SD-WAN vs MPLS: Pros and Cons | Neos Networks

SD-WAN vs MPLS: pros and cons

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What are the pros and cons of MPLS?

Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) has been popular for a number of years now and is very good at providing robust and reliable connectivity as well as ensuring critical business information continues to flow, but it’s flexibility has also become a limiting factor.

MPLS requires pre-determined A and B points and once the circuits are up and running it is difficult to make changes easily. In this sense it means it does provide a level of predictability to the network and can’t be beaten for Quality of Service (QoS) with reliable packet transport, but when it comes to MPLS, higher capacity bandwidths are expensive, and these days businesses require a lot of it.

Since MPLS was developed, Cloud Computing has come a long way and has revolutionised how businesses work. Remote access and access to Cloud applications such as VoIP, video conferencing and O365 are now very much the norm. As a result, an MPLS network is not flexible enough for this kind of traffic.


Enter SD-WAN; a new Wide Area Network platform which enables users to control the network from a central location and offers the ability to have greater visibility and flexibility across the entire estate.

SD-WAN has a number of features that sets it apart from MPLS:

  • No geographic restrictions – whilst able to connect to multiple sites, MPLS is not suitable for smaller, remote sites where their current provider does not have reach or it is cost prohibitive. SD-WAN is transport agnostic meaning it can provide the same service regardless of which transport mechanism is being used and has the capability to add and remove connections at any site as the business requires.
  • Performance – with the ability to control the network more proactively, businesses can prioritise what traffic takes which route. MPLS settings are static meaning there is little-to-no flexibility to adjust as changes are needed.
  • Visibility and control – businesses can be sure of seamless redundancy as connections can be rerouted at the click of a button. SD-WAN enables businesses to mix and match connections according to content priority.
  • Scalability – point-and-click provisioning. Bandwidth for MPLS can be very costly whereas SD-WAN enables businesses to easily scale bandwidth up and down with minimal interference.

When it comes to MPLS vs SD-WAN, SD-WAN is most effective for those with multiple and remote sites with a range of very low and high capacity requirements. If a business only has a few regional sites that have little complexity and happy to access the cloud via the Public Internet or through a Cloud Connect solution, however, then SD-WAN is probably not the best solution.

For those who require real-time and QoS services, and cannot afford packet loss and jitter, then MPLS is still the best option.

As you have read, both MPLS and SD-WAN have a number of pros and cons, so it’s important to be aware of each in order to make the best choice for your business needs.





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  • MPLS vs SD-WAN


    Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) has been popular for a number of years now and is very good at providing robust and reliable connectivity as well as ensuring critical business information continues to flow, but it’s flexibility has also become a limiting factor. It's important to be aware of what the differences between MPLS vs SD-WAN are in order to make the best choice for your business needs.

  • What is a Wide Area Network (WAN)?


    A single geographically distributed private telecommunications network that is made up of Local Area Networks (LAN) in the form of private lines, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), virtual private networks (VPNs), wireless (cellular) and the Internet. Its architecture, protocols and technologies have evolved to become SD-WAN.

  • What is SD-WAN?


    Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) is a specific application of Software-Defined Networking (SDN) technology applied to WAN connections, which are used to connect networks – including branch offices, headquarters, cloud platforms and data centres – over large geographic distances. SD-WAN distributes network traffic across the WAN which automatically determines the most effective way to route traffic to and from site locations and data centre sites.


  • What is a Local Area Network (LAN)?


    A LAN covers a limited geographical area and provides networks within a single office building or campus. A LAN comprises cables, access points, switches, routers, and other components that enable devices to connect to internal servers. Two of the most common LANs are Ethernet and Wi-Fi.


  • What is IP-VPN?


    Internet Protocol Virtual Private Network (IP-VPN) is one of the many types of WAN technology available. Find out more on what is an IP-VPN and the business benefits that could help your organisation.

  • What are the benefits of SD-WAN?


    An SD-WAN service can optimise traffic flows to improve performance and cost at branch sites. This enables businesses to dynamically route traffic across a hybrid-WAN based on the current network status by utilising multiple connections. Learn more about the benefits of SD-WAN.


  • What are the benefits of IP-VPN?


    Aside from the security benefits of using an IP-VPN, this system has various other advantages for organisations. Since it’s based on MPLS, the network traffic can be monitored and managed for quality and efficiency, as well as usage.

    What’s more, IP-VPNs give businesses the ability to adjust the network performance to meet business needs, pushing certain traffic to the front of the queue as required. It’s also possible to access – and learn from – historical reports on usage and bandwidth statistics. Find out more here.

  • The importance of managed WAN services


    With a managed wide area network, your network will be monitored and managed from an operations centre. Your provider will ensure secure traffic management across multiple sites, making certain that your network is performing at its best. Some providers allow you to view your network’s performance in real time. You’ll be alerted when there’s an issue, and kept in the loop while the problem is fixed. Managed WAN services also let you choose between different bandwidth and transport options, keeping your business agile.

  • What is hybrid WAN and what are the benefits?


    Simply put, a hybrid WAN uses two different WAN circuits to transmit traffic between an organisation’s sites and data centres. These circuits can be used in a variety of combinations: a broadband and an MPLS circuit, a broadband and a cellular circuit, an internet and MPLS circuit, and so on.

    The secondary circuit can be used to provide backup in case the primary circuit fails or is performing badly due to congestion. Or the secondary circuit can play a more active part in a network strategy, supplying additional resiliency and reliability. Hybrid WANs do, however, need managing if they are to use the secondary as anything other than a failsafe. Find out more here.