SD-WAN Technology vs. MPLS: Cutting Costs on the Road to Digital Transformation

Reducing MPLS costs will remain an important reason to deploy SD-WANs, but the networking industry now views SD-WAN as vital to government digital transformation.

Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) technology has become popular in the last few years as a way for organizations to save money on costly multiprotocol label-switching (MPLS) lines from the carriers.

Alex Zheng, network services division manager for Monterey County, Calif., says the county can reduce its monthly MPLS costs for a 50 megabit-per-second line from $300 to $100 by going with an SD-WAN product from Cisco Systems.

“SD-WAN has become a good option for areas in the county that are so rural that it makes sense for us to go with something like Comcast internet versus an MPLS line,” Zheng says.

Zheng estimates that the county will deploy SD-WAN at roughly 20 to 30 of its 120 locations over the next 12 months.

“SD-WAN will let us extend our enterprise network so that the user experience in these remote areas will be consistent with the rest of the enterprise users,” Zheng says.

SIGN UP: Get more news from the StateTech newsletter in your inbox every two weeks!

Application of SD-WAN Tech Facilitates Public-Sector Transformation

Although the cost-saving reason Zheng cites for deploying SD-WAN may resonate with many network managers, networking vendors now take a more expansive view of SD-WAN’s potential.

Davis Johnson, vice president and head of U.S. Public Sector for Riverbed Technology, says many state and local governments want to push out mobile applications to both citizens and county, city and state workers. He says deploying these new applications requires an agile DevOps model that lets governments roll out updates and new releases quickly.

“Without SD-WAN, everything has to be done manually,” Johnson says. “With the centralized management capabilities SD-WAN offers, it’s easier for network managers to push out applications to edge sites as well as push out security policy updates.”

SD-WAN vs. MPLS Boosts IoT, Cloud and Legacy Upgrades

Johnson says, because of its centralized management capabilities, built-in security and end-to-end visibility, SD-WAN technology versus MPLS offers the best-known solution for handling the massive data volumes that organizations will collect as they roll out Internet of Things devices.

“SD-WAN can serve as an aggregation point for multiple sensors,” Johnson says. “Governments will look to do analytics for prescriptive maintenance with machine learning and artificial intelligence at the edge of the network, and they can’t manage all that data traffic efficiently without SD-WAN.”

All of these new applications run over multiple paths and clouds, he explains. SD-WAN has been optimized to run in those environments.

“Network managers will lose control today if they don’t have SD-WANs with application visibility,” Johnson says. “The legacy performance management tools that many organizations have today won’t help you do that.”

As governments look to build digital enterprises and offer more vibrant mobile apps, they may start deploying SD-WAN to save on MPLS costs, but Johnson maintains that they’ll realize that SD-WAN offers much more. Digital transformation can’t happen without a flexible network that can push out apps and security policies and manage petabytes of data. SD-WAN technology has been built to accommodate these new data management and networking challenges.

Vasyl Dolmatov/Getty Images
Jun 26 2018