SD-WAN has been surging in popularity the last few years. As an ever increasing amount of traffic is traversing the public Internet and more and more workloads are being migrated to the cloud, the use-cases where SD-WAN makes the most sense for the modern enterprise continue to grow.
Nonetheless, there are quite a few people who are still pro-legacy MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) solutions in the SD-WAN vs MPLS debate. Many of the arguments against SD-WAN have to do with reliability, difficulty of migration to SD-WAN from MPLS, or the inability of SD-WAN to be a truly holistic MPLS replacement. However, these arguments only hold weight against early, less mature implementations of SD-WAN, and don’t take into account the robust, resilient, modern solutions like SDWaaS (SD-WAN as a Service). When compared on an apples to apples basis, SDWaaS far outstrips MPLS for the majority of modern use cases.
In this piece, we’ll dive into some of the details of the SD-WAN vs MPLS debate and explain why that is the case.
The arguments against SD-WAN
The arguments for SD-WAN in general are fairly well known. In a nutshell, they boil down to the idea that SD-WAN is more flexible than MPLS and SD-WAN enables more economical bandwidth spend than MPLS. These benefits arise from the fact that SD-WAN enables the use of multiple transport methods (xDSL, 4G LTE, etc.), its software defined nature enables policy based routing, and public Internet bandwidth is significantly cheaper than comparable MPLS bandwidth.
What then, are the counterarguments against SD-WAN adoption? For one, many proponents of MPLS will point to the lack of SLAs when using public Internet bandwidth. While the public Internet is generally reliable, it certainly isn’t bulletproof, and the lack of an SLA can be a major concern for many enterprises. In some cases, this in and of itself may be enough to make SD-WAN a non-starter.
Another challenge associated with SD-WAN is that the migration from MPLS to SD-WAN requires a different take on security from the old MPLS paradigm. Not all SD-WAN platforms make this easy to address, and securing the WAN can come with some added complexity in these cases. The appliances many SD-WAN solutions will require at datacenters and edge locations may also add complexity. Additionally, SD-WAN solutions don’t always make integration for mobile users a priority, which can become a real challenge in the on-the-go world of modern business.
In short, the proponents of MPLS would point out that moving to SD-WAN is easier said than done. While there is some truth to that, SDWaaS addresses many of these potential pain-points and helps streamline the transition to a more affordable, flexible WAN connectivity solution.
How SDWaaS solves the problems of SD-WAN
One of the key characteristics of SDWaaS is a global private backbone. This backbone has support from multiple Tier-1 ISPs and enterprises have multiple PoPs (Points of Presence) around the world. Importantly, it is also backed by an SLA to help rest assured they are guaranteed the uptime they need. This characteristic of SDWaaS in and of itself addresses the reliability concerns with other SD-WAN models and takes the air out of one of the strongest counterarguments MPLS proponents have had.
SDWaaS also helps address the aforementioned concerns with security and mobile integration by building a full network security stack (with features like threat detection, anti-malware, and NGFW) and mobile support into the underlying infrastructure. This means enterprises are able to secure the WAN and connect mobile users with minimal complexity. Similarly, because SDWaaS was built from the ground up to be a holistic WAN solution, it is able to abstract away many of the complexities associated with deployment and configuration. Fewer third party appliances mean more flexibility and easier provisioning.
All this comes together to make SDWaaS a complete WAN solution that is capable of not only providing policy based routing, traffic shaping, and affordable bandwidth, but also the reliability that is a must for the modern enterprise. While older SD-WAN deployment models may have fallen short of matching the reliability and performance of MPLS, SDWaaS is able to hold its own in those categories while far outstripping legacy MPLS solutions in the areas of flexibility, bandwidth costs, and reduced provisioning times. While MPLS deployments for new locations may be measured in months or years, with SDWaaS enterprises can provision new locations in days or weeks.
SDWaaS is an ideal fit for the modern enterprise
As we have seen, SDWaaS is uniquely capable of delivering the benefits of SD-WAN to the enterprise while also addressing reliability and migration concerns. With a secure, global, SLA-backed, and Tier-1 ISP supported backbone, SDWaaS provides the reliability enterprises demand. Further, by integrating a full network security stack into its holistic approach to WAN management, SDWaaS helps streamline security operations and minimize WAN complexity. By adopting SDWaaS, enterprises help make their WANs more scalable and future-proof than legacy solutions like MPLS can.