Blog: SD-WAN vs. MPLS – Your Top Questions Answered

By 128 Technology |

For years, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) has been the de facto standard for WAN connectivity. Its winning combination of superior reliability and excellent quality of service (QoS) has served businesses extremely well, particularly those with several remote locations that require low-latency access to centralized or cloud-based data.

Recently, a compelling new approach known as Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) has entered the fold, and it’s leading IT professionals in virtually every industry to re-think how they’re connecting to the WAN. With substantially lower costs over MPLS and the ability to go beyond simple connectivity and integrate advanced network functions directly into the routed network, SD-WAN is quickly catching on as the next big thing in WAN connectivity.

If you’re thinking about making the leap into SD-WAN, we assume you have some questions. Is MPLS dead? What is SD-WAN? What is the difference between SD-WAN and MPLS? Are there additional advantages of SD-WAN over MPLS? That’s why we’ve put together a simple guide that answers them all.

Is MPLS Dead?

For nearly 20 years, MPLS has been hard at work directing packets from one node to the next based on short labels that speed up and shape traffic flows for maximum speed and high availability. There are still a few situations and applications where MPLS makes sense as a connectivity option, particularly when there is no room for latency or downtime. But the price per megabit of MPLS is becoming prohibitive for most use cases, especially for high-bandwidth content such as ultra-high definition video and virtual reality. In addition, the complex engineering required to roll out MPLS typically isn’t worth it unless every microsecond counts. In short, while MPLS is still alive and well, its relevance is fading fast.

What Is SD-WAN?

SD-WAN is a programmatic approach to managing connectivity that enables the use of heterogenous networks for WAN traffic. Simply put, it allows companies to use a mix of broadband, 4G/LTE, satellite connections, and even MPLS to support the unique needs of their WAN traffic – while optimizing costs. With SD-WAN, a financial institution might employ high-performance MPLS connectivity for a performance-intensive trading application while using lower-cost broadband for e-mail, voice, and video. SD-WAN also integrates security, policy, WAN optimization, resiliency, load balancing, and orchestration directly into the routing fabric, and it provides end-to-end visibility for superior performance management. With so many benefits, when people ask us “What is SD-WAN?” we typically begin our answer with “It’s the future of networking.”

What Is the Difference between SD-WAN and MPLS?

Whereas MPLS establishes and governs a static path between two endpoints and guarantees performance between them, SD-WAN takes a much more flexible approach. SD-WAN can manage connectivity across multiple heterogeneous links, determining the best route for traffic based on current network conditions and even creating distinct paths for various traffic types or applications. The benefits of SD-WAN vs. MPLS include improved costs, superior agility, integrated security, continuous path monitoring, and integrated network functions. With so many advantages, the difference between SD-WAN and MPLS is actually quite impressive.

Are There Other Advantages of SD-WAN over MPLS?

While SD-WAN offers an extremely compelling solution out of the box, 128 Technology has developed several innovative features that extend the benefits of SD-WAN vs. MPLS. With Session Smart™ routing technology, network professionals can reduce the overhead added to every packet, speed tunnel set-up time, and eliminate the need for always-on backup tunnels. It can also guarantee superior SLAs than standard SD-WAN, achieve sub-second failovers, reduce bandwidth usage, perform integrated load-balancing, and enable complete visibility and Zero Trust Security across all network segments.

When we look at SD-WAN vs. MPLS, the advantages for SD-WAN are clear. In addition to its basic functionality, the added features that 128 Technology offers make for a clear winner (read about the advantages of Session Smart SD-WAN here). We’ll take SD-WAN over MPLS any day.

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