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What is the difference between SD-WAN vs MPLS?

As there is an increasing demand for applications based on the cloud today, coupled with increasing branch offices and bandwidth needs, it is of little surprise that service providers are giving greater consideration to how WAN, Wide Area Network, services should be deployed. Two of the most critical technologies when it comes to these services are SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network) and MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching). So, with that being said, below, we are going to take a look at both SD-WAN vs MPLS  options in further detail to help you make up your mind.


MPLS Basics

What is MPLS? This refers to a protocol for network traffic to flow efficiently between a number of different locations. This works in a very similar way to Ethernet routers and switches, sitting between layers three and layers two networks. MPLS makes the most of labels for fast packets routing and forwarding in the network. In this form of network, the switch for MPLS, which is usually a 10GB Ethernet switch and Gigabit Ethernet switch, will transfer data. It does this by the label being popped off and the packet being sent to the next switch label in the sequence. One of the reasons why a lot of service providers consider this option is because it is effective in terms of traffic prioritization. This means that the network has a sense of predictability. This gives users the ability to leverage a single network connection for various applications and there will be no negative impact on the performance that is desired for each and every one of them.


Now, let’s take a look at the second option, which is SD-WAN. This has been born out of the fact that enterprises and data centers today are required WAN technologies that are cloud-based, as well as being more open and flexible. This is something that they are looking for instead of installing specialized or proprietary WAN technology, which tends to involve proprietary hardware, fixed circuits, and a lot of costs. This is why SD-WAN has become the preferred solution. It is extremely beneficial in terms of connecting branch offices to a centralized corporate network or even to connect data centers that are separated in terms of location. With SD-WAN, these geographic boundaries are essentially taken away, enabling communications with all of the endpoints of the network. This means that management is a lot more straightforward, lowering the recurring network costs and offering zero-touch deployment.

So, which solution is the best? Well, it does depend on the needs of your business. After all, there is no right or wrong answer. However, we can take a look at a number of different areas that will have an impact on your decision. For example, reliability is something that a lot of technicians are going to be looking for when it comes to WAN deployment. For MPLS technology, IT technicians find the reliable delivery of packets the most appealing. However, the aim of SD-WAN technology is to deliver a simple cloud-enabled WAN connection in a secure manner. Therefore, if reliability is your main area of consideration, you may prefer to go down the MPLS route. This is vital when it comes to maintaining real-time appliance quality, for example, remote desktops, video conferencing, and VoIP phones.

On the flip side, though, there are some benefits associated with SD-WAN that are simply not achievable if you opt for an MPLS. this includes security. A lot of companies around the world today would rather network architectures that integrate orchestration, policy, and security. By unifying secure connectivity, this is achieved with SD-WAN. Modern SD-WAN offers a way for WAN to be connected directly to the cloud across links that have been optimized with enhanced security and flexibility. Also, the cost is another area that a lot of people will need to consider when choosing between the two options, and this is again where SD-WAN tends to be preferred. This is because they are a lot of alternatives being developed at compelling prices. However, legacy MPLS networks have shown that they are rather costly. This is because of the multimedia content that hogs a lot of the bandwidth. 

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what SD-WAN vs MPLS are and how they differ. This is important to consider when it comes to WAN implementation. There is no right or wrong answer; it is all about choosing what is going to work for you.

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