BlogSD-WAN vs. MPLS: How Do They Stack Up for Your Needs?

2020 was a year that demonstrated how critical it is to have a secure, reliable network for your organization. Covid-19 and the associated, rapid shift to remote working accelerated the adoption of cloud-based platforms and highlighted the importance of reliable, high-performance business networks to connect public and private clouds to home offices, branch offices, and retail locations.

And the end of the pandemic and the return to office-based work won’t eliminate reliance on cloud services and the need for robust network infrastructure. The shift has been made. Regardless of the vertical or industry you serve, a network solution that provides security, performance and reliability — at a reasonable price — is a necessity. In this post, we’ll compare SD-WAN vs. MPLS, examining the pros and cons of both.

The Basics of SD-WAN vs. MPLS

Carrier-managed MPLS is, of course, the traditional gold standard for networks. Deployed by telecoms across the world, MPLS is what you’ll usually get when you’re asking for an outsourced, managed network that uses a carrier’s network for security, (although data can still be intercepted and misused unless encrypted by another device), bandwidth reservation for priority traffic and other features.

MPLS is great for specific applications — but it’s not the ultimate solution. SD-WAN provides a more flexible, easier deployment. It’s faster, more cost-effective, provides built-in bi-directional data encryption and data obfuscation for security and also provides dynamic bandwidth assignment through QoS as well as built-in failover (when it’s done right).

The Basics of SD-WAN vs. MPLS

Ease of Deployment and Management

Our comparison of SD-WAN vs. MPLS starts with looking at how complicated it is to deploy and manage your solution. Management is an important consideration, as many networks are not static — changes need to be made and as businesses grow. Thinking about how easy it is to do moves, adds, changes or deletions (MACD) is important!

Deployment and Management

SD-WAN

SD-WAN uses any existing broadband or network connection, and additional bandwidth or circuits can be added easily and integrated into the overall solution.

Broadband circuits are easier to order and, with increases in speed from commodity circuits, provide a compelling price-performance advantage.

SD-WAN solutions like Turnium support hybrid networks, integrating L2 circuits into the Turnium L3 SD-WAN. Custom solutions that include hybrid networks or wireless solutions can also be designed and deployed.

MPLS

Carrier MPLS deployments involve an extensive design/quote and deployment process that can sometimes take months. This works in some situations, but can be challenging in others.

Building custom solutions is difficult, if not impossible. Carriers mostly refuse to include competitors’ circuits in their solutions.

Visibility

SD-WAN

SD-WAN solutions like Turnium offer end-to-end visibility over your network performance, regardless of the number of carrier circuits used or geography.

MPLS

Common MPLS deployments are black box, offering no visibility to the core network performance. Most carriers won’t help you troubleshoot backup circuits provided by one of their competitors.

Configuration and Scaling

SD-WAN

SD-WAN solutions dramatically reduce the time to provision and deploy, allowing you to use existing circuits and add new circuits from a provider like Turnium or you from local providers. Because of this, there is no limit to how rapidly the organization’s network can adapt in scale and/or size.

MPLS

As MPLS is provided by the larger telecoms, the architecture requires long design, quote, order and implementation cycles. Adding new sites requires repetition of the deployment process and many contracts don’t allow reduction in bandwidth to a site.

Cloud Connections

SD-WAN

Adding cloud services into SD-WAN networks is simple, especially if the cloud service is reachable using Internet connections and the SD-WAN platform can be deployed in containers or virtualized at the cloud or hosting provider.

MPLS

Extending MPLS networks into cloud hosting or to reach cloud services requires engaging the carrier in additional design, quote, deployment cycles and will increase costs.

Ultimately, organizations reliant on MPLS are using a network owned and maintained by someone else — and are dependent on their service provider to address issues and changes. With an SD-WAN network in place, your team controls the timing of all moves, adds, changes and deletions.

As a bonus, SD-WAN can be integrated into existing MPLS networks in cases where an organization has already invested heavily in MPLS to complement the existing network, bring remote sites on-net affordably or create a migration path towards a complete or majority SD-WAN-based network. In this round of SD-WAN vs. MPLS, SD-WAN wins.

Financial Outcomes: SD-WAN vs. MPLS

Financial Outcomes

Carrier MPLS, by nature, is a mature product. Although prices have fallen over time, carriers continue to rely on MPLS as a major source of revenue.

In contrast, SD-WAN deployments pay for themselves in under a year and continue to generate revenue for years. These higher profit margins offset any margin erosion experienced by service providers. Flexible contracting is a feature that is attractive to organizations that are in the midst of a digital transformation.

With Turnium, you get an all-in SD-WAN service that ranges from $200/month to $500/month MSRP for Turnium’s standard service options, plus the cost of circuits. But transitioning from all-MPLS to all-broadband access can be substantially cheaper, as highlighted in this study from Telegeography.com:

  • MPLS-core network found savings of 52% compared to the original MPLS network
  • On-net DIA-broadband network had savings of 62% compared to the original network
  • Dual broadband network had savings of 84% of the original MPLS network

“That’s not even cutting network spend in half. That is cutting network spend in fourths.”

SD-WAN vs MPLS Financial Outcomes

Note: this example was based on a large international multi-site network – but the principles still hold for smaller networks. MPLS *is* expensive, DIA is slightly cheaper, but the best cost:performance comes from a 100% broadband-base SD-WAN network.

Security and Reliability

Turnium SD-WAN can encrypt data end-to-end using AES 128- or 256-bit encryption. In contrast, encryption is not enabled on MPLS networks, and MPLS requires a separate endpoint device to handle the encryption portion. MPLS relies on a secure network core and labeling for data privacy.

In addition, when bonding links in SD-WAN, data flows can be obfuscated by using two or more links to transmit and receive data thereby mitigating man-in-the-middle attacks that may seek to capture data while in transit. These bonded links work in an active/active configuration to deliver seamless connectivity and up to 95% of the available bandwidth. For organizations requiring redundancy, MPLS requires reconvergence of routes so that failover links become active in the event of primary link outage. This means that at any given time, the organization is effectively only using 50% of its available bandwidth.

When comparing security and resilience offered by SD-WAN vs. MPLS, SD-WAN wins again.

Turnium SD-WAN vs. MPLS: At a Glance

Features SD-WAN MPLS
Affordable
AES data encryption
Flexible contracts
Rapid deployment
Carrier redundancy
BYO connectivity
Hybrid networks
Quality of service (QoS) At an extra cost

After comparing all aspects of SD-WAN vs. MPLS, it’s clear that SD-WAN provides the capabilities businesses need to succeed.

Turnium’s solution provides security, built-in redundancy and sub-second failover and can integrate with existing L2 networks while also providing faster deployment, easier changes and QoS.

Want to know more about how Turnium SD-WAN stacks up against MPLS? Contact the experts at Turnium or book a demo today!