When choosing a WAN design, one of the most common questions network security architects and CISOs have is, "Should I go with SD-WAN or MPLS?" Yes, it is correct. The decision to transition to SD-WAN has far-reaching implications for businesses.
Software-defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) can be less expensive, more secure, and outperform Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) (MPLS). MPLS can be costly in terms of bandwidth, whereas SD-WAN protects your network against hazards that MPLS cannot. SD-WAN, in a nutshell, improves visibility, availability, performance, and flexibility. As a result, the industry has seen a surge in interest in SD-WAN during the last few years.
Adaptability is another reason fueling the surge in interest. MPLS connections are often rigid, fixed connections that cannot quickly adapt to the type of interconnectivity demanded by today's dynamic networks. Furthermore, they do not support application recognition or advanced bandwidth control for latency-sensitive applications.
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So far, everything is going well. While Fortinet realizes that there are many considerations to consider when choosing an SD-WAN solution, SD-WAN must have integrated security. HOWEVER, most SD-WAN systems do not provide the same level of security as MPLS, which is essentially a secured tunnel going via a Service Provider's secured private network. Both security and network operations must be handled through a single integrated management platform to provide a more effective strategy MPLS.
But, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, examine whether your company should make the transition from MPLS to SD-WAN in the first place.
The Key Differences Between SD-WAN and MPLS
There are some fundamental differences between SD-WAN and MPLS. To summarize, MPLS is a dedicated circuit, but SD-WAN is a virtual overlay separate from physical lines. This provides MPLS with a minor advantage in packet loss avoidance but at a higher cost per megabit transported. SD-virtualized WAN's overlay, on the other hand, allows you to use connection types such as LTE, MPLS, and internet, providing additional flexibility.
If, on the other hand, you're looking for networking technology to benefit your business, you may need more knowledge. To assist you grasp the differences between SD-WAN and MPLS, we'll look at three crucial areas: cost, security, and performance. Some of these advantages are less obvious than others, and there may even be some disadvantages in some specific instances, which will be examined more. Let's get this celebration going.
SD-WAN vs. MPLS Cost Comparison
Previously, many businesses depended on individual MPLS connections to connect remote branches and retail sites to the central data center using a hub-and-spoke WAN topology. As a result, all data, workflows, and transactions, including access to cloud-based services or the internet, were sent back to the data center for processing and redistribution. When compared to an SD-WAN system, this is highly inefficient.
SD-WAN reduces costs by providing optimized, multi-point connectivity through distributed, private data traffic exchange and control points to provide your users with secure, local access to the services they need – whether from the network or the cloud – while also securing direct access to cloud and internet resources.
Secure SD-WAN outperforms MPLS in terms of security.
MPLS looks to offer a security advantage since it provides secure and monitored connectivity between branch offices and data centers via the service provider's internal backbone. By default, public internet connections do not offer the same level of protection.
This comparison, however, is deceptive. MPLS does not undertake any analysis of the data that it sends. This is still the responsibility of the MPLS client. Even when using an MPLS connection, traffic must be inspected for malware or other exploits, necessitating installing a network firewall and any other security services at either end of the connection.
Many SD-WAN options have the same issue. Apart from highly rudimentary security capabilities, most SD-WAN solutions still require security as an overlay solution. And for businesses that try to add protection as an afterthought to their complex SD-WAN connections, the challenge is often more significant than they bargained for.
Fortinet's Secure SD-WAN solution is distinguished by the fact that connectivity is deployed as an integrated function within an NGFW appliance, so every connection includes dynamic meshed VPN capabilities to secure data in transit, as well as deep inspection of that traffic using a diverse set of security tools – including IPS, firewall, WAF, web filtering, anti-virus, and anti-malware – that.
In terms of performance, SD-WAN outperforms MPLS.
In terms of performance, MPLS provides a continuous, constant level of bandwidth. While this may appear to be a plus, today's traffic has highly demanding performance requirements. As a result, organizations must lease an MPLS connection for their worst-case traffic load scenario, which means that expensive bandwidth is frequently unused. At other times—due to the ever-increasing volume of data generated by modern networks and devices—the MPLS connection may be constraining network connectivity.
Of fact, certain MPLS connections provide a sliding scale of connectivity. Still, even this is limited due to its inability to understand the nature of the traffic it manages and make dynamic adjustments accordingly.
