June 09, 2023
MPLS vs SD-WAN
by Gareth Hughes, Head of Channel SEACOM South Africa
The networking landscape offers a multitude of technologies to facilitate seamless connectivity and dependable network access for businesses. Among these technologies, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) stand out.
Although MPLS and SD-WAN share a common goal, they differ significantly in their approach. This article delves into the distinctions between MPLS and SD-WAN, shedding light on their respective functionalities and use cases.
What is MPLS?
MPLS is a network technology employed to facilitate efficient routing of network traffic across various locations. This technology involves assigning specific tags, known as labels, to packets, enabling them to traverse designated paths within the network. MPLS is commonly utilised in expansive networks, including enterprise and service provider environments. It boasts exceptional reliability and performance, making it particularly suitable for mission-critical applications such as voice and video.
An essential advantage of MPLS lies in its ability to ensure guaranteed Quality of Service (QoS) for different types of traffic. This feature allows businesses to prioritise specific types of traffic over others, guaranteeing that crucial applications receive the necessary bandwidth and optimal performance to operate seamlessly. Additionally, MPLS offers robust security measures as all traffic is encrypted and routed through private networks.
Use cases for MPLS
MPLS serves as a favoured choice for large enterprises and service providers seeking to establish dependable, high-performance connectivity across multiple sites. It finds application in various use cases, including:
1) Connecting multiple data centres: MPLS plays a crucial role in establishing fast, secure and reliable connectivity between different data centres. This capability is of particular significance for businesses that heavily depend on real-time data replication between their data centres. By leveraging MPLS, these organisations can ensure seamless and efficient synchronisation of critical data across their data centre infrastructure.
2) Supporting voice and video applications: MPLS provides guaranteed QoS for different types of traffic, making it an ideal choice for voice and video applications requiring high performance and reliability levels.
3) Connecting remote offices: MPLS can be effectively utilised to establish secure and reliable connections between remote offices and a company's headquarters. This enables employees to access company resources seamlessly and efficiently. By implementing MPLS, organisations can ensure a robust and protected network infrastructure, allowing remote workers to securely connect to essential company resources, such as databases, applications and internal systems. This facilitates smooth collaboration and access to critical information, enhancing productivity and overall operational effectiveness.
What is SD-WAN?
SD-WAN, a newer technology, introduces dynamic management and optimisation of network traffic across diverse locations through software. It empowers businesses to leverage various connectivity options, including broadband, LTE and MPLS, to create a hybrid WAN solution that is both flexible and cost-effective compared to traditional WAN approaches. With SD-WAN, software monitors network traffic, continually adapting the routing and performance of different traffic types in real-time.
A key advantage of SD-WAN lies in its ability to reduce the overall cost of WAN connectivity by leveraging multiple connectivity options. Additionally, SD-WAN offers flexibility by dynamically adjusting traffic routing based on factors such as network congestion, latency and link quality. This adaptability ensures optimal utilisation of network resources while enhancing the overall performance and efficiency of the network infrastructure.
Use cases for SD-WAN
Businesses of all sizes often use SD-WAN to create a more flexible and cost-effective WAN solution. Some everyday use cases for SD-WAN include:
1) Reducing WAN costs: SD-WAN provides businesses with the opportunity to reduce the cost of WAN connectivity by incorporating cost-effective broadband and LTE connections alongside pricier MPLS connections.
2) Improving application performance: SD-WAN leverages software-based intelligence to dynamically adjust traffic routing and optimise performance, guaranteeing that mission-critical applications receive the essential bandwidth and performance required for effective operation.
3) Supporting cloud-based applications: SD-WAN proves to be an ideal solution for businesses that heavily rely on cloud-based applications. Its capability to dynamically adjust traffic routing and performance based on the application and user location offers significant advantages.
MPLS vs. SD-WAN: Which is right for your business?
When considering whether to opt for MPLS or SD-WAN, several factors come into play, such as the network size, types of applications utilised and budgetary considerations. To provide a concise overview of the differences between MPLS and SD-WAN, here is a comparison table:
The choice between MPLS and SD-WAN relies on the specific requirements of your business, despite both offering reliable and secure connectivity. If guaranteed QoS for mission-critical applications and a larger budget are your priorities, MPLS might be the preferred choice. However, if you seek a cost-effective and flexible solution, SD-WAN could be more suitable.
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