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MPLS vs. SDN — How to Choose?

Every day customers hear carriers and solutions providers discussing the differences between MPLS and SDN service, cost reduction and routing. This is a hot topic, and one worth discussing for a number of reasons you’ll see below.

The questions we get most are “what does this mean?” and “how do we get there?” There are numerous carriers currently deploying MPLS over SDN today. However, many carriers do not have the capabilities yet to offer SDN in its entirety. Carriers such as AT&T,  Masergy, and NTT to name a few, have mastered the SDN space allowing customers to reap the benefits of SDN routing, while still being able to add-on additional services similar to the traditional MPLS carrier. Other carriers are still figuring out the puzzle, but are at least selling appliances or hardware that make migrating to SDN routing doable—eventually.

The really cool benefits of SDN routing are flexible deployment and configurability. SDN allows network bandwidth costs to be reduced by as much as 50 percent in most cases. For example, SDN allows for the purchasing of cheap bandwidth such as broadband or DSL (or both) for remote offices, which cuts costs dramatically.

The next big question is whether or not to keep your current services, re-evaluate a new MPLS solution and stay away from SDN. Legacy MPLS can easily be deployed. Many carriers, such as AT&T, Verizon, XO Communications, Level 3, and CenturyLink offer fully managed MPLS solutions. That said, each carrier offers different levels of QoS, CoS, WAN based Firewalls and SIP in additional to their MPLS, so make sure to evaluate the differences. The benefit of this service is it allows the enterprise to layer on multiple levels of service within a fully managed environment. The routing equipment comes already programmed and ready go most of the time.

Our own research indicates that legacy MPLS has become a very inexpensive up-charge. This is how the MPLS providers have the ability to compete against SDN routing. They know that in either situation the customer will need to purchase bandwidth. The next logical step for these providers is to deploy MPLS via broadband and DSL to customers looking to cut costs. The trend for these carriers shows that they are decreasing traditional deployments and changing their service guides and contracts to reflect these changes. The changes are causing customers to second guess whether or not their choice the right one.

It becomes imperative for technology teams must do what is necessary to succeed as well as keeping their networks secure and decreasing capital spending. Both  MPLS and SDN can potentially offer a solution to enterprise challenges.

Below is a list of a few benefits that SDN routing can bring to your organization:

  • Cost Reduction
  • Overhead Reduction
  • Physical vs. Virtual Networking Management
  • Reduced Downtime
  • Central Networking Management Tool
  • Centralized Control

Below is a list of advantages of MPLS over SDN:

  • One Carrier circuit can support MPLS, Internet and SIP
  • Domestic MPLS takes 30 days typically to install.
  • Carriers provide next-gen firewall
  • Carrier Managed Solutions such as Firewall, VOIP, etc..
  • MPLS port pricing is practically the same as Internet port pricing
  • MPLS supports many transport types including Ethernet, Broadband, DSL

We recommend seeking a trusted advisor with a neutral viewpoint help put together a strategy on how to get there along with where you can decrease costs within your MPLS environment.