The growth of cloud computing has had an enormous effect on wide area networks (WAN). Most of the WANs in widespread usage today were built for a different era, when organizations primarily needed to support their own client-server applications and did not rely on real-time applications in the cloud. MPLS, the technique for consistently carrying specific types of traffic through the network without requiring costly leased private lines between offices, is the bread and butter of the traditional WAN.

MPLS vs SD-WAN: Which one is right for the modern branch office?

The good news: MPLS has always been reliable. The bad news: It’s not really the right fit for cloud traffic flows, which require much more cost-effective and scalable connectivity such as broadband. At the same time, broadband and similarly economical options like 4G LTE and satellite internet don’t have the reputation for reliability that MPLS does. That’s a major shortcoming given the real-time nature of many cloud apps.

Software-defined WANs (SD-WANs) provide an answer to the problem of cloud connectivity. With many organizations relying on multiple SaaS applications for everything from CRM and productivity software to VoIP calling and video conferencing, there’s a distinct need for a WAN that makes all of these different connections behave consistently and predictably.

Predictable performance is the main value proposition of SD-WAN, but far from the only one. The potential benefits from a new, SD-WAN-enabled branch office strategy are profound. Classic MPLS WAN deployments often implement long-distance backhauling of any cloud-bound traffic to a data center or company headquarters, which noticeably impacts application performance. SD-WAN provides much more flexibility.


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Flexible branch strategy in the SD-WAN world

For starters, the inefficient security model of an MPLS WAN – which requires backhauling and robust security infrastructure across the network – can be greatly simplified. SD-WAN treats each available network path as an option for routing categorized and prioritized traffic. Under this method, each path is secured with a VPN tunnel ensuring proper data protection. Data is directed on the best possible path at any given moment, giving SD-WAN-enabled networks the ability to route around carrier issues and preserve user experience.
Customers leveraging external AAS (As A Service) models such as cloud or multi-cloud also benefit from a variety of lightweight content filtering solutions that allow for secure direct-to-cloud connections.

Additional firewalling can be implemented to shore up other flows. SD-WAN vendors such as Cisco offer multiple on-demand network services to protect the WAN from cybersecurity threats. These measures include URL filtering, intrusion prevention systems, cloud security, and behavioral threat analysis and response.

It’s also much more feasible to add secondary circuits to branches within an SD-WAN model. Using commodity internet or a cellular plan will provide reliable backup at a low cost. Savings are often at the forefront of any MPLS vs. SD-WAN discussion, and for good reason – branching out beyond MPLS can free up a lot of dollars that were previously going to relatively small yet expensive allotments of MPLS links.

Another branch-related benefit comes from added diversity in deployment options. Since SD-WANs can be implemented via physical or virtual appliances, organizations are in the driver’s seat when it comes to determining the right endpoint model for their needs. They may configure an SD-WAN with high-performance equipment that has integrated network services, opt for virtualization platforms and/or utilize cloud on-ramps and routers.


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Choosing the right SD-WAN vendor and partner

There is no shortage of SD-WAN options. The market has grown rapidly in recent years and should continue to expand as cloud applications become more central to everyday business operations.

To make WAN transformation easier, LaSalle offers Cisco SD-WAN as part of a larger portfolio of networking services which also includes network architecture design, testing, implementation, road mapping, and strategy assistance. Delivering more than just a product or technology, LaSalle produces business-driven solutions such as quickly deployed, secure, and reliable networks meeting the operational and technological needs of our customer.

Drawing from vast enterprise experience, our team leverages the right tools, technologies, and expertise to ensure that your network can support your business operation, productivity, and reliability needs.

Learn more by visiting our engineering services page, or by reaching out to our team directly.

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