If You’re Still Spending on MPLS...You Should Already Have a Plan for SD WAN


Author: Dave Young

networking-1.jpgThe saying that ‘there is a time and a place for that’ can apply to almost anything in our daily lives, but nowhere is it truer than in technology.  The pace of change in some tech areas go at breakneck speed, while others move slower.  But the constant for either is that there is always change.  For example, there was a ‘time and a place’ for 2-way pagers years ago, but that time is gone now replaced by all manner of smartphones, tablets, and even the IoT’s.  Just as there was a ‘time and a place’ for MPLS, it will be - in the not too distant future, added to the historical shelf of technology there was a ‘time and a place for’, just like Frame Relay before it.

MPLS certainly served a great need for many years, helping bridge the gap between existing ATM and Frame Relay networks, the explosion of IP, and its ability to be protocol agnostic with all manner of access technologies.  MPLS can scale, provides any to any communication between sites, is ubiquitous globally and is highly flexible, so it was no wonder its use grew exponentially in the late 1990s.

Today however, with the advent of cloud and SaaS applications, MPLS has become costly when compared to newer technologies.  If you think about any path in today’s cloud environment and start adding the cost – it can get significant quickly:

  • Office to Data Center
  • Data Center to SaaS provider cloud
  • SaaS cloud back to Data Center
  • Data Center back to Office
  • Office to Data Center to Internet

Each one of these ‘connections’ and sub connections, have a cost around local loops, hardware, port capacity restrictions (type and speed), class of service charges, managed service fees, other access costs.  You can see how the costs start adding up.  In addition to that, the flexibility that was once a hallmark of MPLS loses steam when attempting to mesh with modern SaaS application environments. 

So how to bridge the gap?  Enter SD WAN.

According to IDC, the SD WAN market is predicted to grow to $8B USD by 2021!  They equate that growth to almost 70% per year.  As we’ve seen in the past, this kind of growth trajectory can lead to some long-term issues for companies that are not fully prepared to make the leap:

  • With growing technology markets, comes accelerated pricing – companies are susceptible to overpaying
  • Availability of features grows substantially with every new supplier entry to the marketplace, and often companies miss out as their chosen partner can’t duplicate
  • Locking in too early long term with a supplier who is an early entrant to the market, but does not keep up the pace of innovation

The short and long term benefits are worth getting in the SD WAN game however.  With SD WAN you are likely going to get a lower cost, better availability, and better performance as you can manage the QoS at a granular level and make changes instantly.  In addition, you can get bundled managed services that include hardware so you remove yet another capital expense to operational and let someone else worry about break-fix.

In summary, if you’re not yet seriously planning a move (even a partial one) away from MPLS to SD WAN, then you may already be behind your competition who is looking at ways to reduce cost and be more efficient for their customers (internal and external).  MPLS still may have a place in some circumstances, it’s not going the way of the dinasaour in the next couple years, but it won’t be long beyond that. 

So the time is now to start getting introspective on MPLS and asking the questions that will plan and transform your MPLS enterprise – before someone else starts asking what your plan is.

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