Why is SD-WAN Better than MPLS?

Why is SD-WAN Better than MPLS?

As modern businesses expand, with it comes greater demand for better network. Business-critical systems need quick and efficient solutions, putting Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) in the spotlight.

In this article, we will discuss what SD-WAN and MPLS are, and how they differ. Defining both models isn’t enough to understand how they can help your business, so we’ll go ahead and point out the advantages and disadvantages of both SD-WAN and MPLS.

SD-WAN: Pros and Cons

SD-WAN is a software-managed network infrastructure that combines a number of connections including MPLS, LTE, broadband and phone systems into a single area network. It effectively covers huge geographical distances without the technician having to adjust configurations manually each time modifications are made at a specific branch.

There is a lot of buzz about SD-WAN, but the truth is that few people know what it is. One of the concerns that people have is the possibility of SD-WAN replacing MPLS. Before we conclude anything, here are the pros and cons of SD-WAN.


Cost Factor—the Biggest Benefit

SD-WAN connects a large area of network, making it more flexible, intelligent and greatly optimizable at each location. The more that your business utilizes SD-WAN, the fewer expenses you incur on infrastructure and network upgrades.

Better Security

One best-selling trait of the SD-WAN is its security. This configuration offers unified security in connections, and end-to-end encryption on every WAN and the entire network.

Better, Cheaper Bandwidth

An SD-WAN can seriously reduce circuit and router costs. It works by simultaneously running internet connections as opposed to allocating separate bandwidth for each wireless, phone or internet systems, making it effective yet cost-saving.

Scalability and Visibility

It’s simple to scale your SD-WAN, based on your company’s requirements. Its centralized management model separates the control plane and the data plane, making it easier for the IT staff to monitor each entity.

Less Manual, On-site Configurations

For a company with several office branches scattered across cities or countries, having an SD-WAN is a more practical option as managing network configurations can be conducted through a software rather than on-site repair by a dedicated technician.

Multiple ISPs

SD-WAN does not need to be tied to a single service provider, making it ISP-agnostic. You may remove or add an underlying ISP at any time on any site you wish to configure it in.


Less Hardware Security

SD-WAN has less circuitry and routers, consequently providing lesser hardware security.

Unavoidable Packet Loss and Latency

Using internet connectivity for SD-WAN also exposes it to data packet loss along the way. It is also vulnerable to latency, which doesn’t bode well for companies that use real-time applications for their business processes.

MPLS: Pros and Cons

MPLS is a protocol design that handles traffic between two different locations. Think of routers and switches—this configuration utilizes labels for the execution of data-forwarding decisions and packet-forwarding technology. It’s a great choice if you want to dodge packet loss and intermittent network when running VoIP and the likes.

It’s important to note that MPLS is not a service per se, but a technique. It was devised at the start of this century in response to the rising amount of business data. Here are MPLS’ pros and cons.


Reliable Packet Delivery

Systems in the MPLS configuration can work without loss of quality or signal. This means that real-time protocols like video conferencing, virtual desktop, or VoIP are done efficiently over a stable network.

Low Packet Loss Probability

Packets of data are labeled individually to distinguish it from the rest of the traffic over the network. The MPLS enjoys traffic predictability, which is good for handling high-demand applications with many users sharing the network. It also sifts through traffic and identifies the top priority, so it is delivered first.

Secure Mode of Transport

Although MPLS does not offer encryption, it is already a private network, which means that they are separated from public networks like the internet.


Very Costly

A lot of elements cause MPLS to be much costlier than SD-WAN. Firstly, it is a virtual private network bought from a specified carrier. The setup is partitioned off a public network (a.k.a. the internet), making it cost more in terms of connection. Another is that setting up a WAN to allow for streamlining in delivery can add to MPLS configuration expenses.

No Point-to-cloud Option

Cloud computing is the modern way of handling data, but the MPLS sadly is not optimized for it. It cannot directly access any cloud application.

Long Deployment Time

The MPLS takes around 6-8 months to get a new site up and running, especially for office sites located across several cities or countries.

Vulnerable Security

While it may be secure transport-wise, the data sent on the configuration itself is not protected inherently. Therefore, improper implementation of security protocols may expose the entire network to threats.

Benefits of SD-WAN versus MPLS

  • Bandwidth issues. With only a single ISP to serve all locations of the network, an MPLS configuration is bound to have higher bandwidth issues compared to SD-WAN, which has access to multiple internet connections.
  • Connectivity options. SD-WAN overlays all known network connections such as broadband, LTE, and even MPLS.
  • Prioritization of apps. SD-WAN ties several connections together to deliver business-critical apps on the fastest route possible, which also enhances the overall performance of the system.
  • Embedded security. Firewalls, network segmentation, and VPN are just some of the security protocols enabled in SD-WAN. On the other hand, MPLS still has to backhaul traffic to its data center for inspection, which may take more time.
  • ISP-agnostic. The SD-WAN can utilize multiple ISPs but still deliver the same benefits regardless of the specific ISP it uses at a particular time. ISPs can be added or removed at any time and place. In MPLS, a single ISP is ideal, making cross-country locations harder to connect.
  • Direct cloud access. Traffic in MPLS is directed to the data center firs before it can reach the cloud. In SD-WAN, cloud access is direct and instantaneous.

How 3Columns Can Help You

3Columns has been at the center of IT solutions since its conception. Our technical experts are well-versed in deploying SD-WAN for any enterprise that needs a competent, reliable and scalable network. We will guide you through the process of understanding your technical needs, selecting vendors that fit your budget and need, and optimizing and safeguarding your network.

Need expert advice on how to implement your an SD-WAN? Contact us today to learn more.

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