This is a timely contribution as in late September we’re host an education session on software defined networking with Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN). So my hope and desire is that you’ll read up on the topic before our event so we both leave richer for it. One first step is this comparative blog from my friend Nirav Shah at Fortinet where he compares SD-WAN with Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS). Read up!
“One of the most common questions network security architects and CISOs ask as they consider their WAN architecture is: “Should I choose SD-WAN over MPLS?” Rightly so. The decision to switch to SD-WAN has significant implications for businesses. The short answer is that SD-WAN offers better visibility, availability, enhanced performance, and more freedom of action. It’s why the industry has seen interest in SD-WAN rising over the past few years.
Another issue influencing that rise in interest is flexibility. MPLS connections tend to be rigid, fixed connections that can’t easily adapt to the sort of interconnectivity between branch offices that today’s dynamic networks require. They also don’t provide support for things like application recognition or sophisticated bandwidth management for latency-sensitive applications.
So far, so good. But the challenge is that most SD-WAN solutions don’t provide the same level of security as MPLS, which is essentially a secured tunnel running through a Service Provider’s secured network. While Fortinet recognizes that there are a number of considerations to take into account in selecting an SD-WAN solution, to truly provide a more effective strategy over MPLS, SD-WAN must include integrated security, and both security and network functions need to be managed through a single integrated management platform.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s step back and discuss if and when your organization should make the switch from MPLS to SD-WAN in the first place.
Advantages of SD-WAN Over MPLS
Some of the key advantages of SD-WAN over MPLS can be found by examining three key areas of difference: cost, security, and performance. Some of these advantages are less cut and dried than others, and there may even be some disadvantages in very specific situations, which will be explained further.
SD-WAN Can Be More Cost Effective Than MPLS
In the past, many organizations connected remote branches and retail locations to the central data center through a hub and spoke WAN model that relied on individual MPLS connections. As a result, all data, workflows, and transactions, including access to cloud services or the internet, required traffic to be backhauled to the data center for processing and redistribution. Compared to an SD-WAN solution, this is extremely cost-inefficient.”
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