The main, realistic alternative to MPLS today is the internet. It is mature, widely available, well understood and most organisations already have experience using it. TNC’s research shows that the most common approach to using internet as a replacement for MPLS is as part of a hybrid network which mixes MPLS, typically for big, important sites, with internet for smaller sites, or where MPLS is cost prohibitive.
Exponents of hybrid networks believe it offers the best combination of performance, flexibility and cost. There certainly is logic to this, with the use of internet circuits to provide more direct access to cloud services, potentially adding additional suppliers to the network to gain flexibility and reduce costs.
TNC’s research partially supports this analysis. Certainly, multinational companies are almost exclusively moving to hybrid networks and the number of organisations now procuring pure MPLS networks is decreasing rapidly.
However, TNC’s research also shows that domestic organisations with locations solely in the UK are still predominantly buying MPLS networks. There are two main reasons for this:
1. The price point for MPLS and internet services in the UK is very similar, meaning there is very little commercial benefit from migrating from MPLS to internet or hybrid
2. Given the small geography, there is little round-trip benefit from switching
In other words, two of the three drivers for migrating from MPLS don’t hold in the UK market, explaining why use of hybrid networks remains something for multinational organisations, but not for those with solely UK networks.
Of course, there is a great deal of discussion about SD being a potential replacement for MPLS. However, TNC’s research shows that there are significant barriers to this migration today. Whilst it is feasible that SD will become a true MPLS replacement in the future, it doesn’t appear that it is today.