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Best Practices for Government Agencies Migrating from MPLS to SD-WAN

migrating mpls to sdwan government agencies

Government agencies know they need to move to SD-WAN (software-defined wide area network), but many are reluctant to take the leap. MPLS (multiprotocol label switching) is a proven technology and has been in place for 25 years, so moving away from it seems like a daunting task. MPLS is carrier-grade and reliable. However, it is also outdated and expensive. When MPLS first hit the market in 1999 it was groundbreaking. Compared to its predecessor, Frame Relay, it offered layer 3 flexibility with layer 2 performance, inherent any-to-any connectivity, quality of service features, and a scalability architecture. These are all great and exactly what the world needed at the time. Since then, networks have become more complex, expanding to include smartphones, cloud services, nomadic workers, and home offices. These changes require a network architecture that can bring together all and any networks under a single, cohesive operating model. SD-WAN is the technology that brings it all together. 

While some have already made the shift, most agencies have not. The good news is that migrating from MPLS to SD-WAN is easier than you think. MetTel has been helping organizations upgrade to managed SD-WAN for more than 10 years, and we have been consistently recognized as a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Managed Network Services. We are the only EIS prime in the leader’s quadrant and the first to implement SD-WAN under the EIS contract.

Let’s discuss the benefits of SD-WAN and some best practices for taking the leap.

MPLS vs SD-WAN: Why Transition from MPLS to SD-WAN

While it’s pretty well established that MPLS networks need to be transitioned to SD-WAN, it’s good to walk through the benefits of SD-WAN. At a high level, SD-WAN introduces an innovative architecture that delivers secure and robust connectivity to numerous sites or branches, leveraging more affordable bandwidth options like Dedicated Internet or Broadband. Through a centralized control plane, traffic routing is facilitated, empowering administrators to establish rules and policies deployed network-wide simultaneously. By separating control from the underlying network, it streamlines network management, reduces costs, enhances security protocols, and upholds superior performance standards, and better supports the evolving needs of the organization. Now let’s dive into some details:

  • Cost Savings: SD-WAN solutions typically offer lower costs compared to MPLS by leveraging less expensive broadband internet connections and eliminating the need for pricey MPLS circuits.
  • Increased Bandwidth and Flexibility: SD-WAN empowers government entities to combine various internet connections like broadband, DSL, and LTE, enhancing the resilience and capacity of their network infrastructure. This augmented bandwidth enables agencies to efficiently accommodate bandwidth-heavy tasks like video conferencing and data analytics. Moreover, SD-WAN offers enhanced adaptability, allowing agencies to adjust bandwidth levels as needed.
  • Improved Application Performance: SD-WAN utilizes intelligent traffic routing and optimization techniques to prioritize critical applications and ensure optimal performance across the network. By dynamically steering traffic based on application requirements and network conditions, SD-WAN can deliver better application performance and user experience, even for latency-sensitive applications.
  • Enhanced Security: SD-WAN solutions offer advanced network security features, such as encryption, firewall capabilities, and threat detection, to protect data transmitted over the network. With the increasing cybersecurity threats faced by government agencies, having robust security measures in place is essential to safeguard sensitive information and maintain compliance with regulatory requirements.
  • Centralized Management and Orchestration: SD-WAN streamlines network administration and coordination, enabling government bodies to set up, monitor, and oversee their complete network infrastructure through a unified management interface. This centralized method simplifies network tasks, minimizes administrative burdens, and enhances the effectiveness of issue diagnosis and resolution.
  • Support for Remote Workforce: With the continuation of remote work and telecommuting, government agencies need network solutions that can support distributed workforce environments. SD-WAN provides seamless connectivity for remote users, branch offices, and mobile devices, enabling employees to access critical resources and applications securely from anywhere.
  • Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity: SD-WAN offers built-in resilience and failover capabilities to ensure continuity of operations, even in the event of network outages or disruptions. By automatically rerouting traffic to alternate paths or backup links, SD-WAN helps government agencies maintain uninterrupted service delivery and minimize downtime during emergencies or disasters. To learn more about the resilience of an SD-WAN, read our blog post, A Case Study in Disaster Preparedness. Our customer weathered Hurricane Ian, a category 5 storm, and their SD-WAN never went down.

What are the Best Practices for Transitioning from MPLS to SD-WAN?

Now you’re convinced – or maybe you’ve been convinced for some time – that you should upgrade from MPLS to SD-WAN, but you’re concerned about the complexities involved. Let’s walk through the best practices that we use to help enterprise businesses and government agencies have a smooth and successful migration:

  • Assessment and Planning: We conduct a thorough assessment of our client’s current network infrastructure, including applications, traffic patterns, and performance requirements. During this phase, we identify the specific reasons for transitioning to SD-WAN and set clear objectives for the migration.
  • Understand Business Requirements: The transition plan is aligned with the agency’s strategic goals and business requirements, considering factors such as cost savings, application performance, scalability, and flexibility.
  • Security Considerations: Throughout the process, we prioritize the security of the solution at all times. We ensure that the SD-WAN provides robust network security features to protect data wherever it is in the network. In addition, we implement encryption, authentication mechanisms, and threat detection/prevention measures to safeguard against cyber threats.
  • Integration with Existing Infrastructure: Another important step is our seamless integration with existing network infrastructure, including routers, switches, firewalls, and applications. We ensure compatibility and interoperability between SD-WAN components and other network devices.
  • Quality of Service (QoS) Policies: QoS policies are defined to prioritize critical applications and ensure optimal performance across the network. We configure traffic shaping, bandwidth allocation, and application-aware routing rules to meet SLA requirements.
  • Monitoring and Performance Management: We deploy network monitoring and management tools to continuously monitor the performance and health of the SD-WAN infrastructure. Baseline metrics and KPIs are established to track performance improvements and troubleshoot issues proactively.
  • Seamless Transition: We minimize network and connectivity disruption and risk. Branch offices or network segments can gradually transition to SD-WAN while maintaining MPLS connectivity as a backup. We monitor performance during each phase of the project and make adjustments as needed.

Over the years there have been times when industry follows government – take SPAM and GPS technology for example. There are also times when government follows industry. This is one of those cases. SD-WAN is a well-established technology and is at this point a commercial best practice. We take large enterprise businesses and government agencies through these best practices and eliminate the complexities of transitioning from MPLS to SD-WAN. As a result, our clients are enjoying the benefits of a modern network with improved performance, security, agility, and cost-efficiency.

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For more information about how MetTel can support your business with SD-WAN transformations, contact us.

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