SD-WAN will replace MPLS for the global and agile enterprise
MPLS is still pretty commonly used by enterprises, some use it for traffic of specific applications while others take it to the extreme and route all traffic of their branches to s central location over MPLS and from there connect to the internet (I personally experienced this after getting acquired by a large US company a few years back).
Service providers hit a jackpot with MPLS but this is now changing. 2 major forces are making MPLS less lucrative and eventually will kill it:
- MPLS price is going down due to competition
- Enterprise requirements have changed
Competition in MPLS market is twofold. There is the competition inside the market itself by global providers and alternatives enterprises have when selecting an MPLS provider
The second source of competition is more significant and is growing, that’s SD-WAN and the fact that CIOs start to do the cost vs. value balance and decide to route more traffic over other means of connection instead of MPLS.
Enterprise requirements vary but there are a few key requirements that are pretty common and impact the validity of MPLS.
Cloud services – The more cloud applications are used by the enterprise, including for mission critical and low delay type of services, the less MPLS can serve the enterprise network needs as it is impossible to connect via MPLS to all cloud services used by the enterprise. This is accelerated by the BYOA (Bring Your Own Application) trend.
Remote users – The number of work from home and on the go employees increase and will continue to increase as tools are available to support these trends and workforce continues to be more global. There is no practical way to support these users though MPLS. The common approach of VPN to HQ and from there connect through MPLS is not a good solution for scale and low delay applications. This pushes CIOs to find solutions, other than MPLS, to support these growing trends.
SD-WAN, the next gen WAN of the global, agile enterprise
SD-WAN is considered to be the next enterprise WAN that will eventually replace MPLS and support the requirements of a global and agile enterprise. SD-WAN market is forecasted to grow from about $1.2B in 2017 to about $8B in 2021.
What is SD-WAN and how to select the right solution for your enterprise out of the several tens of providers out there today is a topic I’m covering in my presentation at the SD-WAM Summit in Paris taking place this week.
SD-WAN providers take different approaches to solving the enterprise WAN problem and are throwing into their SD-WAN offerings more and more capabilities making it the Swiss Army Knife of the enterprise, to some extent, similar to how SBCs (Session Border Controller) became the Swiss Army Knife of enterprise communications.
We can identify 3 common architectures of SD-WAN solutions:
Branch-to-Branch – Basically MPLS without MPLS. It gives you good and secure connectivity between branches.
Branch-to-Cloud – When consuming many services from the cloud, there is great value in having a secure and reliable connectivity to these services. It is of course possible for a cloud service provider (e.g. a Unified Communications provider) to require enterprises to connect over MPLS to the service provider’s cloud (and many actually require this today) but the more services an enterprise consumes from the cloud, the harder it gets to connect with them over MPLS.
Branch-to-Backbone – This category includes providers who have a backbone and give worldwide connectivity. You can call it MPLS 2.0 or Global Enterprise WAN. It is a good solution if you need to support many work from home users or mobile workers. This enhanced type of service comes with a additional cost as traffic doesn’t run over the open internet but rather over a managed backbone. I currently know of only 2 vendors that offer this capability, Aryaka (originally a CDN provider) and Cato Networks (offering security in their network).
Additional features and capabilities are added on top of these 3 architectures. More about them can be found in my conference presentation. You are also welcome to contact me with questions and more information.
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