SDWAN vs IWAN: Breaking Down the Difference


July 18, 2017

Recently, we tried to draw a firm line between data backup and disaster recovery. They are overlapping terms, but there are clear distinctions to be made between them. Today, we’re going to tackle two more terms: Intelligent WAN (IWAN) and the Software Defined WAN (SDWAN).  Once again, these terms are very similar, but they are not quite the same thing.


Examining the Terms: SDWAN and IWAN


  • Software Defined WAN: An SDWAN is really an offshoot of the software defined network. It is software defined networking principles applied to the wide area network rather than the overall network in the abstract. Therefore, to understand the SDWAN, you must understand the SDN.


  • Software Defined Network: The software defined network abstracts the pathways of a network and turns them into a virtual construction controlled from a central dashboard. Though the physical cables may connect everything together, the actual network pathways are determined by software. This allows businesses to construct and destroy networks in moments and arrange their environment with multiple networks quickly and easily.


  • IWAN: The Intelligent WAN is not a category of technologies. It is the name of Cisco’s SDWAN solution. They just happen to call it the IWAN for their own branding purposes, though that is not to say it will be exactly similar to any other SDWAN solution. One of Cisco IWAN’s best attributes is that it will redirect traffic based on priority in order to avoid network congestion and chokepoints. Through this method, businesses can actually improve network speeds and application performance without purchasing the additional hardware or bandwidth this would normally require. Furthermore, the product provides a number of other security and quality of service features.


Hybrid WAN


There’s another version of WAN that deserves to be distinguished as well. Hybrid is a common term used in technology. Between hybrid cloud, hybrid flash, and so on, hybrid often has subtle distinctions based on whichever root concept to which it is attached.

In this instance, the hybrid WAN refers to a method of connecting two geographically separate WANS by sending data though multiple connection types. One pathway will link directly to the data center or remote office, while the second WAN will link to the internet itself. This allows a business to save money without compromising security. Non critical data can be sent cheaply through the standard internet, and mission critical data can still be sent directly or through a VPN.


Keeping Up with the Terms


There’s a lot to know in the world of technology, and it is growing every day. It is on us as technologists and IT professionals to stay abreast of this information. For that reason, it is important that every once in a while we break down these terms in clear language. For more articles like this and to keep informed on the constantly shifting technology landscape, subscribe to our blog.


Contact Mindsight for More Information on SD-WAN

Mindsight’s consultants can explain how SD-WAN cuts WAN costs, detail the SD-WAN market and solution providers, and help you explore the challenges SD-WAN aims to address. 

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For Further Reading:

Immediate Cost Savings: The Case for SD-WAN Technology

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