivity and IoT network support. An SD-WAN can help modernize network architecture for faster app access and also be integrated with security platforms such as Zscaler.
Why Should You Create a Hybrid WAN?
IDC estimated in March 2016 that 70 percent of enterprises would adopt SD-WAN within the next 18 months. The prediction held up reasonably well, as Gartner’s Andrew Lerner noted in summer 2017 that SD-WAN had gone “mainstream.”
At the same time, this move toward SD-WAN has also been one toward hybrid WAN. Implementation of SD-WAN technology and new modes of transport have not obviated the need for services such as MPLS, which may still fulfill SLA, location and security requirements in specific contexts.
Within a hybrid WAN, MPLS as well as broadband Internet can be combined to meet branch capacity requirements. Cloud access is also greatly simplified compared to MPLS-only hub-and-spoke WANs. As a result, a hybrid WAN, enabled by a platform from a top SD-WAN vendor, offers the scalability, security and QoS for better agility and control when working with a full range of applications, including the cloud and IoT services that increasingly drive business improvement.
Atchison Frazer is WW Head of Marketing for Talari Networks. Atchison previously was head of marketing for Xangati virtual infrastructure management solutions, Gnodal HPC switch fabrics and Cisco’s enterprise services global marketing and strategy group.