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OPINION PIECE: Is the MPLS dead? Redefining the WAN

Decentralised, independent break-outs at the branch will deliver a number of business benefits

By Louis Kirstein, Portfolio Manager for Connectivity and Networks at T-Systems South Africa

  • Cloud services, and rapidly improving connectivity across the country, spurs new thinking around WAN network design
  • Centralised policy management is combined with decentralised policy enforcement at branch level
  • Now, branches can break-out to the internet directly, yielding a number of benefits


In today’s Cloud-driven technology era, where mobile and fixed-line connectivity across South Africa continues to improve in leaps-and-bounds, it’s time to look at a new approach to networking architecture.

Traditional configurations often rely heavily on dedicated and expensive MPLS networks to connect an organisation’s branches with its head office. Traffic is sent up and down, between a branch and the head office, where there is a single ‘break-out’ to the public internet, which serves all branches.

For many organisations, this is how their branch sites connect to external web services.

Historically there has been no alternative to this. In many regions, branches have struggled with direct internet access that’s industrial enough (and at a reasonable price point) to serve business’ needs. Added to that, there’s been no easy way to secure and policy-manage the breakout at the branch.

But, driven by a Cloud-first enterprise technology strategy, many organisations are turning to network designs whereby each branch accesses, or ‘breaks-out’, to the internet directly.

This involves clearly separating what will be centralised (such as fair use policy or data leak policies, driven by the organisation’s corporate governance function), versus what will be decentralised – which is the distributed enforcement of those governance policies at each branch site.

  1. Risk mitigation… From the perspective of Head Office, branch sites now lie ‘on the outside’, needing to traverse the firewall to access internal services. This ring-fences the risk of any individual branch being compromised, to just their local area. The rest of the corporate network will remain unscathed in the event of a breach or compromise, and services throughout all other regions will continue uninterrupted.
  2. Network efficiency… instead of a single MPLS network being flooded by traffic, and data being continually parsed between branch and head office, each site now efficiently uses the bandwidth that it needs to access external services. This makes a lot more sense, especially considering how much corporate software is available through public web front-ends (such as Office 365 or Azure).
  3. Facilitation of one’s Public Cloud strategy… As many organisations realise that the majority of their data, applications, services and infrastructure can be served can be most cost-effectively served from Public Cloud environments, having a decentralised WAN infrastructure aligns perfectly with the drive to adopt Public Cloud wherever possible.
  4. Easy integration of Cloud-based security tools… Cyber-threats evolve at rapid pace, meaning that organisations need regular updates from hosted security tools to remain protected from threats. Decentralised WANs support the quick roll-out of patches to each site, as each site independently connects to the hosted security solutions.
  5. Ease of embracing Hybrid WAN architecture… Hybrid WANs bring together fixed-line connections like fibre and DSL, as well as wireless services like 3G, LTE and satellites. Decentralised network architectures and Hybrid WAN configurations often go hand-in-hand – combining to give each branch the best possible connectivity, and the freedom to access a host of new online and Cloud services.
  6. Cost reduction… With each branch now self-sufficient in terms of internet connectivity, MPLS infrastructure can be dramatically scaled back and often removed entirely. This removes a huge cost burden from the organisation and frees-up capital for revenue-driving technology investments.

Most importantly, critical networking and security updates can still be ‘pushed’ in a mandatory fashion, to all branches, so there is no overall loss of control for Group IT and its Security function. The access to these security updates simply comes from the direct connection between the branch and the internet.

By combining this type of network design with advanced approaches to security information and event management, such as using first-class Security Operations Centres, organisations take on a very strong network security posture.

So, whether an organisation has 6 branches, 60, or even 600, taking a decentralised approach to the WAN can yield significant business benefits.

T-Systems in South Africa:

Communications Specialist

Thamsanqa Malinga

+27(11)2547400 (Phone)

+27(0)833017878 (Mobile)

About Deutsche Telekom

Deutsche Telekom is one of the world’s leading integrated telecommunications companies with around 151 million mobile customers, 30 million fixed-network lines and more than 17 million broadband lines (as of December 31, 2014). The Group provides fixed network, mobile communications, Internet and IPTV products and services for consumers and ICT solutions for business customers and corporate customers. Deutsche Telekom is present in more than 50 countries and has approximately 228,000 employees worldwide. The Group generated revenues of EUR 62.7 billion in the 2014 financial year – more than 60 percent of it outside Germany.

About T-Systems

Deutsche Telekom considers the European business customer segment a strategic growth area. Deutsche Telekom offers small, medium-sized and multinational companies ICT solutions for an increasingly complex digital world. In addition to services from the cloud, the range of services is centred around M2M and security solutions, complementary mobile communications and fixed network products, and solutions for virtual collaboration and IT platforms, all of which forms the basis for our customers’ digital business models.

With approximately 47,800 employees worldwide, T-Systems generated revenue of around EUR 8,6 billion in the 2014 financial year.

Since the inception of T-Systems in South Africa in 1997, the company has cemented its position as one of the most successful T-Systems companies outside of Europe. A leading ICT outsourcing service provider locally, T-Systems offers end-to-end ICT solutions in both the ICT Operations and Systems Integration markets. Their extensive portfolio of services covers the vertical, horizontal, IT and TC space. T-Systems South Africa’s head office is located in Midrand with another major office in Cape Town, and 20 further representative offices in locations throughout southern Africa.


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