Can You Replace MPLS—and Should You?

As the need for cloud interconnectivity increases, companies are seeking MPLS replacement options for faster, easier, less costly networking

Bupin Kuttatan
Can You Replace MPLS—and Should You?

When multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) was developed in the 1990s, it offered faster network connections than public internet routing—a clear advantage as large businesses sought to accelerate traffic across geographically dispersed infrastructures. However, a lot has changed since then.

Today, more and more business applications live in the cloud, requiring fast, secure connectivity between a wide range of cloud providers and services. MPLS—which is mainly used for point-to-point connectivity—simply wasn’t designed for the complex cloud interconnectivity needed in today’s hybrid multicloud environments. Thus, networking technology has evolved.

Software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) are better designed for cloud connectivity since they deliver not only better network efficiency but also better visibility, scalability, flexibility and security. Today, customers are increasingly choosing SD-WAN solutions and MPLS networks since they allow businesses to scale their bandwidth and deploy new sites with the click of a button. If your organization has remote workers or stores data and applications in the cloud, you need a networking solution that supports a modern digital infrastructure.

Connect digital infrastructure at software speed

Scale hybrid deployments, achieve network agility, directly connect to partners and providers easily and securely.

Equinix Fabric™ Data Sheet

The challenges of MPLS for today’s hybrid cloud infrastructure

When MPLS was first developed, it was a boon to enterprise customers seeking better performance, lower latency and reduced network congestion. However, in the last few decades, as cloud computing has grown, companies often need faster, lower-cost networking solutions that support better interconnectivity for cloud services.

There are several challenges of MPLS in contemporary IT environments:

  • Higher cost. MPLS is more expensive than public internet because it requires dedicated connections. And setting up MPLS networks involves significant capital expenditures (CAPEX).
  • Deployment complexity. In addition to the expense, MPLS networks can be difficult and slow to set up. Given the current hardware supply chain shortages, companies face even longer delays acquiring the needed hardware to set up new infrastructure.
  • Security vulnerability. MPLS isn’t encrypted and therefore may be less secure than SD-WAN and other networking options.
  • Cloud connectivity problems. MPLS was designed for point-to-point connectivity, so it’s not suitable for connecting to multiple cloud services.

MPLS has been a reliable networking technology for many enterprises for years, but as they continue their digital transformation, they need ways to reduce costs while improving network performance and flexibility. And perhaps most important, they need a networking technology that’s optimized for cloud computing. As more and more employees access company resources and the network from many remote locations, and more applications and data are stored in the cloud, MPLS is no longer a sufficient networking solution.

Taking a hybrid approach to enterprise networking

Today, more and more companies are looking for ways to address the challenges of MPLS and build a more future-ready infrastructure. Whether or not your organization should replace MPLS depends on your needs, how much you’ve invested in it and what you want to achieve.

While SD-WAN offers clear advantages for modern digital infrastructures, MPLS isn’t going away yet. Large organizations and those that have already invested in, and continue to rely on, MPLS networks might opt for a hybrid approach to enterprise networking. These companies might choose to keep MPLS for legacy applications or point-to-point connections between their data center and headquarters, for example, and use SD-WAN and fabrics for cloud applications and to support remote workers.

Smaller organizations and companies that haven’t invested a lot in MPLS are in a better position to take full advantage of SD-WAN and to go for a full-scale deployment more easily. Companies that rely heavily on cloud and have a presence in multiple locations will benefit from moving to SD-WAN given its significant cost advantage and cloud connectivity possibilities.

Networking for cloud connectivity at software speed

Modern cloud interconnection and edge computing technologies are transforming how digital businesses connect, providing access to a broad ecosystem of service providers as well as the flexibility to tailor those connections to your immediate business needs.

For organizations that are ready to replace MPLS or even get more out of their MPLS networks, Equinix Fabric™ software-defined interconnection and Network Edge virtual network services on Platform Equinix® can help. With Equinix Fabric and Network Edge, you can accelerate MPLS replacement and interconnect your distributed infrastructure seamlessly with thousands of partners and networking, cloud, storage, compute and application service providers worldwide.

While it could take weeks or months for a deployment with MPLS, using Equinix Fabric and Network Edge can reduce deployment time to just hours or even minutes. That’s because Equinix Fabric and Network Edge radically simplify deployment with automated virtual connectivity. Network Edge virtual network services accelerate the deployment of SD-WAN gateways and other virtual network functions (VNF) devices from top-tier providers using on-demand provisioning. The solution is easy to deploy with a few clicks in the Equinix portal or by using an API and requires maintenance. Equinix manages the underlying hardware and connections for you—as well as maintaining security and encryption once the traffic enters the Equinix network.

Elevate cloud connectivity and user experience with Equinix Fabric and SD-WAN

CELSA Group—a multinational steel manufacturer—experienced the benefits of replacing its MPLS with SD-WAN, leveraging Equinix Fabric software-defined interconnection to modernize its distributed digital infrastructure while connecting to multiple cloud services. CELSA wanted to improve user experience for its applications and cloud-based processes while reducing networking costs. The company knew it needed to improve its wide area network (WAN) performance and lower latency to achieve these objectives.

CELSA decided to replace its MPLS network with dedicated, private access to the internet via Equinix Internet Access, orchestrating SD-WAN at all its sites, including those within Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers. Equinix Fabric allowed CELSA to build its SD-WAN network backbone on top of interconnected regional hubs, connect with network service providers and cloud service providers, and enable direct and secure access to the public internet. The benefits were undeniable: moving from MPLS to SD-WAN reduced CELSA’s network infrastructure costs by up to 40%. The interconnected hybrid cloud infrastructure with SD-WAN provided a better end user experience, reduced latency by 10x, simplified cloud workload migration and improved resiliency.

Networking for the future of digital infrastructure

Whatever your company’s relationship to MPLS—whether you want to replace full-scale or take a hybrid approach—Equinix Fabric and Network Edge open up a world of possibilities by enabling secure virtual connections to thousands of vendors globally. Companies can expand their reach and connect across global metros with flexible connectivity options.

Are you ready to learn more about how Equinix solutions can help speed MPLS replacement and build more cloud interconnectivity? Read the Equinix Fabric data sheet and Network Edge data sheet today.

You may also be interested to read:

CELSA optimizes cloud connectivity and user experience


Bupin Kuttatan Senior Technical Account Manager
Subscribe to the Equinix Blog