MPLS vs SD-WAN – Keep or Replace?

Every day within our community, customers hear carriers and solutions providers discussing the difference between MPLS  and SDN routing.  The question one must ask themselves is “What exactly does this mean?”  Many carriers today already deploy MPLS over SDN, although the number of carriers offering SDN are far few and between.  Carriers such as Masergy, Aryaka, and NTT to name a few, have mastered the SDN space allowing customers to reap the benefits of SDN routing, while still being able to add-on additional services similar to the traditional MPLS carrier.  Others in the marketplace are selling appliances or hardware that makes adapting to SDN routing more efficient, such as Cisco Meraki.

SDN routing can give organizations flexible deployment and configurability with a click of the mouse.  From a cost standpoint, SDN gives the customer the ability to cut network bandwidth costs by nearly 50 percent in most cases.  For example, SDN allows for the purchasing of cheap bandwidth such as broadband or DSL or both for satellite offices.  So what is best for your business?  Does SDN work with your current setup?  These are all questions to ask a trusted network advisor to help narrow down what is best for your organization.

What about traditional MPLS?  Does it make sense to keep your current solution or re-evaluate a new MPLS solution and stay away from SDN?  Of course, there are two sides to every story.  Traditional MPLS can easily be deployed.  Many carriers offer fully managed MPLS solutions such as AT&T, Verizon, XO Communications, Level3, CenturyLink and the list goes on…  These carriers offer different levels of QoS, WAN-based Firewalls, Applications, SIP in additional to their MPLS.  Therefore, allowing customers to layer on multiple levels of service within a fully managed environment.  Routing equipment (in most cases) comes already programmed and ready to plug-in.  These are all advantages for any size IT team looking to have enterprise level technology and security protected routing.

What we have seen in the marketplace with MPLS providers is that MPLS has become a very inexpensive up-charge.  This has given the MPLS provider the ability to compete against SDN routing based on the fact that either way the customer will need to purchase bandwidth.  So what is the next step for the MPLS provider?  Very simple.  Deploy MPLS via broadband and DSL to customers looking to cut costs.  XO Communications recently announced that they are now offering broadband and DSL for satellite offices within an MPLS environment.  Earthlink has done this as well, giving customers a competitive advantage by decreasing traditional deployments.  I would recommend seeking a trusted advisor to complete a location evaluation and see where you can decrease costs within your MPLS environment.

To conclude, technology teams must do what is necessary to succeed while staying secure and consistently decreasing capital spending.  MPLS and SDN can both be solutions to these challenges.

Below is a list of benefits that SDN routing can bring to your organization:

– Cost Reduction

– Overhead Reduction

-Physical vs. Virtual Networking Management

-Managing Virtual Packet Forwarding

-Reduced Downtime

-Isolation and Traffic Control


-Central Networking Management Tool

-Centralized Control


Below is a list of Advantages of MPLS over SDN

-Carrier MPLS is plug-and-play

-One Carrier circuit can support MPLS, Internet, and SIP

-Domestic MPLS takes 30 days typically to install.

-Carriers provide next-gen firewall

-Carrier Managed Solutions such as Firewall, VOIP, etc..

-Traditional MPLS is inexpensive nowadays

-MPLS port pricing is practically the same as Internet port pricing

-Carriers offer firewall ports within the MPLS environment eliminating the cost of a firewall for every location.

-MPLS supports many transport types including Ethernet, Broadband, DSL

-MPLS can be completely outsourced


Definition of Software Defined Networking:  

Software-defined networking (SDN) is an umbrella term encompassing several kinds of network technology aimed at making the network as agile and flexible as the virtualized server and storage infrastructure of the modern data center. The goal of SDN is to allow network engineers and administrators to respond quickly to changing business requirements. In a software-defined network, a network administrator can shape traffic from a centralized control console without having to touch individual switches and can deliver services to wherever they are needed in the network, without regard to what specific devices a server or other device is connected to. The key technologies are functional separation, network virtualization, and automation through programmability. –


Definition of MPLS Networking:

MPLS allows most packets to be forwarded at Layer 2(the switching level) rather than having to be passed up to Layer 3 (the routing level). Each packet gets labeled on entry into the service providers network by the ingress router. All the subsequent routing switches perform packet forwarding based only on those labels—they never look as far as the IP header. Finally, the egress router removes the label(s) and forwards the original IP packet toward its final destination.  The label determines which pre-determined path the packet will follow. The paths, which are called label switched paths (LSPs), allow service providers to decide ahead of time what will be the best way for certain types of traffic to flow within a private or public network.


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