Why Should you Choose between SD-WAN and MPLS?

January 17, 2023



The increasing adoption rate of Software Defined-Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) at a CAGR of 26.2% for 2022-2028 proves the higher ROI of software-defined virtualization for networking. Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS) has traditionally been the solution; offering secured, high-integrity, high-speed connectivity. But SD-WAN is rapidly overriding the advantages of MPLS networks on most features, except data integrity. There is no loss of packets during transmission in MPLS, but the overall cost of maintaining a private network-based internet backbone for a distributed business is very expensive. Hence, businesses need to make choices based on their end-user needs. Besides, MPLS for cloud-edge and SaaS-based apps is a struggle compared to SD-WAN. It is flexible, while MPLS is challenging to deliver in a highly dynamic way because of rigid, fixed connectivity. Therefore, SD-WAN solutions have better visibility, dynamic servicing capabilities, and enhanced performance.

SD-WAN is a flexible, agile, and application-sensitive prioritization networking solution using a software overlay to route and manage services in underlying WAN hardware. An industry-wide solution that is helping businesses implement the advantages of SD-WAN is choosing MPLS for critical applications.

What are SD-WAN and MPLS network models?

There are many similarities and differences between SD-WAN and MPLS network models. These are:

SD-WAN Network and MPLS

SD-WAN is a networking approach that adds diversity to a Wide Area Networking system and better control over the enterprise WAN. Technically, SD-WAN adds a software-defined virtual network that overlays a conventional hardware network. A central controller provisions and manages the overlay. Virtualization eliminates managing device-by-device network configuration or management. And the underlying data plane then processes and transmits the packets between the devices. Firstly, the virtualized layer of an application runs all types of network transport like 4G, 5G, public internet, and MPLS. Secondly, depending on the network performance, the rooting controller will allow an application to use a particular service, keeping the network performance and sensitive applications prioritized.

MPLS connects Local Area Networks (LANs) that are part of the Wide Area Network. Specialized routers send packets on pre-determined network paths. It is a dedicated circuit that prevents packet loss, but costly as it is priced for every megabit transfer. Many virtual WANs operate simultaneously in a virtual network over pre-determined network pathways. But it needs continued services from telecommunication companies to set up and is expensive. Technically, MPLS services on a carrier’s network are separate. Instead, MPLS is a dedicated service with Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for latency, jitter, and packet loss.

The SD-WAN network model uses MPLS since it is the only software with other hardware to deliver low-cost, high-quality networking.

What are the differences between SD-WAN and MPLS?

The comparison of SD-WAN and MPLS is effective only on cost, performance, and security.


Since SD-WAN is a virtual overlay over dedicated WAN infrastructure, it is a less expensive model than MPLS. It is a more secure network model with higher network performance visibility available at agility. It is very flexible and can adapt to application-intensive requirements. Conversely, MPLS or Multi-Protocol Label Switching is expensive because of the bandwidth this technology needs.

Traditionally, it used individual MPLS to connect retail locations and remote branches to central data centers. Workflows transaction and data access to the internet or cloud services need to be moved to the data center for processing and then distributed. Therefore it is a costly model.

SD-WAN is a virtual, software-defined networking model controlled centrally for optimized, flexible, and agile networking operations. Therefore, the cost of enabling SD-WAN in networks is less than MPLS.

Performance and Availability

SD-WAN is application-first connectivity for multi-sites. It can use any network transport, ensuring sensitive applications run without issues. In crowded networking issues, MPLS, LTE, or broadband for high speed. MPLS has limited bandwidth and fails at a single point.

However, in terms of pure-performance networks, MPLS is reliable and enables fixed-level bandwidth. But MPLS needs expensive ‘reserve’ bandwidth for reliable performance in unpredictable traffic. For voice and video applications, latency becomes an issue in networks requiring constant monitoring. MPLS cannot prioritize applications in the same tunnel connection for latency since it does not have capabilities for recognizing applications or load-balancing and traffic shaping.

SD-WAN identifies business requirements, recognizes applications, and juggles the bandwidth to balance the load. In the SD-WAN network, parallel connections are possible as they can handle granular load balancing. It can switch to a new link if bandwidth fails. There is no rate limit on sensitive applications; it consumes as much bandwidth as needed if they are latency-sensitive.

Complexity Management, secure and better protection

SD-WAN offers add-on security features if it is not available by default. MPLS does not have security-handling features and moves traffic back to enterprise data centers for running security checks. Although, it does offer a security advantage by using only secured and managed pre-determined pathways to transfer data from branch offices and data centers using the internal internet. MPLS does not provide data analysis, and the client has to handle the issue. MPLS traffic could carry malware and other threats via a firewall. However, SD-WAN solutions can easily add a security layer virtually if a client desires, or integrated security services are the ideal solutions.

Hence, Comparing the networking models shows that MPLS is expensive and should be used for exceptional needs. ROI on networking costs, agility, and flexibility and need performance and availability, SD-WAN is the preferred choice for most businesses. SD-WAN solutions offer application-level visibility because of a centralized management system that automates services and security. SD-WAN devices do not have to integrate into another vendor’s network management system, saving time and cost. SD-WAN technology is flexible enough to deploy private overlay over network transport types giving bandwidth depth at low-cost without any security issues. On the SD-WAN network, there is no requirement for local configuration. Zero Touch Provisioning is an ability in this virtual networking solution. But MPLS

Takeaway: Spectra’s SD-WAN is better than MPLS connectivity

The criteria for businesses is the performance of the network. While MPLS ticks all the right features as a reliable, consistent bandwidth service, it is run down when demanding traffic performance requirements. It fails with latency-sensitive traffic since it cannot prioritize or balance load or identify traffic patterns.

Spectra’s SD-WAN solutions, on the other hand, adapt bandwidth to application, initiate parallel connections, accurate visibility, and granular load balance to ensure consistent, secure, and reliable network performance. Learn more about Spectra SD-WAN solutions for your business here!


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