CYB ER S ECUR I TY
Migrating MPLS networks to the cloud age By Guy Matthews, NetReporter
42 | Cyber Risk Leaders Magazine
PLS has served enterprise network needs well for the past 20 years. But there is no getting away from its negatives. MPLS is expensive, complex to deploy and inflexible, which makes it ill-suited for the cloud-first requirements of next generation enterprise connectivity. So what should we all be thinking about as we start to embrace a future of cloud networking? There comes a tipping point every once in a while when one technology makes way for another that is better suited to contemporary needs. In early 2000s, for example, there was a big transition in enterprise networks where the world migrated in short order from the likes of ATM, Frame Relay and private line networks towards MPLS which was far better tooled up for the transport of Internet-based traffic. MPLS, and the dedicated IP VPN market, has had a great run of it, but now the time has come for another shift. And this time it’s all about things like cloud networking and connectivity defined by software. MPLS is still heavily embedded and will take time to shift into the history books. Newer markets, such as that for carrier managed SD-WAN services, have been growing fast, points out Erin Dunne, Director of Research Services with independent analyst firm Vertical System Group. But MPLS alternatives like this represent only a tiny part of the overall
market opportunity, maybe around 5%. “Carrier-managed SD-WAN is certainly moving faster than certain other types of services,” she points out.
Figure 1: A timeline for SD-WAN adoption So where did carrier-managed SD-WAN get to after a year of lockdowns and work from home? Figures from Vertical System Group show triple digit growth for 2019, while those for last year reveal a slump of 17%. “Despite a tough year, carrier-managed SD-WAN has been one of the bright spots for the overall networking market. Growth is rebounding, we're seeing that already.” Figure 2: Challenges for managed service providers So what are the big challenges for managed service providers as they seek both to emerge from a pandemicdriven slowdown and also transition to a post-MPLS world? “COVID was a major trigger that forced a lot of transitions,” says Dunne. “The first is migration to the cloud. And the second is ‘work from home’ and ‘work from anywhere’ solutions. Service providers that were just dipping their