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Why You Should Switch From MPLS to SD-WAN

Admin Globaldots
07.12.2018
image 5 Min read

Multinational corporations have traditionally needed global MPLS services to build their WAN. Until recently, there simply was no alternative. That has changed now that secure, global SD-WAN as a Service is available worldwide.

But as business has evolved so too the network perimeter has dissolved. Fixed locations have given way to mobile users, corporate applications to cloud services, and servers to cloud instances. Security threats have skyrocketed, and so have our security appliances. No longer is there a safe corporate network and dangerous Internet – there is only the network.

By leveraging the power of distributed software, plentiful IP capacity, and off-the-shelf hardware, SD-WAN as a service provides a reliable, flexible, and inexpensive alternative to MPLS.

The MPLS Story

Global Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) networks allow for different in-country providers of MPLS services to connect as one network. A single service provider acting as a “general contractor” manages the agreements between the individual MPLS providers to allow the customer to traverse between the MPLS links of one SP to another to complete the global WAN.

Service level agreements are a key part of global MPLS networks. Vendors guarantee uptime levels, jitter, round-trip delay, and other performance parameters. The global MPLS approach to networking works well if:

  • The users are in fixed locations such as branch offices,
  • The only corporate applications are hosted in-house, and
  • Business needs don’t change very often.

Unfortunately, the realities of today are very different:

  • Business is evolving quickly, and the underlying IT infrastructure needs the flexibility to support rapid changes in the way of work.
  • Many users are mobile, and some may never work in a central “fixed” location.
  • Corporate applications are increasingly in the cloud.

The fact is, global MPLS services aren’t implemented in a way that accommodates the new realities of wide area networking needs. Clearly, an alternative is needed, but it’s not the public Internet. When looking at a global deployment, the Internet is too unpredictable.

SD-WAN as an alternative to MPLS

SD-WAN brings unparalleled agility and cost savings to networking. With SD-WAN, organizations can deliver more responsive, more predictable applications at lower cost in less time than the managed MPLS services traditionally used by the enterprise. IT becomes far more agile, deploying sites in minutes; leveraging any available data service such as MPLS, dedicated Internet access (DIA), broadband or wireless; and being able to reconfigure sites instantly.

SD-WAN does this by separating applications from the underlying network services with a policy-based, virtual overlay. This overlay monitors the real-time performance characteristics of the underlying networks and selects the optimum network for each application based on configuration policies.

Where software-defined networking (SDN) deployed in a service provider network enables flexible deployment and usage-based solutions between high capacity sites (like headquarters and data centers) SD-WAN services help optimize traffic flows for performance and cost at branch sites.

There are different approaches to architecting an SD-WAN. Many vendors’ products would have you build and manage your own network using the unpredictable public Internet and overlay the SD-WAN on top.

SD-WAN benefits

SD-WANs reduce bandwidth costs by leveraging inexpensive services, such as Internet broadband, whenever possible. They can still use dedicated Internet access (DIA) for higher uptime and performance. (DIA is often more expensive than broadband but less than MPLS and comes with some service guarantees.)

The main goal of SD-WAN (SDWAN) technology is to deliver a business-class, secure, and simple cloud-enabled WAN connection with as much open and software-based technology as possible.

Companies are rapidly adopting SD-WAN technology because of the comprehensive financial and operational benefits it offers:

  • Lowers WAN OpEx and CapEx costs, and overall total cost of ownership
  • Provides greater business agility and responsiveness to keep pace with IT innovations
  • Supports multiple, secure, high-performance connections eliminating backhaul penalties imposed by MPLS networks
  • Allows for load sharing across connections and adjusts traffic flows based on network conditions to improve performance
  • Supports the automated provisioning of – and changes to – premium network services, such as VPNs, firewalls, security, WAN optimization, and application delivery control
  • Supports zero-touch provisioning (ZTP)
  • Improves network security by encrypting WAN traffic and segmenting the network to minimize damage if breaches occur

Despite all the advantages, SD-WAN has some limitations, namely:

  • Extending the SD-WAN to the cloud requires installing an SD-WAN in or near the cloud provider’s data center, a complicated if not impossible task. SD-WAN completely ignores mobile users.
  • And while traffic is encrypted, exposing branches to the Internet raises the threat of malware, phishing emails, and other attacks. Deploy security appliances at the branch means that continuing with the costs of purchasing, sizing, and maintenance associated with security appliances continues.

SD-WAN as a Service (SDWaaS)

SD-WAN as a service (SDWaaS) takes a far different approach—one which we believe creates a better network that can truly serve as an alternative to a global MPLS network.

With an SDWaaS, the Internet is only used for what it’s best at — access. The middle-mile, the part of the Internet that causes the biggest latency problems, is replaced by a global, SLA-backed affordable backbone.

GlobalDots Cloud, GlobalDots’ SDWaaS, is a globally distributed, scalable, and redundant set of Points of Presence (PoPs).

sd-wan as a service

The PoPs are meshed into a global overlay with at least two SLA-backed global carriers connecting every PoP. Using the inexpensive IP capacity available from tier-1 carriers is one ingredient that allows GlobalDots to dramatically reduce the capacity costs. Costs are also reduced by relying on distributed software running on off-the-shelf hardware in a redundant configuration; there are no expensive proprietary appliances.

GlobalDots Cloud continuously monitors the carriers’ latency and packet loss to determine the optimal path between any two locations. Should one carrier experiences an issue, GlobalDots Cloud can make a packet-by-packet decision to move to another carrier. Moreover, a range of optimizations built into GlobalDots Cloud minimize the effects of latency and compensate for packet loss. The result: GlobalDots Cloud provides better performance and availability than anyone underlying carrier.

Conclusion

With an affordable, SLA-backed backbone, SD-WAN as a Service can replace a global MPLS deployment. If you have any questions about how we can help you connect all your business resources and data centers into a secure, unified network, contact us today to help you out with your performance and security needs.

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