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ShareSD-WAN or MPLS – that is the question?

Lee Hill

Lee Hill, Pre-Sales Technical Manager

Entanet works with a wide range of partners bidding for more complex network solutions – these highly profitable opportunities open up the chance to package a complete service including data and voice connectivity, firewalls and hosting, all from one supplier.

In this highly competitive and rapidly evolving connectivity landscape, Software Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) has emerged as an alternative corporate network technology to MPLS, but in reality the direct comparison is false because whilst both solutions link sites together the underlying technologies behind them are very different.

What is the purpose of SD-WAN and MPLS?

SD-WAN’s purpose is to make the implementation and management of a Wide Area Network (WAN) much more efficient and user friendly. By separating a network’s hardware from the systems which run it and making more efficient use of internet connectivity it can greatly improve resilience and bandwidth. However the control of all traffic leaving the site is the only part that’s in your hands – after this point, it still has the potential to cross multiple carriers and peering links – therefore the number of variables outside of the customers control that impact on service quality is much greater. It is also important to consider that unlike an MPLS network, the initial configuration demands are likely to be more complex if bandwidth is at a premium or contended circuits are utilised.

An MPLS network is designed specifically to ensure it is completely private without any need to touch the Internet or any form of encryption – this brings with it clear advantages including dedicated guaranteed bandwidth, faster network speeds, greater security and comprehensive management of the traffic you share. With a private wide area network (PWAN) using MPLS technology Entanet is able to do all of the configuration for the customer as well as offering the benefits of guaranteed bandwidth and centralised Firewall, making it a fully managed service.

Entanet makes the management process even more user friendly and comprehensive through its IP VPN management portal called Mirada (Spanish for look), which allows partners and customers to manage and monitor every aspect of their networks in real-time – including network topology, useful stats and reports and a diagnostics virtual machine via which they can work with our support and systems team to diagnose and resolve faults.

Does the solution fit the customer need?

Having highlighted the difference in the two types of technology, solutions providers need to properly determine if the customer’s need is for a fully private network which is enhanced by the greater, resilience, reliability and ease of deployment, offered by MPLS or their main objective is simply having more flexibility on how their traffic is sent across a potentially contended multi-vendor WAN in which case an SD-WAN may be a more cost effective option.

It is also important to determine the long term needs of the customer as the configuration and upgrade of an MPLS is likely to be significantly less labour intensive and costly than an SD-WAN.

Is it RIP MPLS?

The case for MPLS is still as relevant as it’s ever been for corporate networks – it is a fully private, tried and tested technology. Not only that, MPLS connectivity costs have significantly dropped over the past few years, particularly through the growth of alternative full fibre infrastructure providers like CityFibre which can offer incredible bandwidth at the lowest prices in the market – often making MPLS the most cost effective solution.

Ultimately it’s important to remember that any multi-site network is only as good as the connectivity which underpins it, which is why MPLS offers the most comprehensive solution to the customer.

Have your say!

Where do you see the future of corporate networks – does SD-WAN now have greater relevance to businesses than MPLS or do both still have a place in the market? We’d love to hear from you!

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