Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS) networking has provided companies for decades with stable, efficient, flexible, and high performing solutions to connect their site offices and branches. After changing the divergence approach towards Software as a Service (SaaS), we have seen a trend shifting towards Software Defined – Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN). To deploy enterprise WAN, SD-WAN uses a Software-based approach to traverse management and monitor traffic to an application-based solution instead of physical devices.
A Pitfall of MPLS and Rise of SD-WAN:
With the built-in quality of services, MPLS is a privately managed predictable service in case of any backbone contention provides by the MPLS provider. The label switching technique is much more reliable in packet loss and latency problems with a lower rate as compared to the public internet. That is why these services are mature enough to meet the needs of enterprises. But there is always a high price to pay for such a dedicated and sophisticated network which is the primary cause of pitfalls behinds MPLS, and SD-WAN came as a beneficiary to this pitfall by capturing the market, taking benefit from this created opportunity through its Software-defined simplistic solution. SD-WAN is relatively cheaper than MPLS, with higher performance and increased security.
On the other hand, MPLS also involves very slow and time-consuming processes for site deployment, taking up to weeks and even months for its completion. It is also resilient to change management and create a hassle to manage it carefully. That is why MPLS can be referred notorious in terms of agility. SD-WAN beats MPLS in this field by providing solutions to challenges and concerns of cost, security, services, manageability, agility, etc.
Limitations of SD-WAN:
But Software-defined solution (SD-WAN) cannot throw label switching technique (MPLS) entirely out of the market as it is providing network switching solutions for decades. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. It is true that SD-WAN is capturing the market rapidly and will soon dominate the existing label switching technology shortly. But it is also an admitted fact that SD-WAN is still not perfect enough to address the challenges like internet borne threats in case of internet breakouts and to deal with latency-sensitive traffic. On the other hand, SD-WAN routers are also designed in a fashion to solve branch office problems; that is why these are not optimized enough for mobile users and other cloud resources.
Dependence of SD-WAN on MPLS – An Integrational approach:
Keeping in view such limitations, it seems SD-WAN being somehow dependent on already deployed label switching MPLS for its key features. But it could not be considered as a must case, in fact, a better partnership for a reasonable tradeoff. By using existing MPLS based network, SD-WAN edge routers can traverse the coming traffic on multiple underlying data service paths, i.e., MPLS, DSL, 4G, LTE, or cable etc. by keeping in view the quality of the service that is underlying and type of incoming traffic being traversed. SD-WAN edge solution’s integration can enhance an organization’s capacity to boost production with existing MPLS to add inexpensive data services.
Application traffic routing can be automated through Software-defined networking by continuously monitoring changing conditions in real-time. In this way, the cost of MPLS can be minimized, and error-prone can also be marginalized at a lower level by skipping the manual configuration of MPLS replaced by the software-based solution of SD-WAN. A site can also be brought online via single or dual internet services and even through 4G or LTE through SD-WAN’s zero-touch provision. It configures its edge connection at each location using an available mix of services. After the site becomes available at any time, MPLS can be incorporated in between at any stage, which is the beauty of this integration of SD-WAN with MPLS.
To cover its edge architecture gaps, SD-WAN edge routers are also reliant on predictable sources like Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), which is highly predictable due to its multiple manual carrier paths. This reliance on MPLS helps SD-WAN to deal with latency-sensitive traffic. Though, SD-WAN can traverse traffic to an alternate available source in case of unavailability of MPLS. But this is not a recommended approach to deal with latency-sensitive traffic. SD-WAN routers seem highly dependent on MPLS to disperse latency-sensitive traffic on low priority roots through label switched paths. Here MPLS is the need of the hour for SD-WAN.
Keeping in view the whole discussion, whether SD-WAN is considered a threat to the MPLS market, but a hybrid approach of both Software-Defined, and label switched technologies offers an opportunity to the businesses by cloud service providers. By integrating the MPLS protocol with SD-WAN methodology, a good partnership can be developed in favor of profit seeking business organizations by reducing their costs and multi folding benefits. A functional combination of several different types of virtual and managed networks could be developed.
For instance, a setup of Software Defined – Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) can use Multipath Label Switching across the general internet for dispersion of high priority data packets and low priority data packets. High priority packets are moved in the first place, and then low priority packets are chosen to send across the general internet by simply using MPLS. In this way, network paths can be defined (where necessary) and networking cost can also be minimized by agreement of integral working of both the technologies. Taking security parameters into concern, as network security is required in a software-defined solution, an MPLS network can also be provided to our SD-WAN solution.
SD-WAN is rapidly capturing the market of MPLS, which was dominating for decades. But both technologies have their limitations as well as their advantages. Though infant SD-WAN seems reliant on MPLS in some major fields, this reliance is not unavoidable. SD-WAN can still altogether bypass MPLS. But it should not be recommended. A perfect hybrid of SD-WAN and MPLS can benefit business organizations in terms of cost-saving, increased security, reduced packet loss, reduced latency, and performance enhancement.
To learn more how SD-WAN solutions can be integrated with your existing corporate MPLS network, have a look at our Co-Managed SD-WAN solutions.