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SD-WAN vs. MPLS: What Businesses Need to Know

Multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) and software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) options both provide connectivity, but their approaches are different. For example, MPLS is a dedicated, hardware-based private network. An SD-WAN is a virtualized network overlay that can combine multiple types of protection, including the public internet. MPLS is partitioned from the internet to provide security. An SD-WAN creates encrypted tunnels to provide security.

MPLS provides organizations with a private network connection but carries a significantly higher cost. By comparison, an SD-WAN can significantly lower costs by using multiple connectivity options, such as the public internet. Because you can also segment traffic using an SD-WAN, even companies that use MPLS typically employ an SD-WAN to incorporate lower-cost internet connections for nonprivate traffic.

If you’re considering MPLS vs. SD-WAN, this article provides a useful overview of how both solutions work, and the benefits of choosing an SD-WAN solution.

How Does MPLS Work?

MPLS uses labels rather than Internet Protocol addresses to determine the shortest path to forward data packets. MPLS sends traffic through a predetermined label-switched path. Routers interpret the label and send the packets on, combining packets with similar characteristics. This method can reduce traffic on network layers to reduce latency.

How Does an SD-WAN Work?

An SD-WAN uses software to manage resources and services between offices, data centers, cloud resources and remote users. Using a centralized control point to route traffic and deploy policies, an SD-WAN provides an easy way to manage today’s complex network environment. Rather than backhaul to a hub in a traditional wide area network configuration, an SD-WAN enables direct connectivity from sites and the cloud, reducing latency.

The Benefits of SD-WAN vs. MPLS

When considering SD-WAN vs. MPLS, an SD-WAN offers a wide variety of benefits.

Cost-Effective Bandwidth Options

As cloud adoption and remote work has grown, reliable connectivity has become crucial. At the same time, it can drive up costs, especially if you have to buy new hardware to manage higher bandwidth needs. An SD-WAN reduces these costs by letting you route traffic over the most cost-effective options.

Improved Performance

An SD-WAN deploys intelligent traffic steering, which enables you to prioritize real-time traffic such as video or voice calls or mission-critical applications. Intelligent traffic steering can significantly reduce latency compared to an MPLS solution that requires routing all traffic through a central gateway.

Improved Visibility

Nearly two-thirds of IT professionals responding to a Ponemon Institute survey said they lacked visibility into their endpoints, including some in sensitive areas. You get greater visibility into your network because you can monitor and manage all of your endpoints with an SD-WAN.

Stronger Security

While MPLS connections are private, they are not immune to security problems. Any data that travels on an MPLS connection is vulnerable if the connection is compromised, as traffic is not encrypted automatically. An SD-WAN provides end-to-end encryption to protect data as part of a secure access service edge solution.

The best SD-WAN solutions include integrated security, such as next-generation firewalls (NGFWs), intrusion protection, traffic filtering and antivirus options, eliminating the need for a separate security solution and allowing for the deployment of zero-trust network access policies and secure web gateways.

More Flexibility

Because MPLS requires a static dedicated network and an SD-WAN can connect users to resources with diverse connections, an SD-WAN provides greater flexibility in light of today’s complex networks and cloud solutions.

Modifying an MPLS network can take a significant amount of time given the complexity of managing multiple physical devices and firewalls. Because an SD-WAN is virtualized, you can change global-, device- and application-specific configurations from a central platform. It is easy and quick to scale or make changes to global policies.

MPLS also requires manual hardware configuration, while an SD-WAN can enable zero-touch provision, eliminating the need to configure devices ahead of time.

One further consideration when considering MPLS vs. SD-WAN is that it is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Because an SD-WAN lets you use multiple types of connectivity, you can incorporate an MPLS connection if you wish. Many companies use MPLS connections for highly sensitive data while using multi-cloud connections for general data to leverage cost savings and improve performance.


LOGIX Fiber Networks offers an SD-WAN solution with integrated security. LOGIX SD-WAN Secure overlays any LOGIX network or third-party carrier service, including MPLS and Long Term Evolution, and takes advantage of all of SD-WAN’s benefits. You get an integrated NGFW and the security tools you need to protect your network within a single platform. You can also extend network security and SD-WAN service to your remote or distributed workforce.

Call LOGIX today at 281-688-6231, or connect with us online to learn more about our SD-WAN solutions.