SD-WAN & Hybrid WAN Architectures: The Roles of Each in the Enterprise

Recently, I read an interesting article from Dan Conde, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, about why software-defined WAN technologies (SD-WAN) are poised to meet the needs of changing, complex enterprise IT environments. Dan’s Network Computing piece, “SD-WAN: The Killer App For Enterprise SDN?”, goes on to mention InfoVista as a player in this space. The company’s Ipanema solution portfolio is designed to help enterprises address today’s connectivity and application performance demands amid new cloud computing challenges.

I thought it would be worthwhile to weigh in with our own thoughts on the SD-WAN space versus the market for hybrid (MPLS and Internet) WAN.

As Dan mentions in his article, the push around SD-WAN is caused, in part, by the increased amount of SaaS applications in the enterprise. InfoVista’s view of the market echoes a similar sentiment, in that new IT complexities call for new solutions. But, that doesn’t mean the need for hybrid WAN architecture is slowing down anytime soon. The demands created by a proliferation of applications, and the varying ways they are used in the enterprise, are still met quite well by hybrid networks.

We indeed consider hybrid WAN architecture as an intermediate step towards SD-WAN, particularly where large enterprises continue to use MPLS service from a CSP for most of their sites. They deploy an additional Internet network, first to off-load some applications to their private data centers, but also to get rid of heavy Web traffic and increasingly allow the shortest path for business’ SaaS applications.

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A dynamic WAN selection tool allows enterprises to accomplish this, as well as indicate that SAP applications always use an MPLS connection, whereas SharePoint might traverse over an MPLS or broadband link depending on real-time conditions. Dynamic WAN selection ensures optimized application performance and enhanced business continuity for the business applications that matter most, but also vast cost-savings.

The reason why large enterprises will continue to rely on MPLS is because not only is Internet access quality not equal in all regions of the world yet, but also because it comes with a service package that is still important for IT organizations: centralized billing, central service desk and some other technical assets (Private Address Plan management, DHCP etc.).

This all being said, Hybrid WAN architectures will certainly have a strong foothold in large enterprises, particularly those with an international presence, within the next 24 months. The technology offers a promise of central controllers, built-in analytics and network service provisioning, certainly making SD-WAN a trend to watch out for. This is especially the case because these solutions will include MPLS “missing” aspects when they become mature.

If you are interested in learning more about hybrid WAN architectures, I invite you to check out the below resources: