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The 2020 WAN Takes Shape: SDN, Virtualization & Hybrid WANs

  • Network World
  • 8/13/2015
  • Hank Levine

It’s not clear how fast MPLS will go the way of Frame Relay and ATM, but changing apps and bandwidth needs will force enterprises to embrace a new set of technologies.

The gold standard for corporate networks today is MPLS, but carrier pricing issues and MPLS’s failure to play well with new, cost-efficient forms of network access are causing problems for the legion of enterprise customers that rely on it.

Consider:

  • TDM dedicated access (T-1 and DS3) is expensive; Ethernet access isn’t universally available and, though economical on an ongoing basis, can cost a bundle (and take months) to install because only about half of the major commercial buildings in the US are served by fiber.
  • It takes a lot of CPE and management to integrate MPLS with broadband public Internet access, which is widely available and fast, but doesn’t come with robust SLAs (other than site availability).
  • MPLS itself may not require a lot of management, but the CPE that accompanies it does.
  • The explosion of collaboration tools like Skype for Business and cloud based apps are straining capacity and management. The desire to leverage today’s robust software/cloud applications is driving a need for more sophisticated routing schemes and greater control over how WAN traffic is handled.

It’s not clear how fast MPLS will go the way of Frame Relay and ATM, but changing apps and bandwidth needs, coupled with the impending disappearance of TDM access, will soon force enterprises to embrace a set of technologies – software defined networks (“SDN”), virtualization, and hybrid WANs -- that address many of MPLS’s cost and performance issues. Together they are likely to be very big very soon, initially as part of “managed solutions” and then on an unbundled basis.

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