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What is Hybrid WAN? How is it different from SD WAN?

When it comes to Hybrid WAN and SD WAN technology, the differences really aren't that significant.

When it comes to Hybrid WAN and SD WAN technology, the differences really aren’t that significant. However, there is one very core difference which may matter to companies transitioning to new cloud-based and off-premise technologies. 

The Basics of SD WAN Technology

An SD WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network) is a method that is used to connect one internal network to another, using a single technology such as MLPS or broadband internet. Frequently, an SD WAN is used to connect offices to each other, or to connect an office to its data center. Meanwhile, a Hybrid WAN is the same technology, but with multiple connection technologies.

SD WAN connections are usually used to improve upon the performance and security of a system. However, there are some downsides to a traditional SD WAN that can make a hybrid WAN more appealing. It depends largely on an organization’s needs. Here’s what you need to know. 

What’s the Difference Between SD WAN and Hybrid WAN?

As a software-defined system, an SD WAN removes many of the traditional burdens of a hardware-based network. The difference between an SD WAN and a Hybrid WAN is, on the surface, fairly minimal: an SD WAN uses a single connection type, whereas a Hybrid WAN can use multiple, asynchronous connection types.

This makes a Hybrid WAN more versatile and effective in most applications. 

Frequently, a Hybrid WAN will use an MLPS connection and an internet connection, splitting data as needed between the two systems. Travel can be routed on-the-fly, not only based on destination but also based on the current load of the network. 

Further, a Hybrid WAN can always be turned into an SD WAN by the selection of the right settings. This means that a Hybrid WAN is overall a better technology. In fact, many people do not draw significant distinction between Hybrid WAN and SD WAN because Hybrid WAN is seen to be a better implementation of the original SD WAN system.

The Advantages of a Hybrid WAN

Just as an SD WAN improves upon a traditional WAN, Hybrid WAN technology improves upon an SD WAN.

When compared to an SD WAN, a hybrid WAN has the following advantages:

  • Being able to distribute traffic across multiple channels easily, thereby automatically balancing load, improving connection quality, and reducing latency across the network.
  • Maintaining greater reliability, with the option to failover to a different connectivity type if one connection either fails or becomes overburdened. 
  • Reducing costs, as being able to route traffic over the internet costs substantially less than routing absolutely all data through an MLPS.

Hybrid WANs are able to adjust on-the-fly to issues such as traffic, while also preserving data privacy, security, and reliability. Of course, there are some downsides too. Hybrid WANs can be more difficult to maintain and manage, because they have multiple connections. If not properly secured, some elements of a Hybrid WAN could present a security risk — at least, more so than an appropriately secured SD WAN.

Hybrid WAN and Hybrid Cloud Solutions

As mentioned before, there are certain advantages to a Hybrid WAN that have become more relevant as of recent.

Hybrid WANs are frequently being used to create hybrid cloud networks and multi-cloud infrastructures. A hybrid WAN might have both an MLPS and internet connection, with an MLPS connection leading to a private cloud server and an internet connection leading to a public cloud server. Meanwhile, other services might be made available through either.

Key Takeaways

Hybrid WAN technology and SD WAN technology are both popular methods of building an internal IT infrastructure. For most applications, a Hybrid WAN will be better than SD WAN, as it offers additional options and can be set to replicate SD WAN architecture.

Regardless, both WAN technologies make it easier for offices to connect to each other, and for offices to connect to servers and data, both of which are extremely important for offices with distributed infrastructures or on-premise and off-premise cloud solutions.

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PS LIGHTWAVE, a leading telecommunications service provider headquartered in Houston, Texas, provides managed Ethernet Data Circuits, Internet, private network solutions and Voice over IP (VoIP) over one of the nation’s largest facilities-based private Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs). The switched Layer 2 network, backed by 24/7/365 Network Operations Center (NOC) support, encompasses approximately 5,500 route miles and 1,400 on-net locations and connects 100+ fault-tolerant multi-gigabit Ethernet rings for built-in redundancy, security, low latency, and high-availability. At PS LIGHTWAVE Great Connections Happen Here™.

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