June 28, 2023
MPLS vs SD-WAN: Differences between the technologies
by Gareth Hughes, Head of Channel
In the networking world, many technologies are available to help businesses connect their sites and provide reliable, secure connectivity to their users. Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) are two such technologies.
While both serve a similar purpose, there are some critical differences between them. This article will discuss the differences between MPLS and SD-WAN and provide some use cases for each.
What is MPLS?
MPLS is a technology used to route network traffic between different locations. It involves labelling packets with specific tags, which direct the packets along a particular path through the network. MPLS is typically used in more extensive networks, such as enterprise or service provider environments. It offers high reliability and performance and is often used for mission-critical applications such as voice and video.
One of the critical advantages of MPLS is that it provides guaranteed Quality of Service (QoS) for different types of traffic. This means that businesses can prioritise certain types of traffic over others, ensuring that mission-critical applications always have the necessary bandwidth and performance to operate effectively. MPLS also provides high security, as all traffic is encrypted and routed through private networks.
Use cases for MPLS
Large enterprises and service providers often use MPLS to connect multiple sites and provide reliable, high-performance connectivity. Some common use cases for MPLS include:
1) Connecting multiple data centres: MPLS can connect various data centres, providing fast, secure, and reliable connectivity. This is especially important for businesses that rely on real-time data replication between their data centres.
2) Supporting voice and video applications: MPLS provides guaranteed QoS for different types of traffic, making it an ideal choice for voice and video applications requiring high performance and reliability levels.
3) Connecting remote offices: MPLS can be used to connect remote offices to a company's headquarters, providing a secure and reliable connection for employees to access company resources.
What is SD-WAN?
SD-WAN is a newer technology that uses software to manage and optimise network traffic between different locations dynamically. It enables businesses to use multiple types of connectivity, such as broadband, LTE and MPLS, to create a hybrid WAN that is more flexible and cost-effective than traditional WAN solutions. SD-WAN uses software to monitor network traffic and adjust the routing and performance of different types of traffic in real-time.
One of the key advantages of SD-WAN is that it can reduce the cost of WAN connectivity by using multiple types of connectivity. SD-WAN is also flexible, as it can dynamically adjust traffic routing based on factors such as network congestion, latency, and link quality.
Use cases for SD-WAN
Businesses of all sizes often use SD-WAN to create a more flexible and cost-effective WAN solution. Some everyday use cases for SD-WAN include:
1) Reducing WAN costs: SD-WAN can help businesses reduce the cost of WAN connectivity by using lower-cost broadband and LTE connections alongside more expensive MPLS connections.
2) Improving application performance: SD-WAN uses software to dynamically adjust traffic routing and performance, ensuring that mission-critical applications receive the necessary bandwidth and performance to operate effectively.
3) Supporting cloud-based applications: SD-WAN is ideal for businesses that use cloud-based applications, as it can dynamically adjust traffic routing and performance based on the location of the application and the user.
MPLS vs. SD-WAN: Which is right for your business?
The choice between MPLS and SD-WAN depends on a variety of factors, including the size of your network, the types of applications you use and your budget.
Here's a comparison table to summarize the differences between MPLS and SD-WAN:
While both MPLS and SD-WAN provide reliable, secure connectivity, the choice between them ultimately depends on the specific needs of your business. MPLS may be the better option if you require guaranteed QoS for mission-critical applications and have a larger budget. However, SD-WAN may be the way to go if you're looking for a more cost-effective and flexible solution.
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