How Cloud-Based SD-WAN Gives Current MPLS Users an Easy Exit Ramp

SD-WAN continues to grow at an impressive speed. More and more enterprises are beginning to realize the benefits of this industry-changing technology, and experts are projecting that we can continue to expect this trend to continue into the 2020s.

However, despite this trend there are still those arguing in favor of legacy WAN solutions like MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching). While it would be easy to dismiss those on the MPLS side of the MPLS vs SD-WAN debate as biased or simply averse to change, doing so would be shortsighted.

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No business exists in a vacuum where yesterday’s capital investments don’t matter and ripping and replacing an entire WAN infrastructure is no simple task. Fortunately for those looking for a way to shift away from MPLS and begin to leverage SD-WAN, cloud-based SDWaaS (SD-WAN as a Service) makes it easy to do so, particularly if your organization is dependent on cloud apps and services.

In this piece, we’ll identify benefits to SD-WAN to help nudge the change averse in your organization along, use cases where SD-WAN offers real business benefits, and how the converged nature of SDWaaS makes the transition away from MPLS easy.

Benefits of SD-WAN are magnified by the cloud

There are a number of advantages to SD-WAN when compared to MPLS, and they stem from some of the fundamental differences of the two approaches. MPLS was good at solving the problem of reliably connecting two locations with a high-performance link.

However, MPLS bandwidth isn’t cheap and an increase in cloud computing exposed a number of shortcomings in this WAN solution, particularly in the 2010s. WAN traffic shifted from mostly inward between corporate data-centers, headquarters, and offices, to mostly outward towards cloud applications.

This created a compelling use case for the more agile SD-WAN that not only reduced bandwidth costs by allowing for the use of economical public Internet links, it also helped address the “trombone effect” created when MPLS users have to backhaul cloud-bound traffic for security and auditing purposes.

As more and more enterprises move mission critical apps such as Unified Communications and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software to the cloud, the argument for SD-WAN becomes even stronger. However, many SD-WAN solutions are incomplete from lacking security, SLAs, or both.

From the perspective of the current MPLS user, this creates a difficult choice: adopt an appliance-based SD-WAN solution, implement 3rd party security appliances, and find a way to address the reliability issues of the public Internet or stick with MPLS and deal with subpar cloud performance and high costs.

Neither solution is ideal. Fortunately, there is a modern solution that makes the path to SD-WAN adoption much smoother.

Make the move easier: converged SDWaaS infrastructure

Premium cloud-based SDWaaS retains the bandwidth cost and flexibility benefits of traditional SD-Wan solutions while adding the benefits of an SLA-backed global backbone and an integrated security stack.

The global backbone is supported by Tier-1 ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and has Points of Presence (PoPs) spread across the globe. SDWaaS also offers auto-healing and other high-availability (HA) features to help ensure organizations get the enterprise-grade reliability they demand from their WAN.

That SDWaaS also integrates a full security stack, including NGFW (Next Generation Firewall), IPS (Intrusion Prevention System), and anti-malware features means organizations can minimize complexity and eliminate the need to source the aforementioned 3rd party appliances.

These two points come together to clear the path for migration to SD-WAN from MPLS. With SDWaaS, enterprises get reliable WAN connectivity in the form of an SLA-backed global backbone. Additionally, the complexity and security concerns associated with attempting to patch together multiple appliances to secure the way are inherently resolved.

What is even more impressive is that SDWaaS is able to do all this while actually enhancing the inherent benefits to cloud application performance. As many of the PoPs on the global backbone happen to be in the same datacenters as major cloud service providers like AWS, Azure, Office 365, and Jira, SDWaaS is often able to provide connectivity to these platforms that exceeds that of the public Internet.

As an added incentive, configuration and management of a WAN using SDWaaS is significantly easier than with most MPLS solutions. The converged, holistic, software-defined nature of SDWaaS coupled with simple management interfaces make tasks like traffic shaping (e.g. configuring QoS) a breeze.

This scalable yet simple approach to WAN also makes life easier on IT ops teams, allowing enterprises to focus more human resources on core business functions as opposed to infrastructure maintenance.

Cloud-based SD-WAN provides MPLS users a modern alternative

As we have seen, there are a number of compelling reasons for businesses to make the shift from MPLS to SD-WAN, but some of the shortcomings of traditional SD-WAN solutions can create roadblocks to doing so.

By providing SLA-backed, high-performance WAN connectivity and an integrated full security stack, SDWaaS provides an easy “exit ramp” to get off of MPLS and onto a modern WAN solution that is suitable for the dynamic, cloud-based workloads found within the modern enterprise.