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Businessman working with a Cloud Computing diagram on the new computer interface as concept-1
SD-WAN delivers a level of security and resources on par with traditional WAN.

For years, the primary method of building a network architecture for business use has involved wide-area networks built with private connections and multiprotocol layer switching (MPLS). While this methodology is still prevalent, it finally has a serious challenger: software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN).

By allowing companies to route traffic through multiple public internet connections with VPN tunnels, encryption and firewalls, SD-WAN delivers a level of security and resources on par with traditional WAN, at a drastically reduced cost, especially when considering the expense and time needed to install a new edge device or application.

Now, it's time to take a serious look at SD-WAN and MPLS side by side and determine how your organisation should proceed.

The key feature
that SD-WAN brings
to the table is the aggregation of
multiple circuits — private, public or
even wireless — to run applications and
services on a reliable, secure connection.

What is the difference between SD-WAN and MPLS?

MPLS is the industry standard for maintaining and overseeing network resources. In this digital age, companies need strong and reliable connections to run their applications, including those hosted on-premise and in the cloud. IT teams that use MPLS networking to manage the configurations of the apps and devices that make up their networks are realising they can take similar functionality from SD-WAN.

They are making this discovery because they are being driven by the constant need to add bandwidth and capacity. MPLS delivers the application performance they need, but it can be slow and expensive to procure the necessary technology. Furthermore, with businesses operating from many locations, some potentially out of range for high-speed private network connections, there is a drastic need for a way to get MPLS-level performance faster and more affordably. SD-WAN fills this niche.

Does SD-WAN replace MPLS?

In some cases, SD-WAN does not replace MPLS — at least not all at once. Companies can get involved with SD-WAN deployment by adding the resources to serve as supplemental connectivity for smaller branch locations. Over time, they can increase their investment in SD-WAN, slowly adding more SD-WAN circuits so the balance of the overall environment tips toward the cloud.

App-aware routing allows organisations to control which circuit they are using for traffic, even with some sites on SD-WAN and others on traditional WAN. Both types of circuits contribute to the overall network. In addition to choosing SD-WAN for new offices, personnel can convert older locations when it's time for a network refresh at those sites.

Businessman hand working with a Cloud Computing diagram on the new computer interface as concept

What are the benefits of SD-WAN vs. MPLS?

The addition of SD-WAN to business networks would not be occurring without delivering important benefits. If you're considering making changes in your configuration, it's important to determine whether these advantages apply to your unique use case. Fortunately, the improvements associated with SD-WAN solutions are wide-ranging and largely in keeping with the way companies today use their networks. They include:

  • Cost and time advantages: You cannot underestimate just how much easier it is to bring new edge devices and cloud applications into your network when using SD-WAN. Without the hardware scarcity and expense issues that trouble traditional WAN, there is a much clearer path to expansion.
  • Centralised network control: Once you've brought a variety of new resources into your network, you can take control of them more easily with SD-WAN. No matter how many locations your business operates from, your IT team can manage every application, connection and piece of hardware from a single pane of glass.
  • App performance improvements: Whether using customisable app priority settings to give mission-critical software more bandwidth or setting up stronger fail-over capabilities, IT departments with SD-WAN can keep the company's most important software online. The meshed architecture of public internet connections can also offer a lower-latency way to use SaaS apps.
  • Greater oversight of data use: Administrators who want to take a closer look at data usage within their companies can benefit immensely from SD-WAN. Better traffic visibility allows them to isolate locations, connections, devices and users and analyse data usage. By disallowing certain types of traffic, IT pros can run a more secure, controlled network.

Why is SD-WAN important for today's companies?

Businesses have
to constantly be thinking about the future and looking
one step ahead
to stay competitive. When it comes to networking, this may mean increasingly investing in SD-WAN.


The ability to add new services and locations in an agile and affordable manner lays the groundwork for growth, and the fact that SD-WAN is compatible with SaaS deployments is in keeping with the rising importance of the cloud across industries and regions.

Since SD-WAN deployment requires significantly lower operating expenditures than investing in more private network connections for a standard MPLS network, the risk is low and the potential reward is great. You need to ensure your applications will be stable, reliable and secure going forward — working with the right SD-WAN partner is a way to move toward this goal.

Not every SD-WAN provider can deliver the same level of service, so it's important to do your homework and go with the top source in the industry. The fully managed SD-WAN network solution from Fonality is designed to aggregate and maximise all your connections and applications, not only saving you time and money but making your network serve your needs more effectively.

If you want to learn more, contact our SD-WAN experts — we can help!