Upgrading to an MPLS network has always been a badge of honour. Making the leap to, usually, expensive fibre leased lines, away from broadband, connecting your offices together with mystical but often misunderstood technology has until now been seen as the obvious and logical course of action for any maturing network.
But there is a new kid on the block called SD-WAN. Well, we’ve actually been supplying Software-Defined WAN connections to UK businesses since 2008. In fact, we are the UK’s only SD-WAN software vendor, with a pedigree going back over 10 years.
With an MPLS link, if you want to protect your mission critical applications there are some clunky and inefficient ways of trying to do it.
You’ll need to fill in some complex forms with your MPLS provider and try to classify your traffic. This isn’t simple. You don’t just say to your provider on the phone “I’d like to make sure consumer video streaming services don’t impact my CRM users”.
No, what you end up needing to do is perform that network traffic classification yourself on your router, in order to tag packets ready for the MPLS link.
Then, as long as you’ve been explicit with the MPLS provider about the types of tags that have been set on the packets you are sending, they will honour those priorities (or at least try to) as those packets traverse the provider’s network.
You can only do this one way. Upload only. You can’t set any priorities for your download traffic. This is fire and forget, and hope for the best.
In fact, most MPLS networks installed for UK businesses never have any priority set anywhere. It’s too cumbersome, customers just rely on the bandwidth of the leased lines being enough (let’s be honest this is more about hope than reliance).
Most businesses aren’t even aware they should expect more from their connectivity.
Why shouldn’t the IT guys be able to run the off-site backup 24/7 while VoIP users make calls?
SD-WAN connections allow businesses to reset their expectations at a much higher level.
Why settle for QoS only on the upload? SD-WAN gives true, bi-directional QoS so that you can prioritise your download just as much as your upload.
Why must you configure your own complex router to tag packets? With an SD-WAN connection, those packets are prioritised and queued for you, no matter the sophistication of the router or firewall you have, or your own IT expertise at configuring it.
And then of course, why be restricted to expensive leased lines only? Sure, with an MPLS network you could have an ADSL or FTTC (if it’s available) instead. But just one? Using multiple circuits of different types is the answer, and again only SD-WAN has this ability.
This isn’t some basic load balancing, this is a full logical connection aggregating all the bandwidth of every connection. So yes, you can have your leased lines where they are needed, but where broadband will suffice, use that instead. And if you want to increase resilience then just add more circuits of any type.
This is about user experience. Putting to one side the problems of service outages that are solved by multi-path connectivity, what your users need is consistency. They need speed. They need to not even think about connectivity.
Software-Defined WAN connections with their intent-based, zero-touch implementation of QoS are a game changer. This is the technology that networking has always needed, and its abilities far exceed simple, legacy MPLS.
It’s time to develop a new badge of honour. It’s time to recognise SD-WAN as the natural successor to MPLS.