SD-WAN vs MPLS: Which is Right for You?

This blog delves into the distinct features of SD-WAN vs MPLS, highlighting their respective advantages to help you make an informed networking decision.

In the age of digital transformation, choosing the right wide area networking (WAN) solution is crucial for the success and efficiency of your business.

Two prominent technologies, Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), have emerged as leading options for connecting remote offices, data centres and cloud services.

In this article, we will delve into the SD-WAN vs. MPLS differences and benefits, helping you make an informed decision for your networking needs. 

SD-WAN vs. MPLS

What Is SD-WAN?

SD-WAN, or Software-Defined Wide Area Network, is a revolutionary approach to networking that leverages virtualization and overlay tunnels. It connects users to various workloads across multiple transport services and existing infrastructure, including VPNs, broadband internet, LTE, and even MPLS.

As businesses move away from traditional on-premises data centres, SD-WAN offers a flexible and cost-effective alternative.

How Does SD-WAN Work?

SD-WAN employs application-aware routing protocols to enhance application performance. It creates secure, end-to-end encrypted tunnels through which a centralised manager intelligently directs network traffic along the most efficient route across the WAN. This traffic is prioritised according to business policies, ensuring optimal Quality of Service (QoS).

Secure tunnels also facilitate direct connections to cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), reducing costs, improving connectivity, and strengthening security compared to traditional or hybrid WAN setups.

What Is MPLS?

In the SD-WAN vs. MPLS comparison, MPLS, or Multiprotocol Label Switching, is a wide area networking protocol that routes traffic using labels instead of IP addresses. It is designed to determine the shortest path for packet forwarding, reducing latency, jitter, and packet loss while ensuring swift traffic movement.

How Does MPLS Work?

MPLS labels each data packet and controls the path it takes based on labels rather than IP addresses. Unlike traditional IP routing, where each router independently decides the next hop for traffic, MPLS guides traffic through a predetermined label-switched path (LSP). Routers need only interpret MPLS labels, not the full IP address. In corporate contexts, this streamlines network traffic, thereby reducing latency.

MPLS also can partition a network into multiple logical private networks with overlapping IP addresses, allowing service providers to manage WAN traffic for multiple enterprise customers over the same network.

SD-WAN vs. MPLS

When comparing SD-WAN vs. MPLS, it is essential to consider several factors:

  • Performance: MPLS can offer superior performance and QoS but requires a purpose-built network or a managed WAN service. SD-WAN, on the other hand, is versatile, using software-defined policies to select the best path for routing traffic, making it suitable for real-time applications like teleconferencing, VoIP, and business intelligence.

  • Cost Savings: SD-WAN can significantly reduce costs by utilising cost-effective options such as the public internet, which is not the case with MPLS.

  • Flexibility: SD-WAN offers agility, with virtualised infrastructure changes taking minutes, whereas MPLS network changes can be complex and time-consuming.

  • Simplicity: SD-WAN solutions often include zero-touch provisioning, simplifying device configuration, whereas MPLS requires manual setup and is tied to specific hardware.

  • Security: SD-WAN provides enhanced security through encrypted end-to-end tunnels, seamlessly integrating with cloud-delivered security functions. MPLS connections, while private, are not inherently secure or encrypted.


Benefits of SD-WAN Compared to MPLS

  • Lower Costs: SD-WAN can reduce costs, especially with the growing adoption of cloud services.

  • Greater Flexibility: SD-WAN’s agile nature allows quick infrastructure adjustments, reducing complexity.

  • Higher Performance: Intelligent traffic steering enhances performance, reducing latency, and improving the user experience.

  • Simplicity: Zero-touch provisioning eliminates the need for manual configuration, unlike MPLS.

  • Stronger Security: SD-WAN’s encrypted tunnels and integration with cloud security functions maintains security.

Conclusion

In the SD-WAN vs. MPLS debate, the choice depends on your organisation’s specific needs. While MPLS may excel in performance and QoS, SD-WAN offers greater flexibility, cost savings, simplicity, and security.

Modern businesses need solutions that adapt to their changing requirements, and SD-WAN’s versatility makes it a compelling choice for many. Consider your unique circumstances and requirements when deciding which technology is right for you.

If you would like to know more about SD-WAN and MPLS , contact a member of the Connected Networks team today.

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