Network Connectivity: MPLS or SD-WAN?

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Network Controller - Network Connectivity
Network Controller - Network Connectivity

Network Connectivity: MPLS or SD-WAN – which one is suitable for your business?

Does MPLS still have a place if SD-WAN is on the network connectivity agenda?

Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) services have been the topic of much discussion in recent years. According to a recent report by Futuriom, the SD-WAN tools and software market will hit $4.6 billion by 2023, representing a 34% compound annual growth rate.

Behind the hype, there is, of course, a very plausible explanation. The enterprise is moving its IT and networking operations to cloud infrastructures like never before – and that means a need for agile, high-performance, and secure connections to cloud applications. SD-WAN can help.

The Managed SD-WAN Solutions from ExterNetworks offer comprehensive and cost-effective [network connectivity] from branch locations to the headquarters.

Increasing adoption of SD-WAN in network connectivity

As the name suggests, SD-WAN is not a network infrastructure but rather a software product that acts as an overlay to an organization’s existing infrastructure, such as Broadband Internet, Mobile 4G LTE, and so on. Due to SD-WAN’s virtual nature, however, it is not dependent on the underlying hardware. As a consequence, SD-WAN is extremely flexible. The SD-WAN intelligently redirects network traffic in real-time if there is congestion in the current network.

In addition to this, SD-WAN can handle multiple high-bandwidth WAN links simultaneously, as well as connecting to dual service providers – so naturally, performance is maximized when combining different types of connections.

In terms of security, SD-WAN is designed to be secure. Regardless of whether 0% or 100% of the network is carried on public infrastructure, encrypted end-to-end tunnels (128 bits and upwards) are built across the whole network.

MPLS is affected by SD-WAN network connectivity

Often, when SD-WAN is discussed, questions are raised about Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS). MPLS works by placing labels on packets, each label indicating the direction in which the data should be sent. The MPLS network reduces processing time at each router by setting up unidirectional routes between pairs of routers – a speed augmentation big businesses embraced twenty years ago.

In today’s world, however, MPLS is most commonly used by those seeking scalability. This is because MPLS allows users to previously set up label-switched paths, so they can have the benefits of physical circuits, which are expensive and difficult to scale, as well as the cost-effectiveness of pure IP routing.

MPLS is also attractive to enterprises because of its consistent network performance. It is assured by applying Class of Service classification to packets. When a link is congested, it diverts less urgent traffic onto slower routes, so that when networks are congested, the user experience does not suffer. Additionally, thanks to this sophisticated traffic engineering, traffic can be sent over non-standard paths, reducing congestion and latency on the paths that were just avoided.

MPLS also provides better bandwidth utilization by placing different types of traffic on the same link – just as high priority traffic can borrow capacity from lower priority streams when needed, lower priority traffic can use higher priority services that are idle.

Comparison of SD-WAN and MPLS network connectivity

You might be wondering: Given all the benefits of MPLS connectivity, why should businesses abandon it? MPLS provided an adequate solution for yesterday’s challenges, but it is not adequate for today’s. MPLS is generally preferred by businesses because it is essentially a private network, making it both reliable and secure. It is also significantly more expensive than sending traffic over the public Internet because it is a company-exclusive link purchased from a carrier. As streaming videos or other multimedia content requires significantly high bandwidth, MPLS becomes prohibitively expensive for organizations that work remotely.

MPLS providers are also hard to find who can provide global coverage or offer small-area coverage, making it difficult for companies to expand into new markets. In these scenarios, although service providers may offer MPLS, there are not many who will also provide failover to an alternative network link should the primary connection fail. The limited availability of today’s digital environment can pose a serious threat to companies.

Finally, MPLS is less secure than SD-WAN. Consequently, with SD-WAN, customers have full control and visibility over their network connectivity, just like with any modern application. With real-time network insights, IT teams can not only identify threats more quickly but also take action accordingly to future-proof your business network.

Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) has been a reliable network solution for organizations looking for reliable connectivity for two decades. For a time, branch offices used to send traffic back to the main headquarters or data center to maintain a stable, reliable connection.

Despite this, MPLS does not currently meet the needs of today’s enterprises with unprecedented global reach and generating high volumes of WAN traffic resulting from cloud adoption and SaaS applications. As a result, many companies are combining MPLS with Internet local break-out to boost their network performance and reduce MPLS costs. Wouldn’t it be better if SD-WAN combined with full internet connectivity offered the best of both worlds?

MPLS or hybrid network configurations aren’t the only options available to those looking for an SD-WAN alternative. When compared to MPLS, SD-WAN offers a faster and more cost-effective solution since it provides multiple high-bandwidth underlay connections simultaneously, including MPLS, wireless, and the internet.

Are you ready for the next step in network connectivity? 

SD-WAN’s ability to handle multiple network functions reduces both hardware and operational costs. Support for multiple underlay WAN links increases reliability and enables bandwidth aggregation and traffic separation. Network optimization can be achieved with intelligent routing. Network devices can be deployed and managed remotely using cloud management. Taking these steps paves the way for SD-WAN technology to support the next big thing in network connectivity: wireless connectivity.

A Wireless WAN is built on cellular links as a connection option between diverse types of underlay network connectivity – this is the foundation for Wireless WANs. As a result of SD-WAN’s network intelligence, switching between links, separating specific traffic types, or quickly setting up a new location is easy.

Enterprise networks benefit from the increased diversity, increased agility, and broader reach provided by wireless connections. Essentially, it extends the reach of the enterprise network to the places, devices, and people where work is being done.

SD-WAN Support: Network Connectivity Services and the Role of the Field Engineer Platform

A Network Controller installs network systems to maintain connectivity between systems and sources.

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