In a recent survey, industry insiders predicted over 80 percent of workloads will run in a public, private, or hybrid cloud by 2020.
This shift towards cloud computing is one of the key drivers of SD-WAN overtaking traditional telco services like MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) as the go-to WAN connectivity solution for enterprises.
However, enterprises also care about reliability and managed services, areas where SD-WAN solutions that only offer overlay functionality come up short.
Cloud-based SD-WAN address these problems with an SLA-backed global private backbone and a variety of management options, including “hands-free” fully managed services.
Let’s dive into why traditional telco solutions are no longer agile enough for the modern WAN, and how cloud-based SD-WAN provides enterprises an approach to WAN connectivity that is right for digital business.
MPLS can’t keep up with the cloud
Towards the end of 2018, Gartner called out SaaS (Software as a Service) and other cloud services as drivers of the decentralization of data flows. They also called out how these decentralized data flows make MPLS inefficient.
The reason for this inefficiency is simple: MPLS wasn’t designed for cloud-based workloads.
When you dive into it, it’s easy to see why Gartner came to the conclusion SD-WAN is killing MPLS.
MPLS was designed to reliably connect static physical locations on a WAN. This made MPLS a solid solution in the early 2000s when WAN workloads were mostly spread across corporate data centers and offices.
Today, with so much traffic heading outside of the WAN, MPLS isn’t the right tool for the job.
Often, cloud-bound traffic is inefficiently routed to a single corporate endpoint for security analysis before being routed on to its destination on the public Internet. It then follows the same path back in reverse.
This creates the infamous “trombone routing” effect and can negatively impact performance.
When coupled with the high cost of MPLS bandwidth, and the increasing bandwidth demand by workloads like UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service), this leads to a demand for MPLS alternatives amongst enterprises.
Cloud-based SD-WAN as a modern WAN connectivity solution
When you think “MPLS alternative” SD-WAN is likely one of the first terms that comes to mind.
However, while most SD-WAN solutions are capable of meeting the demands of dynamic cloud-based workloads from a routing and bandwidth cost perspective, they’re not all created equal.
In addition to requiring the agile overlay functionality SD-WAN provides, enterprises still value reliability and managed services, two benefits telcos and MPLS have traditionally offered.
This is where cloud-based SD-WAN comes in. On top of features like dynamic path-based routing and the ability to leverage multiple transport mediums – for example, LTE, xDSL, and so on – cloud-based SD-WAN provides an SLA-backed private backbone and flexible managed service options.
The global private backbone consists of Points of Presence (PoPs) in strategic locations around the world.
Often, these PoPs are in or near the same data centers as major cloud service providers like AWS, Azure, and SalesForce.
This allows for low-latency high-performance connections to those cloud services, without the need to pay for premium connections like AWS Direct Connect.
As the private backbone is backed by an SLA and uptime guarantee, enterprises don’t need to worry about sacrificing reliability when making the switch to cloud-based SD-WAN.
Balancing management complexity and agility is another concern for enterprises looking to select the right WAN solution.
The traditional telco-managed model with MPLS limits complexity since the enterprise offloads responsibility to the telco, but it also limits responsiveness.
Change management in a telco-managed model can take hours or days, depending on provider responsiveness.
Taking a do-it-yourself approach with an appliance-based SD-WAN solution is one alternative, but that places the burden of configuration, patching, and updates solely on the enterprise.
In many cases, the management complexities simply aren’t feasible to take on in-house.
Cloud-based SD-WAN addresses this problem by allowing enterprises to do WAN management themselves, take a “hands-free” approach where the provider manages the network, or take the middle road and co-manage the WAN.
This allows enterprises to offload complexity where it makes sense, without allowing simple change management requests to create bottlenecks.
Additionally, cloud-based SD-WAN addresses another issue important to the modern digital business: WAN security.
With other WAN connectivity solutions, enterprises must layer security into the network using Next-generation Firewall (NGFW), Unified Threat Management (UTM), or other security appliances.
With cloud-based SD-WAN, security is built-in to the underlying infrastructure.
Features like NGFW, secure web gateway (SGW), and advanced threat protection are inherently part of the network.
By streamlining the process of securing the network, cloud-based SD-WAN further increases WAN agility and scalability.
Cloud-based SD-WAN provides agility, reliability, and performance
The modern digital business must be able to meet the demands of the cloud, without sacrificing performance or reliability.
MPLS and telco managed services are too inflexible and expensive to be practical, but not all SD-WAN solutions can provide the reliability or management models enterprises demand.
Cloud-based SD-WAN provides a holistic approach to WAN connectivity that is agile, reliable, and high-performing. As a result, enterprises can trust cloud-based SD-WAN to support their WAN in the age of digital business.