MPLS is Dead – Yeah Right… But Transformation IS King

Of all the regularly repeated “yeah right” claims within IT, “MPLS is dead” probably ranks highest (if not in Rome).

Analyst prediction realties show that the managed MPLS market was valued at over $50bn last year and is expected to reach in excess of $76bn by 2026. That doesn’t exactly shout “dead” at you does it 😊 That said, the inevitable overcast cloud coverage means that companies are coming under increasing pressure to migrate their MPLS networks in part or whole to aforementioned cloud services.

Recently, the guys at Netevents, in homage to this factor, hosted an online debate on t’topic. The wonderfully named – and extremely nice bloke – Song Toh, VP of Global Network Services at Tata Communications was first to note that the past 12 months has caused a change in plans, stating that: “Infrastructure needs to be refreshed, network bandwidth needs to go up. Now, everyone’s also looking at how do they go forward with it.” This view ties in perfectly with one I’ve mentioned before in this blog about at financial services event I reported on from the beginning of 2020, where all the top City/Docklands banks were represented, and noted that their biggest challenge was infrastructure change.

Ashwath Nagaraj, Co-founder and CTO at old client Aryaka made the point that the changes are here to stay – something I’ve reiterated several times in online events over the past few months. Moreover, you can’t ignore this change in circumstances and where the users actually reside now. Nagaraj’s point was: “What is the power that it is now going to be the driver of business transformation?  I mean, just look at all of the budget that’s available. There are so many offices that cost so many dollars, so much money that’s going to get shut down. Where is that going to go? It is going to transform your business right.” Well, that budget has to go somewhere, and that network has to be transformed – logical!

Mike Frane, VP of Product Management at Windstream Enterprise, coming from a security standpoint expanded on the concept, stating that the new normal is really uncertainty, seeing initially a lull in sales on 2020, then a major take-off in the second half (a game of two halves, Brian) in terms of SDWAN sales – security and managed services via network or voice, as if companies had suddenly made up their minds. We’ve talked a lot in this blog about that uncertainty and how emerging tech solutions such as SASE are offering one-stop shop solutions (from vendors such as Cato Networks, at least, and more recently Alkira in a different format) that resolve the confusion. Frane argues: “Customers are going to look for a network solution that easily provides the flexibility and reliability for their physical locations, as long as their remote workforce their partners and their vendors, combining SDWAN and security in that as a service will fit that need very well.”

Aryaka’s Nagaraj kind of summed it up with: “You know, the king is dead, long live the new King. But I think we’re sort of mixing two things here, right. MPLS is a way of connecting sites, right. But what MPLS brought to two companies, to organisations was reliability, stability, quality and security. And a lot of these are also a question of the topology and I don’t think it’s all cloud. I think that the hybrid network of DCs, keeping your private data, clouds, and SaaS applications were an easy transformation of your office 365 of the world, but that’s only 40% of it.”

Tata’s Toh rationalised the conversation, noting: “I think more and more of the enterprises will be heading in that direction. Some of them will start off, I think pretty aggressive, say I’m going 80%, 90% to cloud.  In that situation that hybrid network will have a lot less MPLS in it, but I think there will be questions being asked in here too, right. The reason why MPLS stays is because some applications are still sitting in a DC and still very sensitive to chitters latency and all that stuff. And, especially if you have a globally distributed state, you cannot switch straight over to internet and hope that everything works perfectly.”

I actually posed a question to the panel in my absence, presented instead by my mate and video genius of Netevents George “Hair” Rickman: “in looking at MPLS to cloud migration options, would it be safest to look for multi-vendor best of breed approach to migration, notably with independent networking and security technology suppliers or go down the all-in-one route, such as proposed by many SASE vendors such as the likes of Cato networks?”

The general consensus from the panel, unsurprisingly, was that there is no one, simple answer, but to see the responses in full – and the rest of the debate, check out the link below. Meantime, let’s keep the debates going so the next generation of IT guys can continue to talk about the impending death of MPLS!

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