As your MPLS contract comes up for renewal, it’s a good time to answer the question facing IT managers across the globe: Should you continue connecting your sites with MPLS?
Renewing or adding bandwidth to MPLS means accepting the many limitations that have marked MPLS services:
- The hefty bill that comes with MPLS renewals, particularly as you upgrade
- Poor performance when accessing cloud and Internet resources across the MPLS
- Weeks and months of waiting for delivery of new MPLS
- Having to open trouble tickets with the carrier for even the smallest items — and then waiting endlessly for resolutions.
If avoiding these and other challenges is important to you and your organization, augmenting or replacing your MPLS-based WAN with Internet connectivity and SD-WAN is an option. (see related blog How to Migrate Sites to SD-WAN)
But how do you determine the right architecture for your needs? This eBook should help.
Three Approaches to MPLS Contracts
Renew: Continue with MPLS and use Internet-based VPNs to connect locations too small or remote for this service.
Replace: Eliminate MPLS and connect locations with Internet links and SD-WAN.
Augment: Add Internet links alongside MPLS, and connect sites to both services using SD-WAN — creating a hybrid WAN. The SD-WAN will select the right network based on traffic conditions, application requirements, business priorities, and other factors.
When Choosing Your Strategy, Consider Six Areas
MPLS capacity costs more than Internet capacity. Capacity costs are of particular concern now that Internet-bound traffic constitutes most of an enterprise’s network traffic. Backhauling Internet traffic to reach a central Internet portal consumes premium MPLS capacity and wastes money. Instead, consider SD-WAN and local Internet access at branch offices. By mixing and matching types of Internet access, IT can align transport costs and predictability with site requirements. Critical sites can be given more expensive, symmetrical Internet lines with dedicated capacity. For small offices, broadband and other best-effort services could be preferable. They offer more capacity at lower cost, but actual capacity will fluctuate with congestion. With SD-WAN, IT decides how much or little to spend on capacity — not the carrier.
Uptime is, of course, essential for the enterprise WAN and is particularly challenging in the last mile, where there’s limited redundancy. MPLS addresses availability with personnel, monitoring equipment, and 24/7 management codified into end-to-end service-level agreements (SLAs), typically at 99.99% uptime. But to receive a 99.99% SLA, the MPLS service requires redundancy in the last mile, an investment that’s often cost prohibitive for many small- and even medium- sized offices. All this investment in people, process, and hardware becomes a major factor in the high cost of MPLS services. SD-WAN’s use of inexpensive Internet access makes widespread last-mile redundancy practical, replacing the carrier’s over-investment in people and process. With SD-WAN, IT can configure even small branch offices with redundant appliances in high-availability mode, redundant, dual homed connections, and 4G/LTE backup transport, yielding last-mile uptime that can match and even exceed the availability of a single MPLS connection. If MPLS is necessary, SD WAN can augment MPLS with Internet links and dynamic traffic steering based on application priority and link behavior.
Network agility dramatically impacts IT responsiveness to business needs. The speed of adding new sites, making configuration changes, and troubleshooting is extremely significant. MPLS circuit delivery typically takes a few weeks or months, depending on region. Problem resolution depends on a carrier with its fully managed model. MPLS services leave enterprises at the mercy of these providers. With a self-service management model and the ease of choosing last-mile transports, SD-WAN puts enterprises in control of all their moves, adds, and changes.
To eliminate the backhaul that wastes MPLS capacity and undermines Internet and cloud performance, branch offices are best equipped with secure, direct Internet access. MPLS architectures traditionally centralize security, requiring a major rethinking of the network security architecture to support distributed Internet access. Locations must be equipped with Internet access lines, and network security appliances deployed. With SD-WAN, a full network security stack can be converged into the network, creating seamless protection of Internet access everywhere.
When applications operate over distance, latency and packet loss are the major factors determining throughput. Mitigating both is critical to global WAN performance. MPLS networks are engineered for minimal latency and packet loss, but they come at a very high cost. Also, when accessing cloud and Internet resources, end-to-end engineering of the route is nearly impossible, and traffic backhaul over the MPLS network often adds latency. Furthermore, using the Internet middle mile over long distances introduces sub optimal routing and dropped packets at public traffic exchanges, inflating latency and packet loss. MPLS elimination in the middle mile requires an affordable, private backbone that can reduce the cost of global MPLS connectivity and improve on the unpredictable Internet.
Cloud and Mobility
Migration to the cloud and widespread adoption of mobility are new considerations for traditional WANs. MPLS services introduce latency when backhauling cloud traffic to the centralized Internet portal. Once it leaves the MPLS network, Internet-bound traffic is exposed to the unpredictability of the public Internet. Mobile users aren’t supported by MPLS service, requiring additional mobile access solutions. SD-WAN eliminates the backhaul, sending traffic directly from the branch to the cloud. Few SD-WAN solutions extend the platform to mobile users, optimizing security and connectivity to both WAN and cloud destinations anytime and anywhere.