5 Key Differences Between SD-WAN and MPLS Networks

By Christophe Rude Jul 14, 2023 #SD-WAN
5 Key Differences Between SD-WAN and MPLS Networks5 Key Differences Between SD-WAN and MPLS Networks

As more companies look to reduce network costs, many are considering SD-WAN solutions. However, before you switch, it’s essential to understand the pros and cons of both technologies.

MPLS connections are inherently dedicated, which limits flexibility and can’t easily support bandwidth-intensive, latency-sensitive applications. On the other hand, SD-WAN uses multiple types of underlays to provide more granular traffic control and security functionality.

Better Visibility and Control

Hub-and-spoke networks have typically used MPLS circuits to connect remote users and branch offices to the data center. However, this paradigm is gradually becoming outdated as businesses roll out new applications and services over public internet connections and the cloud.

With SD-WAN, IT companies can switch to less expensive broadband and 5G connections instead of pricey transport providers like MPLS while utilizing superior application visibility and network performance monitoring to guarantee a top-notch user experience. The difference between SD-WAN and MPLS is that SD-WAN is software-defined and can be deployed on any underlying technology without requiring specialized hardware like optical network terminals (ONT). It increases WAN connectivity flexibility while lowering costs and enhancing operational agility.

With centralized management, SD-WAN can deliver more significant network traffic control from edge devices to the cloud. Includes granular performance and priority options to route traffic and optimize applications for better latency. And with deep packet inspection, a robust security layer can also be implemented to protect sensitive corporate data.

Better Security

While MPLS offers a reliable and secure network connection, it lacks the flexibility that business-critical applications need. With SD-WAN, you can use your underlying network infrastructure (MPLS, public internet, or LTE), and a secure software overlay provides simple, scalable connectivity for remote offices, branch locations, and multi-cloud environments.

SD-WAN can choose the best route for sending data packets based on bandwidth and priority. It reduces latency and jitter during video conference calls, which improves the user experience. Additionally, SD-WAN’s ability to support multiple gigabit links from carriers makes it easy to add bandwidth as needed, reducing costs.

Moreover, SD-WAN’s ability to prioritize traffic based on business priorities lets you minimize the data lost due to network congestion or failures. It protects sensitive information from threats and helps you meet compliance requirements. Lastly, an SD-WAN’s packet inspection capabilities can help you get more visibility and control into the performance of your business-critical applications. It can save you from losing revenue and productivity due to unreliable connections. It also allows you to make granular changes to routing policies and optimize traffic based on application requirements.

Better Flexibility

In addition to cost savings, SD-WAN offers greater flexibility in many ways. For example, it supports bandwidth expansion based on organization needs and isn’t limited to predefined MPLS circuit paths. It also aggregates multiple transport media and can adapt if a specific network link fails or provides poor performance.

Finally, compared to MPLS, SD-WAN is much faster to deploy. Deploying a total SD-WAN solution with some vendors takes less than three months. And, if desired, organizations can use public Internet links instead of dedicated MPLS circuits to save even more on bandwidth costs.

MPLS has its place in the enterprise, but it has drawbacks. In a world where networks are becoming increasingly dispersed with sites, branches, home offices, and multi-cloud environments and when the need for improved security is paramount, an SD-WAN solution can deliver a more competitive combination of price and performance. Book a discovery call with Marlin to learn how an SD-WAN can benefit your organization. 

Better Performance

MPLS networks use private connections that ensure data stays private and support real-time applications like VoIP calls with built-in quality of service. SD-WAN uses application-aware routing to proactively steer traffic based on established business policies and performance criteria while providing more control over bandwidth usage. By leveraging inexpensive transports like broadband Internet and 5G, SD-WAN can replace expensive MPLS connections while providing a secure and reliable network connection with built-in redundancy.

SD-WAN is how enterprises deploy cloud and SaaS apps to their remote sites and mobile workforces. By prioritizing data based on the type and choosing the best route, SD-WAN delivers better app performance and reduces the time it takes to connect to the cloud. In addition, SD-WAN eliminates geographic restrictions for more flexibility and enables IT to add or remove connections at any site based on business needs. It also simplifies operations with zero-touch provisioning and central management. It also provides more reliable connectivity to the cloud because SD-WAN can route around any Internet outages. Lastly, unlike MPLS, which requires dedicated circuits that can take weeks to install, SD-WAN is instantly scalable with a few clicks.

Better Cost Efficiency

Many organizations are in a hybrid state, using both MPLS and SD-WAN. It makes sense because it allows them to comfortably migrate away from legacy technologies while increasing agility, security, and performance.

Dedicated MPLS circuits offer a high level of reliability, with built-in SLAs and high availability features. They also provide centralized control and support for cloud applications. However, they can be expensive and require significant time to deploy and provision.

SD-WAN offers better cost efficiency by leveraging affordable public Internet bandwidth and enabling more reliable, high-performance connectivity to critical business apps and data. Its WAN performance optimization capabilities rely on application-aware routing and dynamic link assessment to select the best paths.

SD-WAN is also more scalable and able to expand capacity without requiring new equipment at branch locations. It is significant for the fluid, remote workforces that are a hallmark of today’s workplace. It also supports secure direct Internet access at the branch, eliminating the need for backhauling to central locations, which can slow performance and cause lag.

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