(440) 333-5903 info@tec4it.com


Historically, the most common option for improving data center management and operations across a WAN (Wide Area Network) has been Multiprotocol Label Switching – MPLS as it’s known in IT-speak.  MPLS routing directs data across nodes by utilizing short path labels rather than longer network addresses.  This speeds traffic flows by circumventing time-consuming lookups in routing tables to network destinations.  MPLS links carry data via these labels from one network to another, essentially creating a WAN.

MPLS served the business world well when workspaces were limited to a ‘headquarters’ location, possibly sprinkled with a satellite office or two.  But times have changed and business needs have evolved.

Enter Software Defined (SD)-WAN – the most important network topic of 2019 in the race for simplified management.

SD-WAN has become both a logistical AND cost-efficient alternative to MPLS.  Replacing MPLS with a point-to-point and Direct Internet Access (DIA) circuit in a remote location, for example, costs less than MPLS. However, supplementing a DIA circuit with an SD-WAN overlay solution would refill the needs for dedicated service and traffic priorities that are lost when removing the MPLS. By using software to define the most efficient path for data transmission, SD-WAN can provide the same dedicated connection as MPLS, with a lower price-point – and the added value of flexibility, scalability, and manageability.


Cloud-managed SD-WAN can replace MPLS, whose capabilities have been stretched to its limit and can no longer achieve the outcomes needed in today’s world. SD-WAN’s objective is to manage a single-pane, secure, streamlined connection for the most efficient path to applications and resources – so organizations can automate, centralize and simplify their network management functions.

SD-WAN leverages the best of the cloud’s benefits:

  • The ability to support multiple connection types (including MPLS, frame relay and LTE wireless communications)
  • Centrally-configured applications that provide a predictable user experience
  • An intuitive interface that’s simple to configure and manage
  • Less IT reliance on hardware
  • Automatic provisioning that is easily and highly scalable (up to 10,000+ locations)

SD-WAN encompasses all elements of building and managing an overlay for various business needs – centralized management, application policies, routing and interface support, analytics, and more.  And since it’s delivered through the cloud, workflow and multi-cloud connectivity are all easily achieved, whether extending workloads to a private or public cloud or SaaS (Software as a Service).  With its distributed software, IP (Internet Protocol) capacity and standard hardware advantages, SD-WAN is a dependable, adaptable and cost-efficient alternative to MPLS.

A topical SD-WAN-vs.-MPLS analogy: utilizing Google Maps vs. an unaided car drive to a destination.  Measuring the health of each route by identifying slow paths (ones that are hindered by a road closure, accident or traffic jam), SD-WAN functions as the resource which gives the user the most effective route to his/her network destination.


SD-WAN has the ability to ensure automatic and dynamic path selection, which optimizes load-bearing and resiliency.

SD-WAN reduces network downtime –minimizing loss of productivity – by detecting outages in real time. In the event of an outage, automatic switch-overs to working links keep your network running seamlessly.  SD-WAN supports multiple secure high-performance connections, and allows for load-sharing across those connections. The flexibility to adjust traffic flows based on network conditions delivers the best performance possible.


SD-WAN technology allows for an upgraded quality of service by featuring application-level visibility, with increased bandwidth applied to your most critical applications – whether it be dynamic path selection, sending an application on a faster link, or splitting the application between two paths for faster delivery.  SD-WAN can improve application delivery using caching, where recently accessed information can be stored to speed future access.  And SD-WAN’s security is unparalleled; it offers a comprehensive security framework needed for compliance and threat detection, including firewalls, IPS (internet provider security), URL filtering, DNS (Domain Name System)-layer security, antivirus, encryption, segmentation and authentication.  SD-WAN improves your network’s defenses by encrypting WAN traffic and segmenting the network to minimize damage in the event of a data breach.