To complicate matters further, while all traffic necessitates bandwidth, some applications, such as audio and video, have latency requirements that must be constantly monitored. When many applications run via the same connection tunnel, latency-sensitive traffic must be prioritized, which requires application recognition, traffic shaping, load balancing, and priority among unique connections, all of which MPLS lacks.
SD-WAN recognizes apps and may tailor bandwidth and other services to their specific requirements. It can start multiple parallel connections and then provide granular load balancing between them, as well as failover to a new connection if available bandwidth drops, as well as rate-limitless sensitive applications to ensure that latency-sensitive applications get all the room and horsepower they need – which is why the industry's most potent n powers Fortinet's Secure SD-WAN.
When MPLS may outperform SD-WAN alone
However, there are a few situations in which MPLS may be a better option than SD-WAN alone. MPLS, for example, provides a clean and secure connection that is especially desirable for certain types of data, applications, and transactions—particularly where a high level of integrity and privacy is required. However, because MPLS is an option for each SD-WAN solution, this is not a binary choice. Important transactions can still be completed via MPLS.
Furthermore, in some regions, particularly in the United States, MPLS might be prohibitively expensive. In some circumstances, replacing a public internet connection with MPLS might be relatively inexpensive. Even when MPLS is much less costly or when security or reliability considerations outweigh cost differences, SD-WAN can be built over an MPLS connection to give higher protection and functionality than an MPLS system alone. This is due to SD-increased WAN's flexibility, granular traffic control, integrated security, and the ability to use several connection strategies—MPLS, public internet, IPSec, SSL, and so on—all from the same SD-WAN deployment.
In almost every scenario, secure SD-WAN outperforms MPLS.
Fortinet's experience has shown that the benefits of an SD-WAN solution outweigh the benefits of MPLS alone. This is because today's traffic, which includes modern web applications and complicated workflows, necessitates a more flexible and dynamic connectivity environment than static MPLS connections can give.
Traditional SD-WAN systems, on the other hand, fall short when it comes to security. A Secure SD-WAN solution, on the other hand, not only adds a layer of management and flexible connectivity options for remote offices that MPLS does not, but it also adds deep and profoundly integrated security that reduces management overhead and extends visibility and control from the central IT management console or SOC solution out to the distributed WAN's very edges.
Only you know enough about your firm to determine whether SD-WAN or MPLS is better suited to your requirements. For additional information on Cisco SD-WAN features, you can check on the SPOTO blog. And if you want to grasp the updated and trended technological points, please try the SPOTO Cisco training course and Cisco exam dumps to help you get the Cisco certification on the first try!
Cisco SD-WAN technology is already improving networks by linking branches, colocation, data centers, and cloud resources into the information fabric that connects a distributed company. However, organizations face increased security concerns, unpredictable application performance, and increasing complexity at the Cloud Edge—the confluence of the network, cloud, and security.
As branches open up to direct cloud connections and operate mission-critical apps over the internet, the old method to WAN security, which involves routing traffic back to the corporate firewall, is inefficient and costly. This is because old WAN solutions were built primarily to connect branches directly to data centers. They lack the flexibility to handle many cloud platform connections simultaneously, automatically selecting the most efficient and cost-effective ways.
Organizations require a complete and adaptable software-defined architecture to secure the WAN while simplifying distributed network management and minimizing connection costs. Every WAN device must, in effect, become software-defined and protected. As a result, we introduce a new comprehensive SD-WAN security stack that addresses critical edge security challenges. Cisco offers highly effective and scalable security for SD-WAN that is simple to manage, deploy, and maintain, allowing businesses to employ cloud services confidently. Cisco SD-WAN connects devices and people to any cloud seamlessly, enabling a superior application experience while delivering consistent unified threat prevention from branch to cloud.
Every WAN device must become software-defined and safe as applications migrate from data centers to numerous cloud platforms.
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Cisco SD-WAN Offers Four Levels of Edge Security
The typical approach to cloud edge security is to route all traffic back to the corporate data center for inspection, analysis, and filtering before forwarding it to SaaS apps or public cloud services. This option typically necessitates the deployment of pricey MPLS lines for distributed companies, which increases the scale and complexity of data center security layers. The more traffic there is among scattered branches, the more expensive and complicated it is to manage multiple MPLS connections and data center security.
