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01 Sep 2022

MPLS replacement with an alternative WAN solution

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Ranit Fink
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Table of Contents

Over the last few years, enterprises have significantly changed the way they use the internet. Communication that used to take place between corporate sites has moved to the cloud. As a result, the number of organizations using MPLS dropped by 24% between 2018-2020.

There was a time when MPLS offered a number of benefits that businesses couldn’t find anywhere else. They offered high-quality connectivity, secure network connections, and service backed by an SLA. However, its high price, lack of flexibility, and inability to provide the right type of cloud and SaaS connectivity made it unfit for many organizations.

According to research firm TeleGeography’s WAN Manager’s Survey, 82% of enterprise networks were MPLS based in 2018. By 2020, that number dropped to 58%. At the same time, enterprises using SD-WAN grew from 18% in 2018 to 43% by 2020.

Enterprises looking for an MPLS alternative frequently find themselves drawing up an MPLS vs SD-WAN pro-con list. If you are thinking of an MPLS replacement solution, here are some of the things you’ll need to consider.

1. Cloud Connectivity

MPLS doesn’t connect companies to the cloud. Instead, it routes packets over a private line between company branches. While this system works well within an organization’s network, it doesn’t help with working efficiently on SaaS applications or other cloud-based workloads.

At first glance, SD-WAN meets the needs of organizations. It enables enterprises and their employees to connect both site-to-site and site-to-cloud. Through an SD-WAN connection, employees can seamlessly collaborate with one another on the cloud or conduct video conference meetings as long as the available internet connection allows it.

However, SD-WAN doesn’t cover the full length of the network. In contrast to MPLS, which created private tunnels between sites, SD-WAN only covers the first and last mile. In between, it hands off packets to the public web, where it is subject to the same traffic and congestion that drives all public internet data.

As a result, network outages can impact productivity and efficiency. Slowdowns can add latency to video and voice calls and create inefficiencies within SaaS apps.

2. SLAs (Service-Level Agreements)

One of the key benefits that MPLS provided was the service-provider-backed SLA. The full-length architecture and priority-based labeling system enabled service providers to guarantee connectivity.

However, as noted in the previous section, SD-WAN doesn’t cover the full length of the network. It uses the public web. Data that travels over the web is subject to Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), which makes routing decisions based on paths, network policies, or rule sets configured by a network administrator. Packets can be misrouted, delayed, or otherwise broken, and since it is traveling over the public internet, SD-WANs on their own are incapable of providing and enforcing an SLA.

3. Pricing & Costs

MPLS is an expensive, hardware-based technology that requires significant capital investment for every company site. Changes in service levels require additional capital expenses, as hardware needs to be upgraded or replaced. For companies with locations in multiple countries, this often means working with different vendors who have different pricing schemes.

SD-WAN does have some capital expenses to replace the edge, but most of its expenses are operating expenses. As a result, SD-WAN is significantly less expensive to deploy and operate.

Why Teridion?

Teridion’s Network-as-a-Service platform addresses all the specialized solutions that enterprises expect from MPLS, but at a new standard of quality and efficiency. IT teams can deploy Teridion in hours—while reducing IT costs.

4. Flexibility & Scale

SD-WAN’s greatest strength lies in its flexibility. As a software-defined network, it allows for centralized policy management and security. It also scales quickly, allowing for growth as required by the business. 

SD-WAN is fully capable of handling cloud workloads. This optimization is achieved through cloud-based software solutions that are enabled by the SD-WAN’s flexibility and continuous development.

MPLS, on the other hand, is highly inflexible. Changes can only be made with hardware upgrades, which are not only expensive but slow to roll out. Scaling can only happen through additional capital investment into the network. Any changes done to the MPLS are handled by the service provider. And frequently takes a long time s to complete.

5. Time to Provision

SD-WAN is comprised of three primary parts. 

  • The SD-WAN Edge, where network endpoints reside.
  • SD-WAN Orchestrator, which manages the network, oversees traffic, and applies company policy.
  • SD-WAN Controller, which centralizes management.

