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SD-WAN and MPLS serve the same purpose of connecting different locations through a computer network, allowing local branches to access and share information and systems from a central platform. However, they do it in very different ways, so in this article, we’re going to take a look at the difference between SD-WAN and MPLS to help you identify which solution is best for your business.
Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) allows organisations to connect their branch offices, data centres, and cloud resources over multiple internet connections. SD-WAN improves performance by intelligently routing traffic over the network, prioritising high-priority applications and traffic over lower-priority tasks. This optimising of bandwidth usage enhances the efficiency of the network and the overall user experience by ensuring important tasks aren’t competing with other tasks for bandwidth. For example, with SD-WAN, it’s possible to dedicate parts of the network for video conferencing, allowing users to carry out this task without competing for bandwidth with web browsing or email traffic, which is also running over the network.
Furthermore, SD-WAN provides greater flexibility and control for network administrators, allowing them to easily make changes through a centralised management interface, allowing for rapid deployment and configuration modifications. Potential issues like bottlenecks or suspicious activity can be more easily identified and resolved. This is compared to traditional WANs and MPLS, which can require configuration changes across several local connections individually.
Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) has been the standard for wide-area networking for decades. A key advantage of MPLS is its ability to operate on dedicated circuits, which can provide high reliability and consistent performance for data sharing.
However, while MPLS offers high performance on par with SD-WAN, it can be much more expensive to deploy and manage and inflexible, making scalability a bigger challenge. This is because, unlike SD-WAN, which takes advantage of internet connections, MPLS requires dedicated connections between local branches and data centres to access or share information over a central network. These lines would need to be installed and managed at every local site, which can increase costs and administration.
One of the most significant differences between SD-WAN and MPLS is cost. While MPLS provides reliable performance, it’s more expensive. MPLS circuits typically require long-term contracts and can be expensive, because lines need to be physically installed at locations.
SD-WAN, on the other hand, leverages internet connections, reducing infrastructure costs and providing a greater return on investment. This cost advantage makes SD-WAN an attractive option for businesses looking to optimise IT budgets.
Performance is another crucial aspect to consider when comparing SD-WAN and MPLS. MPLS offers reliable performance because it’s built over dedicated circuits with guaranteed service levels.
It’s sometimes stated that SD-WAN is behind in performance, because it’s reliant on public broadband connections, which can experience dips in performance based on capacity and usage, but this is no longer the case. Modern SD-WAN incorporates advanced traffic management techniques, such as dynamic path selection and quality of service (QoS) prioritisation, ensuring optimal performance even over standard broadband connections. This advanced management enables priority traffic to be routed to parts of the network with higher bandwidth, reducing latency risks.
MPLS inherently provides a level of security through its dedicated circuits and isolated network infrastructure. However, SD-WAN offers advanced security features such as encryption and firewall integration, which can be customised to meet the security needs of organisations. SD-WAN also provides centralised visibility and control, enabling real-time threat monitoring and quick response to security incidents. For example, SD-WAN can identify anomalies in traffic activity or devices trying to access the network and proactively deploy defences to protect the network.
As SD-WAN operates over the internet and utilises cloud connectivity, it’s much easier to scale a network over wider locations. Organisations simply need to set up or connect to an existing internet connection, and they can automatically deploy the new connection once permissions have been granted. MPLS can be more difficult to scale and deploy in different locations because it requires new lines to be physically fixed from the location to a data centre.
Far more business systems and platforms are being deployed over the cloud, and this proportion is increasing constantly. So this needs to be considered when building or improving a network. SD-WAN is much easier to connect to the cloud because systems can be deployed over the internet and connected to cloud systems. MPLS requires a specific route to be created to a particular provider’s cloud infrastructure, so it’s more difficult and potentially more limited in how cloud deployment works over MPLS.
SD-WAN brings several notable benefits. Its cost-effectiveness, flexibility, and ability to optimise traffic routing make it an attractive option for businesses of all sizes. With SD-WAN, organisations can reduce reliance on expensive MPLS circuits, leverage multiple connections for improved performance, and simplify network management through central controls and automation. SD-WAN also provides the agility to adapt to changing business needs and easily integrate with cloud-based applications and services.
If you want to upgrade your network connectivity and performance, explore our SD-WAN solutions at Elite Group. We provide various solution options to fit your budget, ensuring your business can collaborate over a high-performing, secure network. Contact us today and our specialists will work closely with you to implement SD-WAN within your business efficiently.