The Strategic Shift: Migrating from MPLS to SD-WAN

Unlocking the Power of Modern Networking

Key Takeaways:

  • The growing trend of enterprises transitioning from MPLS to SD-WAN.
  • A snapshot of what MPLS and SD-WAN are and their contrasting features.
  • The many compelling reasons for adopting SD-WAN over MPLS.

A Look Back: The Rise and Peak of MPLS

Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), an innovative networking approach introduced in the 1990s, transformed the way businesses connected their networks. With its unique “label-based” routing, MPLS allowed enterprises to interconnect remote branches securely and effectively. Its promise of a carrier-managed system, coupled with its efficient routing system, made MPLS the de facto choice for many.

Key Attributes of MPLS:

  • Carrier-managed Solution: Shifts responsibility to telecom carriers, ensuring high-quality services and upholding SLAs.
  • Structured Routing: Unlike conventional protocols that rely on source-destination addressing, MPLS uses predetermined labels for traffic routing.

Introducing SD-WAN: The Modern Networking Alternative

Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) is not just another networking solution; it represents a paradigm shift in how we think about and manage networking. It abstracts the control plane from the underlying hardware, giving enterprises a more flexible and agile networking approach.

Core Features of SD-WAN:

  • Overlay Networks: Offers a virtual layer over the physical network, enabling centralized control and optimized traffic routing based on business requirements.
  • Vendor Agnostic: With its decoupled architecture, SD-WAN is free from hardware constraints, making it adaptable to diverse vendors.
  • Cloud-centric: Born in the era of the cloud, SD-WAN is inherently designed to accommodate the ever-increasing cloud-based applications and services.

The Rationale: Why Enterprises are Opting for SD-WAN Over MPLS

The push towards SD-WAN is not just due to its modern attributes, but also due to inherent challenges and limitations that MPLS presents in today’s dynamic business landscape.

  1. Flexibility & Speed: Adding a new node in an MPLS system, especially outside the provider’s reach, can be an expensive and prolonged endeavor. In contrast, SD-WAN’s ability to tap into any underlay provider ensures rapid deployment and scalability.
  2. Cloud-readiness: Traditional WANs, including MPLS, face significant challenges when dealing with the surge of cloud traffic. Their architectures, not designed for the cloud, often lead to inefficiencies and performance bottlenecks. SD-WAN, with its cloud-native design, ensures optimized cloud workflows and improved application performance.
  3. Cost Considerations: While SD-WAN often emerges as a more economical choice – thanks to its reliance on public internet and flexible provider choices – it’s essential to acknowledge that cost savings might vary. Factors like network expansion, traffic prioritization, and provider constraints play a significant role in the cost dynamics of MPLS vs. SD-WAN.
  4. Ease of Management: MPLS’s carrier-managed nature might seem hands-off, but any tweaks or changes necessitate ISP interactions, which can be sluggish. SD-WAN offers a more direct and transparent management experience. With centralized dashboards and zero-touch provisioning, managing a WAN has never been easier.
  5. Insights & Reporting: Visibility is paramount in today’s intricate network architectures. Unlike MPLS, which offers limited insights, SD-WAN provides granular reporting on bandwidth usage, application performance, and even SLA adherence. This data-driven approach enables businesses to make informed decisions and optimize their networks continuously.

Navigating the Transition

Transitioning from MPLS to SD-WAN is not just a technical migration but a strategic decision. With various SD-WAN solutions and providers in the market, enterprises must embark on this journey with clarity and purpose.

While the above guide provides a foundational understanding of MPLS and SD-WAN, and the reasons behind the switch, a step-by-step migration guide, complete with diagrams and best practices, can smoothen the transition. This guide can serve as the roadmap, ensuring that businesses not only make the shift but do it right.


The journey from MPLS to SD-WAN is a reflection of the evolving networking landscape. As businesses continue to adapt and grow, their networking solutions must keep pace. SD-WAN, with its flexibility, cloud-readiness, and cost-effectiveness, is well poised to be the networking solution for the modern enterprise. The future of networking is here, and it’s software-defined.

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