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Your Network Infrastructure: Choosing the Best Traffic Protocols for Your Company

Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) and multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) are two pieces of technology that assist companies with building network traffic protocols and network infrastructure. If you’re trying to improve your network, you’re likely wondering which option is right for you.

As you look to make a decision, it helps to have a better understanding of what SD-WAN and MPLS are. You should also examine our list of SD-WAN and MPLS pros and cons to get a clearer picture of how either piece of technology could help your company.

What Is SD-WAN?

As a type of software-defined networking, SD-WAN is a network that gets abstracted from its hardware to showcase a visualized network overlay. With this overlay, operators can quickly scale and manage it remotely. As the use of mobile devices and cloud computing grows, SD-WANs have been designed to work with the evolving nature of enterprise networks. They’re also one of the newest ways to optimize and manage a wide area network.

SD-WANs are formed by connecting a network of SD-WAN appliances with encrypted tunnels. These appliances also will be connected to some network services, such as a combination of some internet services and MPLS. They’re built to monitor the performance and availability of the services to which they’re connected. When traffic reaches an SD-WAN appliance, it will be classified based on its application. Then, the traffic will be prioritized using various centrally-managed priorities. Once prioritized, the traffic will be sent to the optimal network link.

By monitoring the traffic, SD-WANs also secure, partition, and segment traffic that crosses through a network. The main purpose of SD-WANs is their ability to make it easier for companies to create new links to their branch offices, with these links often coming in the form of voice, video, and data. After forming new links, they also provide greater management over how the links are used.

What Is MPLS?

MPLS stands for multiprotocol label switching. Essentially, MPLS refers to a protocol used in a network to control the flow of traffic. MPLS is similar in function with how a network’s switches and routers work. It helps to deliver traffic around the network based on the traffic’s priority, desired location, and type. MPLS incorporates labels and packet-forward technology to decide on appropriate data forwarding.

MPLS utilizes predetermined routes that transport traffic efficiently through private networks. This efficient flow of traffic helps companies have confidence that their real-time traffic, such as voice and video, will end up where it needs to go in a timely manner. Since MPLS uses a low latency route, you can expect it to deliver traffic reliably through your network.

What Does the Difference Mean for My Organization?

As you build your network infrastructure and protocols, you might be wondering how SD-WAN and MPLS structures could impact your business. Both of these connectivity options have areas where they excel and areas where they have drawbacks. Each company has different priorities, so choosing between the two options will come down to infrastructure areas you value and the network qualities that you help meet your goals.

If you’re looking to increase your bandwidth while lowering your costs, an SD-WAN may be an ideal option for your business. Additionally, companies looking to maintain fewer IT staff may appreciate how easy it is to configure SD-WANs and how they reduce the need for dedicated networking staff on site.

If your primary goal is to establish a more secure, private connection between branch offices of your company, MPLS will likely be an attractive choice. MPLS is also an excellent option for companies looking for reliable traffic, as the system is designed to isolate virtual packets and prioritize more important information.

To set your company up for optimal performance and future success, you should carefully consider the pros and cons of each method. This attention to detail can help you select a connectivity option that gives you the performance you need to reach your fullest potential.

Pros and Cons of SD-WAN

SD-WANs offer many advantages that make them an attractive option for companies. One of the benefits of an SD-WAN is its ability to offer increased bandwidth at lower costs. You get these results by throttling applications with a lower priority and provisioning network traffic for the best speeds available. Another major advantage is its ability to get rid of the need for on-site IT staff and manual configuration. SD-WAN accomplishes this by using an easy-to-use management console that keeps management centralized across all branch networks.

SD-WANs also offer more variety in vendor selection and connection type, meaning you can find one that works best for your needs. The network can utilize public and private connections in order to route traffic. Along with the many options, the network offers operators full visibility over the network since it comes with a controller.

You can enjoy some great security features with SD-WANs as well. Within the SD-WAN architecture, your company can take advantage of end-to-end encryption across a whole network. Another valuable security advantage is that all your endpoints and devices will be authenticated due to software-defined security and scalable key-exchange functionality.

There are some possible disadvantages to using an SD-WAN, as network performance and reliability can suffer. These performance and reliability drops occur because SD-WANs often leverage the public internet — which can become quite congested — to connect networks. SD-WANs can also be very complicated to adopt and integrate. Since an SD-WAN isn’t a private network, there can be security risks if extra security applications and protocols haven’t been added to the network alongside the SD-WAN’s initial integration.

Ultimately, the global SD-WAN market is expected to grow to $5.25 billion by 2023, so it’s no great leap to expect more companies to switch over to virtualized networks. Some even wonder if SD-WAN will replace MPLS. While it’s likely that SD-WAN could be an excellent substitute for your MPLS, there are still benefits to MPLS that may make it a viable choice for your business.

Pros and Cons of MPLS

One of the major reasons MPLS is used today is because of its excellent security and its reliability. Since an MPLS is a way to privately connect branch offices and data centers, it’s one of the most secure options around.

MPLS is also well-known for its ability to deliver packets in a reliable manner. It provides companies with high-quality service by ensuring a consistent flow of traffic with minimal packet loss. This consistent flow of traffic is especially valued by those who need to use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and other real-time protocols. Without reliable traffic, communications can be greatly disrupted within your company.

Another reason for MPLS’s excellent reliability relates to the way it virtually isolates packets. With this isolation, your MPLS provider can sort through your network traffic and prioritize different flows of information. The ability to prioritize different flows of traffic also means you can more accurately predict your network’s traffic. Since an MPLS network has predetermined paths, you can expect your packets to travel across them in the way they need to go consistently.

One of the disadvantages to MPLS is how expensive its high-performance connections can be. Besides the costs to purchase the connections, they also can take longer to deploy, with some MPLS taking weeks and others months. Another downside is that MPLS isn’t designed well for cloud computing. This poor integration with cloud computing comes from MPLS having to pull back their traffic to a centralized access point before it can be sent back out to its desired location.

For some businesses, MPLS offers high-priority advantages that make it a desirable choice compared to SD-WAN. Your organization’s unique needs will help determine whether MPLS network structure may serve your operations best.

We’ll Help You Decide What’s Best for Your Business

Still wondering if SD-WAN or MPLS is right for you? Our team at Consolidated Technologies, Inc. can help you learn more about SD-WAN as a service and the ways it can be an appealing option compared to other WAN routing.

Contact us today to find the ideal networking solution for your business.