SD-WAN vs MPLS: What's The Difference and Which Is Better?

While SD-WAN offers many advantages over MPLS, the choice between them should be based on the specific needs of the enterprise. Here are some points to consider when making the choice.

Bob Wallace, Contributor

October 19, 2023

1 Min Read
SD-WAN vs MPLS: What's The Difference and Which Is Better?
Zoonar GmbH / Alamy

When designing a network to connect central and far-flung offices, IT leaders are presented with two core choices. One is a Software-Defined Wide-Area Network (SD-WAN) overlay, and the other is Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) technology with routers.

To understand which option better meets your network needs today and tomorrow, it's crucial you understand the key difference between the solutions. SD-WANs are service-provider agnostic. In contrast, MPLS requires enterprises to use the same service provider at all locations.

A Quick Look at Both Technologies

SD-WAN uses a software-defined approach as an overlay to connect multiple LANs (Local Area Networks). SD-WAN does not require special routers. The tech sends data via internet links for optimal performance. SD-WAN offers application-aware routing to direct data across the network foundation.

In contrast, MPLS routes network traffic using a label-switched path approach. An MPLS network increases the speed and control of data across pre-set network routes using specialized hardware routers.

The Difference Between SD-WAN and MPLS

When evaluating network offerings, you need to fully understand the difference between SD-WAN and MPLS in ten core areas, as their strengths and weaknesses are important.

Related:Beyond Single-Vendor Networks: Embracing the Power of Interoperability

Tried-and-true MPLS technology has been used by enterprises for decades to establish and operate wide-area networks. However, with the ascendancy of the cloud, SD-WANs present an alternative that promises benefits in cost of use and flexibility.

In today's burgeoning network technology industry, SD-WAN and longer-established MPLS are vying for the tech and business minds of WAN architects across corporate America.

Read the rest of this article on Network Computing…

About the Author(s)

Bob Wallace

Contributor, Network Computing

A veteran business and technology journalist, Bob Wallace has covered networking, telecom, and video strategies for global media outlets such as IDG and UBM. He has specialized in identifying and analyzing trends in enterprise and service provider use of enabling technologies. Most recently, Bob has focused on developments at the intersection of technology and sports. A native of Massachusetts, he lives in Ashland. 

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