Definition

hybrid WAN

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: New WAN tools, techniques and methods you need to know
Contributor(s): James Maimonis and Alissa Irei

Hybrid WAN is a method to connect a geographically dispersed wide area network (WAN) by sending traffic over two or more connection types. In its strictest sense, hybrid WAN employs dedicated multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) circuits plus carrier Ethernet plus T3 links. More recently, hybrid WAN has evolved to encompass traditional leased lines in concert with public Internet connections. By using this approach, a hybrid WAN can give organizations a more versatile and cost-effective way to connect their offices while still relying on dedicated links to send mission-critical data.

The approach is increasingly common and has generated a lot of buzz in the networking industry. It is particularly attractive to enterprises with many branch offices, as it can result in substantial financial savings and significantly increased bandwidth.

In addition to cost and operational benefits, enterprises are increasingly deploying a hybrid WAN to manage the growing number of applications they manage. Branch offices now depend on real-time applications that require additional throughput and connectivity. By routing such traffic over multiple links, enterprises can tap into adequate bandwidth as required and reduce the impact geographic distance has on application performance. Hybrid WAN is closely aligned with, but not identical to, software-defined WAN (SD-WAN). In this approach, software dynamically routes traffic over available connections based on network policies and available bandwidth. Many hybrid WAN have an SDN component, although it is not required.

This was last updated in August 2015

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