MPLS, SD-WAN & The Hybrid WAN

"The key lies in creating a networking infrastructure wish list and once that is complete, decide on one of two distinct scenarios: MPLS versus SD-WAN or MPLS and SD-WAN. Each, at the end of the day, has merit. "

Given all the discussion about cost savings and performance that SD-WAN can deliver, which is certainly the case, it would be logical for some to conclude that the role of Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLs) within the enterprise is diminishing. That is simply not true.

The any-to-any nature of MPLS networks allows network designers to reduce the number of hops data packets take while on the way to their destination. This translates directly to increased response times and improved application performance for end users.

Traveling on a pre-determined path:

Traffic gets routed depending on its label, always following a pre-determined path – a substantial end user benefit over IP routing, which often sees subsequent packets travel along different paths, focused on network conditions at the time.

The exact costs savings that organizations can make by utilizing an MPLS network depend on the specific mix of applications and services they are using. That said, in most circumstances, MPLS networks can help businesses reduce their networking costs by 10 to 25 percent versus comparable data services such as ATM and frame relay, depending on the specific mix of applications and services in use.

A recent report from research firm Mordor Intelligence predicted that the Managed MPLS market is expected to register a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of seven per cent over a forecast period extending between 2018 and 2023. Mordor notes that with the growing global expansion of enterprises, there is a need for secure connectivity among their various business units and a means of effective data management, which has pushed the adoption of MPLS networks.

Single portal management:

MPLS and SD-WAN should not be viewed as competing technologies for they each solve specific use cases. For example, an organization that wants to reduce operating costs could opt for SD-WAN. The other scenario may be a complimentary service where a mixed mode wide area network is in operation.

Some sites may be connected through MPLS. Other sites might be connected through Internet service. You want to be able to manage all of the sites through a single portal in which case SD-WAN and MPLS can be complimentary technologies in order to help you gain complete visibility into what is happening.

It should come down to what is best for you and not be viewed as an either-or scenario. It is also a strategy that needs to be discussed at the onset of any infrastructure planning.

Each will have a particular use case depending on what an organization is looking to achieve and the performance they require. It may have five branch offices, four of which house 50+ employees and one of them is a small branch office with five employees. Do you really want to spend upwards of $3,000 a month on an MPLS connection for five employees? You can get away with a dedicated Internet circuit that costs $350-$400 a month and now overlay that with SD-WAN.

The rise of the Hybrid WAN:

The combination of the two technologies has resulted in a new term entering the networking lexicon – the Hybrid WAN.

Technology journalism and market research firm SDxCentral defines Hybrid WAN as a way of “connecting two geographically separated WANs to a branch office with the traffic being sent over two different types of connections. One connection is the traditional MPLS that connects to the data center. The other connection is made through a broadband connection to the Internet or as a VPN connection to the data center. All the normal business traffic that is intended to go to the data center takes the MPLS route.

“The Hybrid WAN matters because it solves problems that occur with older WAN architecture. By funneling traffic directly to the Internet, it eliminates extra hops and latency that can sometimes occur when traffic goes through a data center. It also is more cost-efficient because directing traffic over the Internet is less costly than using an MPLS link. Another benefit of a hybrid WAN is that it lets users decide which link is the best path back to data center by using real-time monitoring.”

Let’s say you are a retailer and you have point-of-sale devices in a myriad of locations. Do you really need an MPLS connection for all of them? That is going to get very expensive so in this case you want to send that traffic over the Internet and leverage SD-WAN.

Meanwhile your head office and larger retail locations could have MLPS. Having that mixed-mode, hybrid scenario now gives you access to that singular portal that Aptum has as part of its solution that provides the customer visibility across every single one of those sites.

The key lies in creating a networking infrastructure wish list and once that is complete, decide on one of two distinct scenarios: MPLS versus SD-WAN or MPLS and SD-WAN. Each, at the end of the day, has merit and as mentioned earlier, it all comes down to what an organization is looking to achieve and what performance they require.

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