One of the most common questions that network security architects ask is: “Should I choose SD-WAN over MPLS?” The decision to switch to SD-WAN has a big impact on businesses. The short answer is that SD-WAN provides better visibility, reach, performance, and more leeway. This is why the industry has seen interest in SD-WAN over the last few years.
Another problem affecting the rise in interest is flexibility. MPLS connectors are typically rigid, fixed connectors that cannot easily be adapted to the type of branch connection required by modern dynamic networks. Nor do they provide support for things like application recognition or bandwidth management for frequency-sensitive applications.
But before the events unfold, let’s go back and discuss why your organization should switch from MPLS to SD-WAN.
Some of the key benefits of SD-WAN over MPLS can be found by examining three key areas of difference: cost, security and performance.
In the past, many organizations have connected remote branches and retail locations to a central data center in a WAN model that relied on individual MPLS communications. As a result, all data, workflows and operations, including access to cloud services or the Internet, had to redirect traffic to a data center for processing and redistribution. Compared to the SD-WAN solution, this is very inefficient.
SD-WAN reduces costs by providing optimized multipoint communication, using distributed, private data exchange and control points to provide users with secure local access to the services they need – both network and cloud – while providing direct access to the cloud and the Internet sources.
MPLS does not provide any analysis of the data provided. This is still the responsibility of the MPLS client. Even with an MPLS connection, traffic still needs to be checked for malware or other exploits. This requires the installation of a firewall and any additional security features at least at one end of the network.
In terms of performance, MPLS provides a reliable, fixed bandwidth. While this may seem like an advantage, today’s traffic has performance requirements that can be very unpredictable. Organizations therefore need to lease MPLS connectivity to handle the worst-case scenario of traffic flow, which means that time-consuming bandwidth is unused, and at other times, due to the ever-increasing amount of data generated using modern networks and devices, MPLS connectivity can be restrictive.
Of course, some MPLS connections provide a flexible connectivity scale, but even then, it is limited by its inability to understand the nature of the traffic it controls and to make the necessary adjustments.
To make things even more difficult, while all traffic requires bandwidth to work, some applications, such as voice and video, have delay requirements that need to be constantly monitored. When multiple applications are running in the same communication tunnel, priority should be given to latency, which requires things like application recognition, traffic shaping, load balancing, and prioritization between different connections that MPLS simply does not provide.
SD-WAN recognizes applications and can adapt bandwidth and other services accordingly. It can initiate multiple parallel connections and then provide granular load balancing between them, as well as ensure that latency-sensitive applications receive all the required space and horsepower.
The advantages of SD-WAN solution outweigh MPLS. This is because modern traffic, consisting of advanced web applications and sophisticated working procedures, requires a more flexible and dynamic communication environment than traditionally provided by MPLS connections.
However, traditional SD-WAN solutions care about security. On the other hand, the secure SD-WAN solution provides a layer of remote office management and flexible connectivity capabilities that MPLS does not provide, as well as deep and deeply integrated security that controls add-ons and extends visibility and control from a central IT control panel or SOC distributed WAN edge.
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