The all-new Cisco SD-WAN security stack offers a comprehensive shield that operates at the edge, in the branch router, with centralized control for network and security management. The inherent security features protect data traveling to and from branch business systems and cloud platforms. The security stack also covers the entire connected company against crippling security assaults resulting from compromised internet connections and applications. The Cisco SD-WAN security stack focuses on four critical traffic profiles that are particularly important in the branch:
Compliance: Ensuring the security of sensitive data at rest and in transit, in the branch and the cloud.
Direct Internet Access: Allowing direct internet connections through network ports significantly widens the possible attack surface from external sources.
Direct Cloud Access: Allowing direct access to cloud resources and SaaS applications circumvents the company network's and data center's current centralized security (DMZ, Firewalls, Intrusion Detection).
Guest Access: Allowing guests to connect to local Wi-Fi from personal devices while keeping corporate traffic and sensitive network functions separately.
Let's look at how the security improvements we're delivering reduce the threat surface exposed by these traffic profiles while leveraging the cost reductions afforded by our SD-WAN architecture.
Every company accepts, maintains, and processes sensitive data sets such as personally identifiable information (PII) and payment card information (PCI). Application-aware firewalls ensure that only authorized applications and users have access to sensitive data. Cisco SD-WAN security includes an embedded application-aware firewall in the branch router that learns and enforces which applications are permitted to access sensitive data types such as PCI. The SD-WAN fabric then delivers sensitive traffic to apps in the business data center or multi-cloud platforms over a secure VPN. In Cisco Intent-based Networks, intents such as "transmit sensitive data type PCI only on the IPsec VPN" can be programmed once in Cisco vManage and automatically deployed throughout the network, with Cisco vSmart Controllers dynamically segmenting traffic based on security regulations.
Access to the Internet Immediately
Before introducing SD-WAN, enterprises depended primarily on secure but costly MPLS connections to connect branches to the data center, where security services would be housed. Organizations breach the traditional centralized security barrier by allowing applications and devices at branch sites to access the internet directly. As a result, the branch is exposed to all forms of internet traffic, increasing the attack surface at the edge.
To combat these risks, the SD-WAN Security stack includes a set of embedded security capabilities such as an application-aware firewall, intrusion detection and prevention, and a cloud security layer based on Cisco Umbrella DNS. According to SecOps policies, the Cisco SD-WAN fabric automatically sends traffic to and from branches. Web security keeps a local cache of secure URLs continuously updated to reflect the most recent security danger information.
Direct Access to the Cloud
Direct cloud access enhances application QoE for cloud and SaaS apps while presenting a risk profile comparable to Direct Internet Access. Cisco SD-WAN Security employs a DNS security layer in conjunction with intrusion detection to prevent the most aggressive Denial of Service, phishing, malware, and ransomware threats that can exploit internet connections and open ports utilized by SaaS and cloud services. Furthermore, these embedded security capabilities make use of the most recent threat data from the Cisco Talos team, one of the world's most powerful commercial threat-intelligence teams.
Access for Guests
Retail businesses, for example, are eager to open up their branch Wi-Fi to customers to provide interactive methods of engaging them. Allowing guests to use the branch's Wi-Fi, on the other hand, exposes them to corporate apps, data, and services. The first step is to implement a security policy that restricts guest access, such that although internet access is permitted, all other aspects of the company network are not. Organizations must continue to prevent guests from downloading malware that could infect the branch network, either accidentally or purposefully. Cisco SD-WAN Security includes web filtering, intrusion detection, and prevention features to help prevent internet infections from spreading throughout the network. Furthermore, segmentation prevents employees from accessing the guest network, with all business data passing through IPsec VPN tunnels.
SD-WAN Makes Security Management Easier
Cisco SD-WAN offers a GUI-based workflow via the cloud-managed vManage controller to enable the new security stack capabilities and simplify management. The absence of contact Cisco ISR/ASR and vEdge routers can be powered up in the branch by non-technical staff and remotely configured based on pre-defined business intents tailored to the business's needs. Edge routers continuously monitor traffic patterns and alter connections automatically to accommodate priority business data, maintain cloud and SaaS application QoE, and proactively respond to security risks.
These advancements in our Cisco SD-WAN portfolio aid in the resolution of real-world security concerns confronting organizations today. Even better, SD-WAN comes with our DNA Essentials license, making licensing a breeze. You can expect further advancements from our technical team to help link and secure branch offices with corporate, multi-cloud, and SaaS application platforms, all while improving performance and lowering the total cost of connectivity.
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