A Detailed Analysis of SASE Vs MPLS For A Cloud-first Future

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A cloud-first future needs the right network for security, scalability, and integration. The right architecture promotes connectivity. It helps an organisation meet objectives for success.

In this context, there are two popular approaches: Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS).

Which one will work best for today’s enterprises? Here is an analysis of SASE and MPLS, exploring the options and implementation strategies.

Defining SASE (Secure Access Service Edge)

SASE provides comprehensive security and networking capabilities for distributed enterprises.

With SASE, security functions come together in a unified, cloud-delivered service. A single platform can encompass Secure Web Gateways, Cloud Access Security Broker, Zero Trust Network Access, Firewall as a Service, and Data Loss Prevention.

SASE streamlines management and reduces operational overhead. There is no need for on-premise deployments and separate security tools.

Benefits of SASE for Cloud Environments

Security: SASE is a secure gateway. It enforces access controls and threat protection for  traffic regardless of location or device. Only authorised users and devices can access defined cloud resources. The technology minimises risk from cyber-threats. 

Scalability and Agility: The cloud-based nature of SASE means easy scaling up or down based on traffic and usage. The flexibility matches the needs of an enterprise in a cloud environment.

Reduced Cost: SASE eliminates the need for expensive on-premise hardware and dedicated personnel. The centralised management console streamlines security operations to reduce costs further.

Simplified User Experience: SASE provides consistent and secure access to cloud applications from anywhere, on any device. The cloud-based approach empowers the workforce for enhanced productivity.

Potential Considerations for SASE

Vendor Lock-in: Choosing a single SASE vendor can lead to limited flexibility and higher costs in the long run.

Latency Concerns: Reliance on the public internet for connectivity can mean latency issues for users in remote locations.

Integration: Integrating SASE with existing security tools and networks can be complex.

Exploring MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching)

MPLS technology has been a cornerstone of enterprise networking for decades. It uses dedicated, private leased lines for high-bandwidth, point-to-point connections between locations.

MPLS priorities reliability and performance. It offers guaranteed bandwidth and predictable latency.

These features make an MPLS network ideal for dispersed offices and mission-critical applications. Both of them require consistently high performance.

Benefits of MPLS for Cloud Environments

Reliability: MPLS offers dedicated, private lines. It ensures consistent performance and minimal risk of outages. These are crucial for sensitive applications.

Quality of Service: MPLS prioritises traffic types based on labels. It leads to manageable latency and jitter for applications like video conferencing and VoIP.

Security: MPLS uses private lines for a more secure environment compared to the public internet.

Potential Considerations for MPLS

Scalability: Scaling MPLS networks requires additional physical circuits. It may lead to delays and costs.

Cost of Ownership: With MPLS, there are infrastructure costs and maintenance charges for dedicated lines. This factor makes it a less cost-effective option for smaller enterprises.

Cloud Integration: MPLS was not designed for the dynamic nature of cloud applications. Accessing cloud traffic through data centers can lead to bottlenecks.

Also Read: Key Differences Between MPLS and Leased Line

Head-to-Head Showdown: SASE vs. MPLS

Here is a look at the features of SASE and MPLS from the viewpoints of security, scalability, and cost-efficiency.

Security Considerations

SASE: SASE integrates security functions such as firewall as a service (FWaaS), secure web gateways (SWG), data loss prevention (DLP), and zero trust network access (ZTNA). This approach means that SASE security policies are applied across the entire network, regardless of the location.

MPLS: MPLS offers security through a private network infrastructure. It requires additional security programs for fuller protection. Add-ons like MPLS VPN can lead to a more complex security architecture.  

Scalability and Flexibility

SASE: SASE architecture is highly scalable and flexible. It leverages cloud-native architecture to adapt to changing network demands. Organisations can scale bandwidth, add or remove locations, and deploy new services without significant infrastructure changes.

MPLS: MPLS networks can be less flexible and scalable when compared to SASE. Scaling MPLS networks involves adding physical infrastructure, which can be time-consuming and costly. An MPLS configuration may not adapt quickly to changing business requirements.

Cost Efficiency

SASE: SASE solutions are typically more cost-effective than MPLS. By using cloud-based services and eliminating the need for physical infrastructure, SASE can reduce capital costs and operational expenditures.  

MPLS: MPLS networks require upfront investment in infrastructure and maintenance costs. MPLS can provide predictable performance and reliability, but the cost structure may not suit all organisations.

In short, while MPLS offers advantages in terms of performance and reliability, SASE is a modern, holistic solution. The table below sums up the primary differences.

Security Considerations SASE integrates FWaaS, SWG, DLP, and ZTNA for consistent network-wide security policies. Offers some security via private network infrastructure. Requires additional add-ons for full protection.
Scalability and Flexibility Highly scalable and flexible due to cloud-native architecture. Allows easy scaling of bandwidth, adding/removing locations, and deploying new services. Less flexible and scalable, requiring additional physical infrastructure. Can be time-consuming and costly.
Cost Efficiency Generally more cost-effective due to cloud-based services and reduced infrastructure needs. Reduces capital and operational expenses. Requires upfront investment in infrastructure and maintenance costs. While providing reliability, the cost structure may not suit all organisations.


Implementation Strategies in a Cloud-First Environment

Now, it is time to look at strategies for transitioning to SASE and leveraging MPLS for best results.

Transitioning to SASE: A Phased Approach

It makes sense to start with a pilot program to evaluate how SASE operates. The factors to check during the pilot program include functionality, user experience, and integration with infrastructure. Enterprises can focus on a specific department or application to assess performance.

Applications and workloads can be migrated to the cloud in a phased manner. The emphasis should be on cloud-native applications that benefit from SASE’s agility and security.

Enterprises can consider a hybrid internet approach. MPLS can handle mission-critical traffic. There could be a transition to SASE for non-critical workloads and remote users.

Leveraging MPLS in Cloud Integration

MPLS connections are well-suited to dispersed offices with high bandwidth and low latency requirements. This architecture leads to optimal performance for critical applications and collaboration tools.

MPLS can be integrated with SASE to combine the strengths of both. MPLS can act as a high-performance backbone for critical traffic, while SASE gives secure access to cloud resources.  

MPLS can act as a failover mechanism for internet outages. It ensures business continuity and minimises downtime.

Read More on How to Shift From SD-WAN To SASE 

Conclusion: Choice in a Cloud-First Future

Both SASE and MPLS offer benefits to modern businesses for a cloud-first future. With SASE, there is comprehensive security and networking capability through a unified, cloud-delivered service. With MPLS, there is an emphasis on reliability and performance.

In a head-to-head comparison, SASE emerges as a holistic solution. It offers advantages in security, scalability, and cost-efficiency over MPLS.

However, the best implementation strategies require a phased approach. Enterprises can transition to SASE while leveraging MPLS for critical traffic. This implementation will maximise performance and security in a cloud-first environment.

The optimal network architecture will depend on an enterprise’s needs for security, cloud adoption, scalability. Another factor is the existing infrastructure. To make an informed decision, get in touch with Airtel today.