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By now, most of us are used to the ‘work from home’ concept, thanks to the COVID19 pandemic and the work-life challenges that it has thrown at us. Given the apparent layer of protection working remotely provides, organizations are left with no choice but to ask their staff to work from various locations other than their offices. As a result, the network issues of capacity and load access have begun to surface prominently.

Add to this the need for data protection across all industries with networks connected to many locations and devices and you have a perfect recipe for potential network outages and operational malfunction.

A recent report by Kaspersky, a global cybersecurity firm says, “People are more and more willing to choose services that have at least a promise of privacy, and even pay for them.”

With the increase in data volumes and rapid adoption of cloud-first strategies across industries, companies are looking for networks and bandwidth that can support remote work consistently. An innovative network infrastructure that complements the changing demands of time can help businesses cut costs of technology upgrades to focus on core tasks at hand.

Today, service providers have to take into consideration network control features that support video streaming, conference call hosting, checking emails or accessing critical business applications no matter where they are hosted.

Next-generation solutions like software-defined wide area network (SD WAN) is being seen as an alternative to multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) supported networks.

So what are the main differences between the two network methodologies?

SD-WAN is more cost-effective than MPLS

MPLS uses packet-forwarding technology and labels to make data forwarding decisions. What this essentially means is that MPLS can offer superior service in avoiding packet (units of data) loss and keeping an organization’s mission-critical traffic flowing. This reliability enhances the quality of real-time protocols, such as Voice over IP (VoIP).  MPLS providers can also assign a higher priority to certain network traffic. Traditionally, organizations process data back and forth from their remote branches to the central data center through WAN model that relied on individual MPLS connections, including access to cloud services or the internet. However, this process consumes a lot of expensive bandwidth adding up to the company bills.

In contrast, SD-WAN virtualizes the network functions that run on the network infrastructure as software on commodity hardware. It can reduce costs by providing optimized, multi-point connectivity using distributed, private data traffic exchange and control points to give users secure, local access to the services they need whilst securing direct access to cloud and internet resources.

SD-WAN provides better protection than MPLS

MPLS network lacks built-in data protection capabilities and if implemented incorrectly, it can expose the network to vulnerabilities. MPLS does not provide any sort of analysis of the data that it delivers. Even when passing an MPLS connection, traffic needs to be checked for malware or other exploits, which requires firewall deployment.

Under SD-WAN security virtualization functionality, an organization can benefit from end-to-end encryption across the entire network, including the internet. All devices and endpoints are completely authenticated via a scalable key-exchange functionality and software-defined security.

When is MPLS better than SD-WAN alone?

In some scenarios, MPLS could be a better choice than SD-WAN alone. For instance, MPLS provides a clean and secure connection that is desirable for certain types of data, applications, and transactions that require high integrity and privacy. When security and reliability are more important than cost differences, SD-WAN can run over an MPLS connection to provide more protection and functionality than an MPLS solution alone. SD-WAN provides a greater amount of flexibility, more granular traffic control, integrated security, and the ability to leverage multiple connection strategies—MPLS, public internet, IPSec, SSL, etc.—using the same SD-WAN deployment.

A recent report by Persistence Market Research revealed that the global SD-WAN market is anticipated to grow rapidly – reaching a valuation of $53 billion globally by the end of 2030.

Indeed, SD-WAN services offer service providers new opportunities to enhance the consumer experience but on the other hand, many companies have already invested heavily into developing their MPLS network infrastructure. Businesses today need a diverse set of digital solutions to ensure they are successful in digitally transforming themselves. ICT industry partners need to working closely with customers to understand the best communications infrastructure needed to meet end-user demand in a time when markets are shifting like never before.

Building a system that is ready to dynamically adapt to changes in demand by navigating the complexities of legacy systems on a global scale with market-proven operational experience is what the ICT players need to focus on.

Managed service providers, system integrators, and other channel players have to leverage the benefits of 5G technology by paying close attention to the unique security risks SD-WAN introduces but the good news is that more than anything, MPLS remains relevant because it compliments more than it interferes with SD-WAN technology.

Solution providers could do well to look at the Network-to-Network-Interfaces (NNI) option of a hybrid solution of private MPLS line and flexible SD-WAN solution to come up with an efficient, secure, and fully automated end-to-end network orchestration to safeguard internet-connected corporate assets and data from remote and insider threats. Additionally, it could also provide the basis for seamless migration from old MPLS networks to new hybrid SD-WAN services.

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