The classic hub-and-spoke WAN system has been a popular networking solution for decades. It offers offers strong security, as each device is isolated from the others, and permits close monitoring of traffic for potential security breaches. It is also affordable, easy to implement and maintain, and has a record of reliable performance. IT professionals at every level of expertise understand this system, simplifying the process of securing appropriate talent to manage networking needs.

However, even the most widely used technology eventually becomes obsolete, and for modern businesses, the hub-and-spoke system is no longer the most effective networking solution.

Aberdeen Group recently tackled this topic in their paper, SD-WAN is the Right Path for Better Branch Network Performance by Jim Rapoza, Senior Research Analyst & Editorial Director. They posit that “the classic hub and spoke WAN doesn’t make sense when businesses rely heavily on SaaS and cloud applications.”

Hub and Spoke WAN in a Cloud-Based World

The effectiveness of hub-and-spoke WAN topography relies on traditional traffic patterns. Specifically, connected devices must go through the hub to reach each other and the Internet. This requires traffic to move from one of the spokes through the hub to another spoke – and then back to the hub again. This back and forth activity takes time and it uses significantly more bandwidth than alternative options, slowing down the entire system. Traffic destined for the internet is sent to the hub datacenter and then to the Internet, which used WAN resources for internet traffic, even for non-work-related websites.

Until recently, internet use was relatively limited, so the inefficiencies of the hub-and-spoke system had little impact. However, the wide adoption of SaaS and cloud-based applications have dramatically changed the WAN landscape.

With the roll-out of SaaS and cloud-based applications, internet traffic has grown considerably, exacerbating the problems with hub-and-spoke WANs. Common applications like Microsoft Office 365 and Salesforce are entirely internet-based rather than being housed in a central data center. As a result, organizations that continue to rely on hub-and-spoke WANs are noticing a negative impact on worker productivity, as these applications function more slowly – or go down altogether. As the Aberdeen report states, “Forcing employees in the San Diego or Dallas office to connect to the main New York office for all their internet connectivity isn’t just unnecessary, it leads to slow performance, downtime and hassles that can reduce productivity, employee satisfaction, and revenue potential.” That a pretty strong indictment of the status quo!

The Benefits of SD-WAN

SD-WAN is one of the most popular alternatives to the hub-and-spoke problem, as it is both an effective and affordable way to improve the user experience. This system offers high levels of flexibility and resiliency, keeping all locations connected to each other. SD-WAN connects intelligently, routing traffic through the fastest connection available with options ranging from broadband and wireless to high-speed business internet. The system automatically chooses the most appropriate option for the task at hand, and, importantly, allowing branch offices to connect directly to the internet when accessing SaaS and cloud applications.

SD-WAN retains the most critical benefits of hub and spoke networking by retaining central network connections. Administrators retain visibility and control of connections and they have the option of managing access to personal applications like YouTube and social media sites that can slow down business-critical activities.

snip20170720_56In the Aberdeen report, they include results from research they’ve conducted on the impact of SD-WAN in companies that have deployed it. While they show that 25% of these companies see a reduction in network and WAN downtime once they’ve deployed SD-WAN, they also report that 33% says that they are “more likely to report increased security capabilities” as well. This shows that while SD-WAN overcomes the problems of hub-and-spoke, it does so without sacrificing the security that hub-and-spoke network architectures provided.

As organizations continue to expand, leveraging virtual teams and multiple sites across the country and around the world, reliable, high-speed internet connections to the internet and cloud are more critical than ever. Classic hub-and-spoke WANs simply can’t keep up, making SD-WAN the best choice for 21st century businesses. Learn more about the benefits of an SD-WAN in the Aberdeen Group Report: SD-WAN is the Right Path for Better Branch Network Performance.

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