Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) has been popular for a number of years now and is very good at providing robust and reliable connectivity as well as ensuring critical business information continues to flow, but it’s flexibility has also become a limiting factor.

MPLS requires pre-determined A and B points and once the circuits are up and running it is difficult to make changes easily. In this sense it means it does provide a level of predictability to the network and can’t be beaten for Quality of Service (QoS) with reliable packet transport, but when it comes to MPLS, higher capacity bandwidths are expensive, and these days businesses require a lot of it.

Since MPLS was developed, Cloud Computing has come a long way and has revolutionised how businesses work. Remote access and access to Cloud applications such as VoIP, video conferencing and O365 are now very much the norm. As a result, an MPLS network is not flexible enough for this kind of traffic.

Enter SD-WAN; a new platform which enables users to control the network from a central location and offers the ability to have greater visibility and flexibility across the entire estate.

SD-WAN has a number of features that sets it apart from MPLS:

  • No geographic restrictions – whilst able to connect to multiple sites, MPLS is not suitable for smaller, remote sites where their current provider does not have reach or it is cost prohibitive. SD-WAN is transport agnostic meaning it can provide the same service regardless of which transport mechanism is being used and has the capability to add and remove connections at any site as the business requires.
  • Performance – with the ability to control the network more proactively, businesses can prioritise what traffic takes which route. MPLS settings are static meaning there is little-to-no flexibility to adjust as changes are needed.
  • Visibility and control – businesses can be sure of seamless redundancy as connections can be rerouted at the click of a button. SD-WAN enables businesses to mix and match connections according to content priority.
  • Scalability – point-and-click provisioning. Bandwidth for MPLS can be very costly whereas SD-WAN enables businesses to easily scale bandwidth up and down with minimal interference.

When it comes to MPLS vs SD-WAN, SD-WAN is most effective for those with multiple and remote sites with a range of very low and high capacity requirements. If a business only has a few regional sites that have little complexity and happy to access the cloud via the Public Internet or through a Cloud Connect solution, however, then SD-WAN is probably not the best solution.

For those who require real-time and QoS services, and cannot afford packet loss and jitter, then MPLS is still the best option.

As you have read, both MPLS and SD-WAN have a number of pros and cons, so it’s important to be aware of each in order to make the best choice for your business needs.

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