Does the Enterprise Need a Hybrid WAN?

Hybrid WAN
SD-WANs are reinvigorating the WAN landscape.  The focus is shifting away from businesses layering additional services, like WAN Optimization, on top of their older, high-cost MPLS to adding multiple and disparate types of WAN links that are more robust at a lower cost.

Enterprises are adopting this new Hybrid WAN strategy in order to keep up with trends like globalization, cloud computing, and mobility. And SD-WAN is a major component that is helping to further the adoption of this rapidly-evolving infrastructure.

Why globalization and the cloud matter

Globalization And Cloud Goes Hand in Hand

The WAN has become key for multinational businesses to connect overseas workers with centralized applications. Traditionally, an enterprise utilized MPLS to connect remote offices, and then added WAN Optimization appliances to make the most of those expensive private connections.

However, applications and network infrastructure no longer reside at a company headquarters or data center; they are increasingly being provided to businesses in the form of a cloud platform or infrastructure-as-a-service. And, these days, enterprises must do more than provide connectivity between distant global offices. They must also deliver reliable application performance from newer cloud or outsourced data center offerings to remote and mobile workers, contractors, and even global business partners.

Moving resources to the cloud complicates application delivery, since it’s just not feasible to run MPLS connections to each and every cloud data center you rely on. Even if the costs were not prohibitive (which they are), the lack of flexibility in this approach flies in the face of today’s agile business movement. MPLS contracts tend to extend for years. Plus, it can take months to deploy to a new location, even for something simple as relocating an office to a building across the street.

That is why most organizations today are relying more on the public Internet to access their cloud applications. The obvious concern for a business with this approach is that the public Internet is plagued by instability and congestion. Dropped packets, latency, and jitter all undermine application performance. When knowledge workers, who have become accustomed to using their applications at LAN speeds, experience delays from poor long-haul WAN connections, business productivity takes a major hit, and I.T. managers get complaints.

This is why many organizations are beginning to focus strategically on developing a “Hybrid WAN” approach – some combination of MPLS and the Internet.

Where does SD-WAN fit in

Generally, SD-WAN technology provides the enterprise WAN with better path selection and control. But another aspect of a few SD-WAN technologies today is WAN Optimization. Because WAN Optimization helps enterprises save bandwidth and improve application performance over a single WAN link, it is often used with MPLS to reduce bandwidth requirements. If you are going to pay a premium for MPLS, you’d better get the most of it.

However, the feature sets of today’s SD-WAN products vary greatly from vendor to vendor. Most promise to utilize and manage multiple WAN links that include MPLS and the public Internet, allowing enterprises to load balance over those links, while also creating policies to prioritize certain types of traffic. Management is a key component, but application optimization may not be included, and large deployments can still be architecturally challenging.

A basic SD-WAN “hybrid” deployment might use multiple types of links, reserving the more expensive MPLS for something like video conferencing, which requires a higher quality stable connection, and then saving Internet links for lower priority or non-real time traffic.

But SD-WAN technology alone can’t provide the guaranteed service most enterprises require. While the Holy Grail of SD-WAN might be to allow businesses to reduce overall WAN operating costs by using cheaper underlying links for all of their WAN connectivity, the risk is currently too great for most businesses to go “all in.”  Pulling in the public Internet as a part of a hybrid WAN strategy makes sense, but relying only on the public Internet to provide reliable and stable long-haul WAN access to business-critical applications is potentially disastrous.

Beyond Hybrid WAN: Look to the Middle Mile

The Internet, by and large, is comprised of many competing companies, and the priority for each company is to protect their own traffic and their customers’ traffic. When traffic stays within a single provider’s network, it generally works pretty well. But if traffic crosses oceans and national borders, it will be handed off from one provider to another, each one seeking to dump traffic off at peering points in the middle as quickly as possible. This long-haul data relay race, with your traffic as the baton, is what we call the dreaded “middle mile”.

Middle Mile in WAN

Now, it’s probably just not conceivable that one of these other large network companies might route their traffic at the expense of yours during a period of congestion…(Nawww, of course not!)  But this actually DOES happen, and is the reason many larger enterprises go the route of paying top dollar for MPLS in the first place.

For enterprises trying to connect their distributed global locations and business processes together across a WAN, this middle mile is emerging as a major enterprise bottleneck. And for enterprises attempting to incorporate a Voice (VoIP) or Video WAN strategy, a quality middle mile is an absolute requirement. Poor network conditions like packet loss, congestion, or jitter can reduce voice or video quality to the point of being unusable, and SD-WAN or WANOp technologies don’t have the ability to solve these issues.

The Solution to the Middle Mile Doesn’t Start with Hybrid WAN

With a hybrid WAN approach enabled by SD-WAN services, businesses no longer have to exclusively deploy expensive, higher bandwidth private WAN links to handle increasing traffic loads.

However, expensive, higher bandwidth private WAN links will still be a necessary part of a hybrid solution – and any hybrid WAN that re-routes traffic over the public Internet will still be subject to the problems discussed above. Not to mention that a hybrid approach will necessarily be complex and costly, requiring that IT construct this heterogenous WAN from various different vendors.

Instead of a hybrid WAN, what enterprises need is a homogenous WAN.

Aryaka Global SD-WAN
Aryaka’s global SD-WAN is designed to deliver any application, anywhere in the world up to 40x.

For example, Aryaka’s global SD-WAN solves the middle mile problems while reducing complexity and cost, because it is the middle mile. It provides an enterprise-grade global private network that has been purpose-built to accelerate applications over long distances, meaning it provides the stability and reliablilty of MPLS, but with the flexibility the public Internet. Since it has already been pre-built for the enterprise, it can be deployed in a matter of hours or days and consumed as a NaaS. Therefore, businesses no longer have to wait months for a stable connection like they used to for MPLS, nor do they have to cobble together a hybrid WAN from multiple vendors and manage all of the disparate pieces.

Aryaka’s services also include built-in network and application monitoring, so network managers can easily gain insight into traffic and reroute around problems quickly and easily.

With trends like virtualization and cloud already in the mainstream, applications and IT infrastructure have evolved dramatically over the past several years. Now, it’s time for the enterprise WAN to catch up. Hybrid WANs may look like a step in the right direction, but IT must consider the costs of implementing a “good enough” approach using yesterday’s technology over investing in a unified solution that can future-proof the WAN.

Looking to replace MPLS and develop a better global WAN strategy? Download our latest whitepaper, MPLS Alternatives – The Definitive Guide to learn more.

About the author

Robert Meyer
Robert Meyer is Director of Global Systems Engineering at Aryaka. He has a 20-year background in networks and security. He has also been involved in WAN Optimization with some of the world’s leading companies for more than 10 years.