Debunking the Myth That SD-WAN Is All About Killing MPLS

July 26, 2019
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As an SD-WAN product manager, I have the privilege of meeting with many customers from different types and sizes of businesses all over the country. Their levels of IT support and understanding of available networking strategies are as wide ranging as their business models. Yet one constant is their desire to satisfy the near-insatiable bandwidth consumption of everything in the cloud, apps that customers and employees are using on their networks, flawless services at branches and readiness to accommodate the next big trend.

That challenge is bringing many to SD-WAN as a solution to deliver the exponentially greater bandwidth capacity they need now and into the future. Many IT managers I meet are still trying to determine exactly what SD-WAN can and cannot deliver.

One misperception we hear all too often is that “SD-WAN is all about replacing MPLS.” While it is true that some IT managers would love to abandon MPLS, primarily because of its management complexity, it is currently not always the case.

Network engineers and IT decision-makers tend to be cautious, especially when making major changes to their networks – and with good reason. Their businesses depend on reliable network performance 24/7/365, and they have made major investments in their existing infrastructures. However, they want and desperately need more capacity, greater flexibility, and a network with the agility to grow with their business. They need to keep their total cost of ownership under control. SD-WAN checks all the boxes.

The reality that we are finding today is that large enterprises are keeping MPLS and adding SD-WAN in a hybrid approach. That’s working well. It allows them to add capacity with internet broadband and avoid more investments in new hardware, MPLS circuits and costly long-term telecom connections. They can add a virtualized network for more network intelligence and far better suitability to carry today’s cloud and app traffic, without abandoning their existing infrastructure. Mid-market companies tend to be more cost sensitive and IT resource constrained so they are moving away from MPLS altogether once their SD-WAN is up and running.

That observation also maps to recent reports from market research firm Nemertes that:

  • 87% of businesses deploying SD-WAN so far had MPLS
  • Of those, more than 50% are keeping it

Total cost of ownership (TCO) is really the conversation we should be having with customers when it comes to SD-WAN and their networking needs. Today, businesses with legacy networks face software license costs, IT support, hardware expenses and maintenance fees associated with each site. Adding bandwidth capacity typically requires more hardware, more fees, more support.

Because SD-WAN allows you to quickly scale network capacity through centralized software controls without the expense of adding premise-based equipment and support, you have the ability to satisfy current and future bandwidth requirements without driving up your TCO.

In a recent IDG survey of SD-WAN decision makers, 67% of respondents indicated clear improvements in TCO with SD-WAN compared to their previous network technologies. Considering the relative youth of most SD-WAN implementations, that’s a compelling result.

Learn more about SD-WAN and its potential to keep your TCO in check – while meeting your growing bandwidth requirements: https://business.comcast.com/sdn/sd-wan

There is a common misconception that SD-WAN is all about replacing MPLS, while in reality many companies are currently adding SD-WAN to create a hybrid network approach.

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