The hardware on the edge (which may be virtualized as well in cloud-enabled SD-WANs) is made of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) white boxes.

MPLS, in contrast, requires on-premises routers and switches with different types of line cards and physical interfaces.

The different architectures create very different provisioning experiences. MPLS can take months for service providers to provision, and adding any new service requires hardware installation.

SD-WAN can be installed and running in just a few days. Because the SD-WAN is software based, adding new services as needed is as simple as deploying and testing a software. Provisioning new services is relatively quick, enabling organizations to grow.

6. Risk Management

MPLS, by definition, requires vendor lock-in. The service provider makes many of the hardware and software decisions. In the case of MPLS, this works, as the connectivity is backed by an SLA. 

Managing risk by avoiding vendor lock-in is a bigger issue for SD-WAN. High-performance internet can only be reached when enterprises diversify risk and stay away from a single point of failure.

On the deployment and implementation side, this means taking a best-of-breed, multi-vendor approach instead of a single vendor. Using best-of-breed, organizations can optimize every segment of their network based on its task, rather than just taking an all-in-one solution.

7.  Security

SD-WAN and MPLS have different approaches to security. MPLS installations have a traditional security stack built into the head end. It protects everything within the network, protecting organizations from nation-state attacks, sabotage, and other cyberthreats.

SD-WAN, however, requires the creation of a security overlay to ensure the security of the network. Fortunately, due to the software nature of the SD-WAN, organizations can easily upgrade security measures and use the SD-WAN Orchestrator to apply those changes network wide. 

Best Approach for Replacing MPLS

Enterprises seeking a modern solution to better align with their cloud and office connectivity needs should look for a solution that takes the finest parts of the MPLS experience and modernizes it into a flexible, comprehensive, and cost-efficient solution.  

While MPLS does not provide cloud connectivity, it provides a high-quality connection with an SLA. SD-WAN offers site-to-site and site-to-cloud connectivity but lacks an SLA.

In light of this conflicting state, Teridion’s experience supporting enterprise networks with SLA-backed connectivity allowed a seamless replacement for MPLS. Our Smart AI Network takes the most powerful features of MPLS and combines them with the flexibility of SD-WAN to provide reliable connectivity that meets today’s enterprise networking needs. Teridion’s SLA is the closest to traditional MPLS SLAs on the market. Its carrier-grade SLA for SD-WAN services enables enterprises to feel confident whenever they use the internet, without concern of network slowdowns.

How does it work?

AI-based Smart AI Routing capabilities identify the most efficient route between two points, allowing internet traffic to avoid slowdowns when networks are congested. Teridion Smart AI Routing deploys thousands of nodes over the world’s leading public cloud providers. Those nodes collect real-time performance and reachability data, and feed Teridion’s routing algorithms. That data is used to construct a dynamically generated internet network that predictably routes traffic around congestion and outages.

Teridion is also vendor agnostic, protecting companies from vendor lock-in and enabling businesses to work with the security and hardware vendors of their choice.  

When considering an MPLS replacement, SD-WAN combined with Teridion provides the ideal solution for dramatically improved connectivity. Teridion’s network underlay is highly flexible and can scale with your SD-WAN. It can be provisioned in just hours and doesn’t require any network hardware or software added to user devices. 

Teridion’s AI WAN harnessed the cloud to obtain agility and capabilities that offer the finest of both MPLS and SD-WAN solutions, with high-quality site-to-cloud and site-to-site connectivity backed by a carrier-grade SLA.

Learn more about how Teridion can take your SD-WAN to the next level. Book a demo today!

Picture of Ranit Fink
Ranit Fink

VP Product and Business Development

Ranit Fink is the Vice President of Product and Business Development for Teridion. Prior to Teridion she was the co-founder and VP business development of Cellrox, a mobile security company. Ranit holds an M.Sc. in Computer Science from Columbia University and a B.Sc. in Computer Science and Mathematics from Bar Ilan University.
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