MPLS vs SD WAN : Know the difference

Rashmi Bhardwaj | Blog,BUZZ,Routing & Switching


SD WAN i.e. Software Defined – Wide Area Network has taken a strong hold on the IT market. Based on Software defined solutions, SD-WAN has shown enterprises benefits much more than cost savings. With SD WAN providing much more scalability, deep application visibility, performance and game changers like Zero touch deployment, SD WAN is surely the big thing every organization would like to deploy in WAN solutions.

Having said that, MPLS is likely to get kick in the teeth. In fact MPLS has some challenges which have been addressed by SD-WAN like longer provisioning time, decentralized management, geographical scope limited by Service provider link availability at location etc.

Related- Will SD-WAN Replace MPLS?


Comparing MPLS and SD WAN

The major difference between SD WAN and MPLS is that SD WAN virtualizes the network functions so that they can run as a software on the commodity hardware, whereas MPLS runs necessarily on a proprietary hardware. SD WAN technology offers a number of  benefits over MPLS technology. Some of them are summarized below:

  • The provisioning time is very high in MPLS as compared to SD WAN technology that offers an efficient alternative with a very low provisioning time.
  • The “Zero Touch provisioning” of SD WAN overcomes the challenges of manual configuration of MPLS technology.
  • The centralized controlled of devices gives a better management in SD WAN as compared to MPLS which shows decentralized control over variety of networking equipment.
  • SD WAN technology is pocket friendly as compared to MPLS since low number of internet links are used.
  • SD WAN technology is more secure as compared to MPLS.
  • SD WAN technology also provides in depth Application Level Visibility as compared to MPLS which shows low visibility of application performance.
  • Bandwidth Scaling is more time consuming in MPLS as compared to SD WAN technology.

Nonetheless, SD WAN provides a number of benefits over the traditional MPLS technology, still MPLS has its own share of advantages like reliability in packet delivery and high Quality of Service (QoS).

Comparison Table : MPLS vs SD WAN

Below table summarizes the difference between MPLS and SD WAN :

Abbreviation for
Multiprotocol Label SwitchingSoftware Defined – Wide Area Network
Provisioning timeHighVery low
ConfigurationManual Configuration“Zero Touch provisioning” allows no need to perform manual configuration
ManagementDecentralized control over variety of networking equipmentCentralized control of devices
Cost impactHighLow since Internet links are used which are much cheaper than MPLS
SecurityGoodVery High
Application Level VisibilityLow visibility of application performanceDeep application visibility
Bandwidth ScalingTime consumingImmediate
Geographical ReachLimited to reach of Provider MPLS CloudMuch Wider spread and highly scalable than MPLS

Download the comparison table: MPLS vs SD WAN

FAQs Related  to MPLS vs SD WAN:

  • Is MPLS WAN or LAN?
  • It is WAN technology.
  • What is the difference between SD WAN and VPN?
  • SDWAN and VPN both are very secure systems. SDWAN has  a failover security feature that is absent in VPN. Thus SDWAN fixes any service failure or outage automatically by taking control of your IP address and transferring it from one network to another.
  • What layer is MPLS?
  • MPLS is a layer 2.5 networking protocol as it lies between layer2 and layer3 of TCP/IP model.
  • What is a “shim” protocol?
  • MPLS is also known as a “shim” protocol. “shim” means a space filler, and as MPLS fills the space between layer 2 and layer 3, that’s why it is called “shim” protocol (acting at layer 2.5).
  • What is SD WAN?
  • SD WAN stands for Software defined Wide Area Network that  provides a software defined approach of managing WAN as compared to the conventional approach followed by traditional WAN.


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