SD-WAN also brings robust planning, troubleshooting and analytics capabilities.  By separating applications from the underlying network services with a virtual overlay, SD-WAN monitors real-time performance of the underlying networks.  Then, analyzing these characteristics, SD-WAN selects the optimal network for each application according to its configuration policies. And while MPLS typically works between high-capacity sites such as organization headquarters or data centers, SD-WAN utilizes branch sites to help optimize traffic flows…leading to improved performance.  Among SD-WAN’s control & visibility benefits:

  • Performs real-time health checks on each uplink by calculating jitter, latency and packet loss
  • Allows for measuring loss against the defined SLAs before sending traffic
  • Makes data transfer more efficient by identifying the best path to Office 365 and distributing data to whichever circuit has the best metrics

SD-WAN offers the flexibility to transmit data via any number of routes to keep your network’s performance optimized, predictable, secure and manageable.  SD-WAN provides greater business agility and responsiveness to keep up with IT advancements.


Another of SD-WAN’s many benefits: cost savings to your network.  With SD-WAN, enterprises can deliver more responsive and predictable applications at reduced cost and in less time than MPLS services. IT becomes far more agile – deploying sites in minutes, leveraging any available data service such as dedicated internet access, broadband, or wireless, and being able to configure sites instantly.  SD-WAN’s cloud-based centralized policy and rule deployments brings a reduction in capital and operational expenditures.  Through this automation, enterprises’ IT professionals can shift their attention to bettering their companies via bigger-picture strategic initiatives rather than maintenance and troubleshooting.

SD-WAN reduces bandwidth costs by leveraging inexpensive services such as internet broadband. SD-WAN’s agility also allows for use of alternative services such as dedicated internet access.  In the end, SD-WAN provides the same dedicated connection that an MPLS can deliver, but at a cheaper price – with the added value of flexibility and scalability, and manageability.


SD-WAN supports automated provisioning of premium network services such as VPNs on non-MPLS networks, as well as third-party services like WAN optimization controllers, firewalls and web gateways. Installation is as simple as ‘plugging it in’ with zero-touch provisioning, eliminating hours of potentially expensive onsite manual configuration steps while onsite.

CARRIER DIVERSITY                                                                                                                          

Cisco’s SD-WAN solution can easily integrate with other cloud resources such as Office 365, Dropbox, and Cisco’s own WebEx on-demand conferencing & collaboration solution, checking the health of each internet path for the most optimal connection.

Another great benefit……if you partner with TEC to build an SD-WAN solution, you retain the freedom to change carriers down the road (i.e. for a lower cost, for higher performance, etc.) without losing ANY benefits of your solution.  The SD-WAN solution is configured to move and integrate easily between carriers. Carrier-based SD-WAN does NOT offer the same flexibility; you are tied to them for the solution’s contracted timeframe.


A DIY network approach has been the go-to method for decades, but a shift to the cloud consumption model has re-opened the conversation from investment in infrastructure towards the benefits of buying SaaS (Software as a Service).  While SD-WAN can be deployed on existing network hardware, it can also be deployed as a virtual appliance in the cloud as SaaS, with opportunities for public cloud expansion and SaaS optimization.  This allows organizations to benefit from SD-WAN services as they migrate application delivery from on-premise servers to an end-to-end optimized cloud – from any location in the world.  Also, don’t forget the 24x7x365 support of your network that is synonymous with a Managed Service.


For all of SD-WAN’s benefits, there are a few limitations.  First, extending SD-WAN to the cloud requires installing SD-WAN in (or near) the cloud provider’s data center, which can be a complicated task. Furthermore, while SD-WAN traffic is encrypted, any exposure of outlets to the internet raises the threat of malware, phishing and other internet-based attacks.  However, cloud security is getting stronger every day (read more about this in our ‘Busting Cloud Myths’ blog) as businesses worldwide move more of their data to the cloud.


The overarching ways that SD-WAN can leverage the capacity, speed, performance and security benefits inherent with the cloud has made it a compelling decision over any other network solution going into the 2020s. Simply put, there is no other network solution that matches its agility, resilience, control, visibility and cost-efficiency.  Moving your business to SD-WAN will open many doors that will allow your organization to grow – the prudent and strategic way.

TEC Communications is a Cisco Premier Certified Partner and trusted IT solutions provider celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2019.  Go to https://tec4it.com or call us at 440.333.5903 to find out how TEC Communications can help you move the most traffic across your network, so you can get more done for less cost.


Skip to content