What is an SD-WAN architecture? 

A software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) is a virtual WAN architecture which connects hardware in different locations. It allows for the use of various types of connections to be used in transporting data, including private lines, multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), virtual private networks (VPN), LTE, and broadband internet. Traditional WAN models make connection to corporate data centers, making the path that data travels longer and less efficient. Other than increasing efficiency and lowering latency, SD-WAN incorporates many advanced functions when compared to traditional WAN, including the ability to monitor the flow of data and measure key performance indicators. 

What is a hybrid WAN architecture? 

The term hybrid WAN simply refers to a wide area network that incorporates both traditional elements, such as the use of MPLS, as well as the alternative transport option of using the internet. Some define it as a cloud architecture which combines at least one private and one public cloud.  

Many SD-WAN models can be considered hybrid models, but not all hybrid models incorporate SD-WAN. SD-WAN architecture can be applied to hybrid models in order to expand their capabilities and overall performance.  

For cases in which a full transition to SD-WAN may not be an option, hybrid WAN has its advantages. It can allow companies to cut costs by prioritizing certain traffic over the more expensive lines and transporting the less important data over the less expensive lines.  

Transporting the traffic through the internet has both lower latency and lower costs. Under hybrid WAN, if one data pathway is experiencing delays or errors, the alternate pathway can be selected and the data can then be redirected. 

Benefits of a Hybrid WAN or SD-WAN architecture: 

For the most part, implementing Hybrid WAN and SD-WAN has similar benefits – with the latter experiencing these benefits to a stronger degree. The main three benefits these architectures have over traditional WAN or MPLS are cost savings, increased network visibility, and higher application performance. 

Cost savings  

An SD-WAN centric architecture leverages multiple types of connectivity which is right sized for bandwidth and performance and relies on intelligence in the software for path selection. The primary cost savings are achieved by complementing or substituting high cost MPLS or private line circuits with Broadband and Dedicated Internet Access (DIA).  

When compared to traditional WAN systems, Hybrid or full SD-WAN can save you expensive electricity bills for running on-premises hardware as well as operational costs of maintaining the hardware. SD-WAN itself boasts low latency. This is because SD-WAN simplifies WAN architecture and security functionality. The improved application performance means that you’re getting higher value for your financial investments into cloud systems, cutting costs drastically.  

Increased visibility into the network     

SD-WAN provides detailed performance monitoring of throughput, latency, jitter, packet loss, and more. This allows the company to catch network issues earlier as well as provides for more information to then build solutions on.

Most SD-WAN platforms also have ‘application aware routing capabilities, which require the SD-WAN devices to perform deep-packet-inspection on the traffic. This capability results in additional security, analytics and insights into the types of traffic traversing the network. 

Higher application performance 

Because, under SD-WAN, data can be transported through various mediums including broadband, MPLS, and LTE, the software select the most efficient pathways for the time being. The quality of user experience is also improved, as latency is lowered, and responsiveness is at an all-time high.  


For enterprises that are able to evolve their networks fully, SD-WAN is the most advanced option due to the numerous enhancements and cost savings. However, Hybrid WAN still allows companies to benefit from some of the advantages of software-defined technologies without a full over-haul. For more information or to talk to an Apcela expert, contact us here

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