January 11, 2022

SD-WAN versus MPLS for business

As the business world continues to be transformed through digitalisation, the necessity for high-performing digital networks becomes ever more crucial. Businesses with multiple locations frequently need to establish network links so that data can be transferred rapidly and effectively from one location to another.

Large corporations can solve their networking problems using software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) or multiprotocol label switching (MPLS). SD-WAN is a modern type of networking solution that creates a virtual data network with the help of sophisticated software. MPLS, on the other hand, is a method of establishing a network for enterprises by allowing IT engineers to set up predetermined network routes that link two or more locations with specific data traffic pathways.

The main difference between the two is that MPLS relies on predetermined routes, whereas SD-WAN is a more flexible network that automatically selects the most optimal route for data traffic to flow. To reduce congestion and optimise bandwidth, the software intelligently directs network users to the most efficient connections.

By 2023, the global SD-WAN market is estimated to reach $5.25 billion and many predict it will eventually replace MPLS completely. SEACOM Business, as a leading provider of fibre and networking solutions to large businesses across Africa, fully supports the shift to SD-WAN. It's especially valuable for companies that want a network that's agile, flexible and managed virtually.

MPLS versus SD-WAN

MPLS is a networking technology that predates SD-WAN. When IT engineers set up a company network with MPLS, they select specific routes for data traffic to travel through. The concept behind this method is that companies are able to choose which data points, such as from a branch to the head office or from the head office to a data centre, require the strongest connections.

SD-WAN is similar in that it seeks to improve the flow of data from one location to another. However, it uses software to establish a virtual network. Instead of the predefined links that are characteristic of MPLS, this software selects the most optimal route for data traffic.

SD-WAN uses overlay networking, meaning that a virtual network links various locations using sophisticated and intelligent software. This software enables networks to be quickly and easily modified to meet changing requirements. This process can be automated by the IT team to ensure that specific types of data transfers are given priority over others.

Data traffic routes are defined by engineers when the network is designed, so MPLS lacks the same flexibility and agility of SD-WAN. A company's data needs are constantly changing, so having a network that can adapt to these changes is critical.

When it comes to performance, a well-designed MPLS network may deliver outstanding results. However, if certain routes stop working effectively or bandwidth requirements drastically increase, this performance may be short-lived. In these cases, IT engineers need to rebuild the network configuration in order to get everything running optimally again. This can be highly inconvenient, time-consuming and expensive for a business.

SD-WAN allows traffic to be routed to any location. It also supports a variety of connections, including ADSL broadband internet, mobile networks and even MPLS networks. The flow of traffic is optimized, resulting in lower latency and a more stable and high-performing network.

MPLS, on the other hand, requires that all traffic be routed through a central hub before reaching its destination. This can result in a considerable increase in network latency or delay. MPLS is simply no longer a viable networking choice as more businesses migrate to the cloud.

SD-WAN vs MPLS deployment and management

SD-WAN is managed by a cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) application. It is therefore controlled by a centralised system that can be managed remotely. The software provides a clear picture of what's going on in the network at all times, reducing the need for manual configuration and an on-site tech team.

By utilising virtual architecture, SD-WAN can be installed much more quickly than an MPLS circuit. It takes time to set up MPLS networks and when data requirements change, the network must be manually modified to select the best routing paths. With SD-WAN, a simple management console is implemented. Even though it contains specialised network functionalities, no extra hardware is required.

Businesses can use SD-WAN to build their own networks, maintain complete operational control, and address issues as they emerge. Companies can also choose a managed service, in which SEACOM Business takes responsibility for the network's operation and maintenance. Overall, SD-WAN is far easier to deploy and maintain than MPLS.

Comparing the costs of SD-WAN versus MPLS

With enhanced IT performance, agility and efficiency, SD-WAN provides a great return on investment. More bandwidth can be utilised at a reduced cost. Since the software determines how network traffic is directed while throttling low-priority applications, automation can be used to select optimal speeds for certain applications. In addition, when compared to MPLS-based networks, SD-WAN has lower maintenance expenses.

MPLS bandwidth is costly and the network cannot be set up in many locations, despite the fact that they are designed for high performance and network reliability. SD-WAN enables businesses to use various forms of internet connections, including fibre cables, unlike MPLS.

SD-WAN opens up new possibilities, particularly for large enterprises migrating to the cloud. When compared to MPLS, it provides higher performance, flexibility and simplicity. Cloud computing is transforming every industry and businesses must ensure that remote personnel have reliable, always-on internet connectivity from any location.

When compared to MPLS, SD-WAN is a more efficient and dynamic networking option. For more information or to get a quote for our SD-WAN solutions, email us at marketing@seacom.com or leave us a message.


SEACOM owns Africa’s largest network of information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure, including fibre optic networks and subsea cables. We offer a wide range of industry-leading scalable ICT solutions for large companies that operate throughout the region.

SEACOM is privately owned - making it adaptable to the needs of the client. We are the preferred ICT and internet connectivity supplier for African enterprises. We can guarantee fast, reliable and secure internet and networking services at affordable prices.

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