Blog: SD-WAN vs MPLS

2 August 2018

It’s argued that there is a place for both SD-WAN and MPLS in modern WANs. But we’re backing SD-WAN and for good reason...

In its time, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), was revolutionary WAN technology as it didn’t require any additional security because the traffic was routed across a private infrastructure. It was engineered to support data between sites, including voice and video files and critical applications.

A decade ago it represented “the wave of the future”. However, consider how different the internet and our use of apps has been in the last 10 years. The internet is better-scaled, better-engineered and is growing in terms of bandwidth and performance. Our personal devices seamlessly connect with (generally) predictable performance. We now use corporate applications hosted in the cloud such as  Office 365 and Salesforce.

In spite of the surge of benefits it once delivered, MPLS can’t deliver the resilience, robust security, lower costs and reduced deployment times that SD-WAN can – and what modern businesses so desperately crave.

Up to 50% cost reduction: Despite the end-to-end QoS, the biggest downside to MPLS is really the cost. If your business needs 100Mbps+ bandwidth (and many do even without real-time applications), monthly circuit costs can be eye-wateringly high. SD-WAN however connects users to applications over any type of connection including MPLS, Internet and 4G LTE. By aggregating connections, you get fast speed at a low cost via inexpensive DSL lines. 

Adjusting on-the-fly: While MPLS only offers one static network connection, SD-WAN offers dynamic path selection always sending your traffic across the Internet circuit via the fastest route. Fluidity is essential as certain apps should run on certain links, for example you may want to route internet browsing traffic over internet links and critical voice traffic over MPLS. 

Increased uptime: By aggregating multiple Internet and WAN connections, you get the benefit of seamless circuit redundancy. MPLS providers may failover to a secondary Internet connection but it’s often not instantaneous; and there’s very rarely a third option.

Distance is no longer a barrier: Not all remote locations can justify the high cost of an MPLS circuit or worse still, they’re not serviceable by their MPLS provider. In the past this was accepted as a given and remote sites typically suffered reduced performance. However, SD-WAN is provider-agnostic and delivers the same benefits irrespective of underlying ISP.

Liberated to choose providers: Businesses often feel trapped with an MPLS – they can’t face the hassle of switching all sites and often “grin and bear” it despite high-costs. With SD-WAN, companies aren’t captive – they can easily add and remove ISP’s at any site, any time.

Direct Internet Access: SD-WAN provides the ability to access cloud SaaS applications from your branches. 

Resilience: SD-WAN intelligently routes around soft failures and partially degraded network links to find the most effective route, whereas MPLS will continue to send traffic on a regraded path.

By 2019, 80% of organisations will primarily use public cloud and there’ll be 10 billion mobile-connected devices - MPLS just can’t keep up with that kind of growth.

Learn more about SD-WAN by downloading our Buyers Guide here