As we round out the decade, it is becoming more and more clear that MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) is no longer the go-to solution for enterprise WAN connectivity. MPLS has proven to be too expensive and too inflexible to keep up with the demands of modern cloud workloads.

Many experts agree that SD-WAN is the better solution for enterprises looking to modernize and optimize their WAN. Gartner even went as far as to proclaim that MPLS is being “killed” by SD-WAN. However, there are a variety of SD-WAN solutions to choose from, and they aren’t all created equal. One of the most common options for prospective adopters of SD-WAN is OOT (Over the Top) SD-WAN. This approach has its pros and cons, which we’ll dive into in this piece. We’ll also explain how SDWaaS (SD-WAN as a Service) helps enterprises get the benefits of OOT SD-WAN while addressing the downsides. 

Pros and cons of OOT SD-WAN 

OOT SD-WAN is a type of SD-WAN that uses third-party transport methods such as 4G LTE, cable, and xDSL. This approach is common with SD-WAN appliances. The upside of the OOT approach is flexibility in selection of your network provider. 

The “last-mile” is notorious for creating trouble in the world of WAN connectivity. Therefore, flexibility of choice coupled with the inherent benefits of Policy-based Routing (PbR) make OOT SD-WAN attractive. If you are an enterprise struggling to overcome last-mile problems, with OOT SD-WAN you have the freedom to choose the best-performing provider for your situation. You also have the ability to work with multiple ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to add redundancy and resilience. 

One of the major downsides of OOT SD-WAN is that public Internet connectivity varies significantly in performance and reliability. Latency when sending data across the globe can be an issue, and this can become exacerbated by poor Internet routing. When providing latency-sensitive services like VoIP, teleconferencing, and video streaming, this can create real issues. Without an underlying backbone, enterprises are at the mercy of the public Internet when it comes to performance and reliability. 

There are a few other downsides to OOT as well. Connecting mobile users is often difficult or impossible to support with appliance-based OOT SD-WAN solutions. Additionally, ensuring quality performance for cloud apps like SalesForce, Office 365, and AWS often requires the installation of additional appliances within or near datacenters where those services are hosted. This adds additional cost and complexity to the WAN, eroding some of the inherent advantages SD-WAN has over legacy solutions like MPLS. 

The SDWaaS advantage: dependability with flexibility

Thus far, it seems like OOT SD-WAN offers enterprises flexibility at the cost of reliability. This in turn begs the questions: is it worth making the switch from MPLS to OOT SD-WAN? Is there a better way to connect the modern WAN?

Obviously, many enterprises simply can’t justify a WAN solution that can’t guarantee reliable performance. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that those enterprises are stuck with legacy MPLS. Cloud-based SDWaaS brings enterprises the flexibility of OOT SD-WAN with the reliability of an SLA-backed global private backbone. This backbone includes multiple Points of Presence (PoPs) across the globe and is backed by multiple Tier-1 ISPs. In short, SDWaaS can offer enterprises the reliability and performance assurances they demand.

SDWaaS also retains and builds upon the flexibility and agility OOT SD-WAN offers. With SDWaaS, enterprises benefit from the ability to leverage multiple transport methods like with OOT SD-WAN. However, SDWaaS also offers technology that can further enhance last-mile performance. For example, Packet Loss Compensation helps address packets dropped in the last-mile and improve performance for end users. Additionally, Enhanced Link Capacity and Resiliency means organizations can run redundant lines in active/active mode to improve uptime and capacity. Finally, the ability to detect blackouts and brownouts (brownouts are often overlooked by lesser WAN monitoring solutions) and automatically respond round out the last-mile benefits of SDWaaS.

Finally, SDWaaS outstrips OOT SD-WAN when it comes to mobile integration and cloud-friendliness. The baked-in network security stack and cloud-based nature of SDWaaS makes mobile integration simple. Access to multiple PoPs across the globe, which are often in the same datacenters as cloud providers like SalesForce, AWS, and Azure, offer a significant improvement in performance when compared to using unreliable public Internet with OOT SD-WAN.

SDWaaS offers the best of both worlds

As we have seen, OOT SD-WAN offers enterprises a number of benefits, particularly when it comes to last-mile flexibility, but it also has reliability and performance drawbacks. MPLS is reliable, but simply too inflexible and expensive to be considered viable for modern IT workloads. By offering a robust global backbone along with modern SD-WAN features, SDWaaS brings enterprises the flexibility of OOT SD-WAN without sacrificing performance or reliability. As a result, enterprises can benefit from a WAN solution that is capable of meeting the demands of modern business in a reliable, flexible, and scalable manner. 

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