Graphiant: MPLS and SD-WAN Fail to Meet the Needs of the Modern Enterprise

Network-as-a-service startup Graphiant has released a report suggesting MPLS and SD-WAN are insufficient for meeting enterprise networking needs, and that businesses are starting to gravitate towards NaaS products.

In a survey of 200 network architects and admins across North America, Graphiant highlighted three use cases MPLS and SD-WAN are “failing” to meet. According to respondents, the most difficult task is connecting with external entities, such as customers or other companies. Other challenges include connecting to enterprise resources, which has grown more complex due to the rise of remote work, as well as connectivity with public clouds.

“This happens every 10-11 years,” says Khalid Raza, founder & CEO of Graphiant. “I saw this in 2000 while pioneering MPLS at Cisco. I saw it when I co-founded Viptela in 2012. And now It’s time again for a new approach to the network edge.”

Respondents called out three critical uses cases:

  • Enterprise connectivity has changed in recent years, with a surge in remote workers, remote offices, and IoT.
  • Cloud connectivity is the second use case that stretches enterprise capabilities.
  • And trends such as digital transformation and the service economy are pushing enterprises to connect more often with customers and partners.

“These new use cases are tough for MPLS and SD-WAN,” says Robert Spangler, Senior Network Engineer at Ballad Health. “MPLS is too slow to deploy and change and far too expensive. And SD-WAN can’t handle that number of tunnels.”

The survey shows enterprises aren’t happy with MPLS and SD-WAN for these new use cases. Network architects gave both technologies D’s and F’s for metrics such as scalability, agility, and cost.

Graphiant Founder and CEO Khalid Raza told Fierce Telecom while MPLS has the advantage of being private and doesn’t place a heavy operational burden on the enterprise, it’s expensive, slow to provision and its scalability is tied to the service provider.

“If the Provider Edge needs to be upgraded to provide the bandwidth, routing table or site increase…it will take a while to get done,” he said.   Regarding SD-WAN, Raza noted it gives enterprises last mile flexibility and the ability to add commodity bandwidth. However, SD-WAN’s need for an overlay (a virtual network created on top of a physical network) for every underlay “create[s] a huge tunnel scale problem,” which leads to challenges with hardware and software licenses and increases the operational burden for enterprises.

“SD-WAN leverages public transport so connecting to the resources the enterprise needs should be simple, but it’s not,” said Raza. “The security, privacy and compliance concerns that public networks create a huge operational burden that enterprises aren’t prepared to handle.”

Mauricio Sanchez, Dell’Oro Group’s research director of network security, SASE and SD-WAN, said larger enterprises with more sophisticated networking needs and architectures usually run into problems with MPLS and SD-WAN. For MPLS, he brought up the cost component and how “few enterprises are happy with how long it takes carriers to provision or change.”

“With regards to SD-WAN, it’s done wonders in the last mile where access routers used to rule,” Sanchez told Fierce. “However, SD-WAN hasn’t penetrated the middle-mile as much where meshed-SD-WAN stands to replace classic BGP-based [Border Gateway Protocol] networking.”

He explained meshed SD-WAN is more common in the enterprise WAN core than on the WAN edge, meaning smaller branch offices likely have their SD-WAN CPE router connect with a single-head end. Sanchez also noted it’s not easy for enterprises to set up large meshed SD-WAN deployments, “usually because the equipment starts running out of steam.” VPN capacity is one example of an issue.

“So I wouldn’t paper everything in SD-WAN and MPLS as having ‘failed,’ but more so highlight that there are areas where definite improvement opportunity exists,” he concluded.

Author’s Note: I have been blown away by SD-WANs success as there are no standards and therefore no interoperability.  Especially needed is a NNI standard that would interconnect different vendor specific SD-WANs to facilitate communications between two or more enterprise networks.


Graphiant’s report indicated more enterprises are thinking about implementing network-as-a-service solutions, with 62% of respondents saying they are “somewhat likely” to move to NaaS.

Launched last September, Graphiant has pitched a combination of MPLS-like performance in speed, scale and security with as-a-service agility. Raza told Fierce enterprises can connect to Graphiant’s core from any location – the data center, branch office, at home or the edge – and build their networks “in minutes instead of months.”

Separately, Graphiant in March closed a $62 million funding round led by Two Bear Capital, Sequoia Capital as well as other VC and private equity firms. The latest round brings Graphiant’s total funding to $96 million.


2023 State of Network Edge Survey Shows MPLS and SD-WAN Fail to Meet the Needs of the Modern Enterprise

Viptela co-founder looks beyond SD-WAN with Graphiant