Increasing adoption of cloud technology is leading to increasing complexity in networks. Many enterprises accustomed to relying on multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) are now finding it overly complicated, as well as expensive. This is especially true when accounting for the impact artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) have upon network traffic. In many cases, software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) is regarded as the ideal solution to network complexity.
When considering an SD-WAN deployment, it’s important to consider the ways the technology improves network management and the ways it may come up short and require additional attention. For those using MPLS, a comprehensive comparison is necessary before determining if it’s time to implement SD-WAN:
Benefits and drawbacks of MPLS: MPLS has long been valued for its reliability and service level agreements (SLAs) that ensure performance, latency, repair time and other critical aspects of reliability are secured by the provider at acceptable levels.
The main drawback of MPLS is its cost. An enterprise with multiple branch locations must backhaul its network traffic before sending it out to the internet, which can cause congestion, particularly as mobile and IoT data transmissions are increasing network traffic. MPLS is also not particularly agile, with bandwidth updates often taking weeks to complete.
The SD-WAN solution: Many enterprises are turning to SD-WAN to supplement — and possibly replace — MPLS utilizing internet-based services instead. SD-WAN provides an encrypted overlay so network engineers can create application-based policies to determine the paths of various network traffic types. These algorithms can assess end-to-end pathways to determine the ideal path for any given traffic, based on application requirements and optimized bandwidth option.
For instance, an SD-WAN policy may direct email and other latency-tolerant, bandwidth-hungry traffic through the internet, while voice and video transmissions, which require a pathway with fewer instances of jitter and packet loss, would be sent across MPLS.
SD-WAN also provides agility for optimal network engineering. Not only can it strategically distribute traffic across bandwidth types, but it also can use this to adjust traffic during a blackout or brownout. Failover is often so fast that it can preserve the application’s current session.
While a concern could be raised that MPLS lines are more available than Internet services, this can be addressed through the strategic configuration of WAN management.
It’s important to note that replacing or even augmenting MPLS with SD-WAN requires a thorough assessment of your existing security strategy and how it must change to protect a different network solution. SD-WAN significantly changes the security plane, and enterprises need to account not only for SD-WAN, but also for mobile, IoT, and other new technologies connecting the network to the cloud.
To learn more about the benefits of implementing SD-WAN for network management, contact us at Wanify.