Friday, November 28, 2008

When Is Private Port The Best Choice?

Private Port is a Marketing term for Qwest, if you are selling Qwest MPLS you are selling Private Port. Each Carrier might call it something different.

The reason for the confusion is Qwest has 2 MPLS options, Private and Enhanced. The difference is Enhanced is a Private Port MPLS circuit with a Secure Internet Gateway. This allows the customer to use the same local loop for both Private MPLS with Quality of Service, and will allow Internet traffic over the same loop. Example, if the customer's IP traffic is destined for a location on the customer private WAN, the router will forward the IP packet over the Qwest MPLS network, if customer's IP traffic is destined for the public internet, customer's pre-defined NAT polices and Firewall rule set will be enforced and allow that traffic over the public Internet using the same local loop.

I would suggest Private Port in most instances unless the customer needed distributed Internet access at each site and did not want to install a seperate local loop.

For help in finding just the right solution involving MPLS from Qwest.... or any bandwidth provider .... take advantage of the no cost help provided here: Bandwidth Solution

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What Are The Best Bandwidth Solution(s) For Video Conferencing & Multi-Media Applications

What bandwidth solution (T1, DS3, OCx/Sonet, etc.) would best meet your needs to cover videoconferencing and multi-media applications?

I'd say that it dedends on what kind of service and QoS you are looking at. For example, when you say "video" you mean video conferencing and not something like VoD. The Bandwidth requirements will vary according to your service requirements.

For example: For IPTV services, the image quality depends on the encoding deployed: MPEG-2 consumes approx. 3.75 Mbps, whereas MPEG-4 needs approx. 2 Mbps for the same high-quality image production. Also broadcast TV is delivered using IP Multicast which makes the bandwidth required dependent on the number of channels offered and the encoding rate. 200 channels of MPEG-2 in standard definition will take approx. 750 Mbps of bandwidth. VoD, on the other hand, is a unicast per-viewer channel. 1000 standard definition VoD users will need appro. 3.75 Mbps.

The QoS requirements for video conferencing using H.323 (SIP could be different again) can be planned on the "Rule of 75" as follows: Calculate the minimum bandwidth required by each of your applications ( e.g., video, voice, data). The total of this bandwidth is the minimum requirement for any given link and it should consume NO MORE than 75% of the total available bandwidth on the link. The 75% rule makes allowances for bandwidth required for over head traffic, such as routing, Layer 2 keepalives and other applications, such as, email, HTTP etc.

So, Capacity planning for H.323, should look like something as follows:

Video data + 20% = bandwidth required.

Example ...........

Video data rate: Bandwidth Required:

512 kbps = 614 kbps
1.5Mbps = 1.8 Mbps ...

For issues such as number of concurent users and more stuff on video conferencing you can perhaps consider looking into Cisco's solutions offered and also TANDBERG boxes.

Cisco considers anything 766Kb to be a "slow link" for VOIP. Also you need to consider the criticality of the sites .... so you may need two separate connections. All multi-media applications run on top of your other applications so QoS only allows a preference of who goes first.

You need a good baseline of non-multi-media applications (VOIP). So bandwidth needs to be able to handle all necessary applications in the network.

Also, you'll need to remember that the bandwidth aggregation at the Data Center needs to meet or exceed all inbound remote site traffic. In other words, if I have three remote sites all with T1s .... I'll need more than one T1 at the Data Center to manage the traffic. Remember unless this is a greenfield then baseline, baseline, baseline!

When it comes to streaming video, bi-directional .... you are going to have to consider the quality of the compression you are planning to use. If you are planning on using high definition video 1 direction .... it is recommended to have at least 2MB in the direction of the video being accessed.

So if you are streaming video to your computer then you need to make sure that you get 2MB download capacity. Also, another thing to keep in mind is latency and loss of packets. I would recommend staying away from wireless for this type of application as it will add latency and cause issues later. DS3 bandwidth and anything higher may be over kill, but would easily be able to handle your demands.

Without knowing specifics, it is hard to provide a precise answer, but, one can still specify a systematic method for calculating required bandwidth. Once you know the bandwidth requirement, then it is all about negotiating the most economical way to order that bandwidth from a network provider in the area.

Here is what I would suggest:

1. Calculate the peak external link bandwidth requirements (inter-office data transfer, video conferencing, email transfers. With attachments running in tens of megabytes, email traffic can’t be ignored these days.).

2. Real time applications being mostly jitter and delay sensitive - so you have to make sure that you will have enough bandwidth when they need it. The bandwidth of video depends on the mpeg profiles used (without going into specific, generally 1.5 Mbps can give you very good video on a PC (equal to VCD quality). HDTV images can take about 20 Mbps – but that is domain more reserved for IP TV service providers). Most current users of interactive video communications will be happy with the images coded and transmitted @ 512 Kbps. This includes audio and video as well as control signaling. So, one should provision at least 512 Kbps per video stream, and more the better (I would say 1.5 Mbps is the good if you are a big organization and use a large TV for video conferences)). So, multiply bandwidth for a single stream by the number of parallel streams required. Now that determines the total peak real time usage.

3. There is no specific rule .... but wise men with experience advise to keep the peak real time within 60 to 75% of network bandwidth available leaving the remaining capacity for background traffic. In a small organization of 5 people - it is easy to tell people not to download gigabyte attachments when video conferencing is going on , but in larger organizations it is hard to enforce such things except with router policies (assuming they have QoS support), and you can deal with occasional unhappy users.

4. Now, once you know your bandwidth requirements, it is time to talk to the network operator how they can provide that bandwidth in the most cost effective way.

For help in finding just the right bandwidth solution for your video conferencing and multi-media applications .... take advantage of the no cost help provided here:

Video Conferencing and Multi-Media Bandwidth


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Monday, November 24, 2008

MPLS In Laymen's Terms

The best way I have been able to explain MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) is by drawing a picture depicting the following:

Imagine the internet as an Ocean, large and wide. Full of sharks and other things that can get in the way of your data ... and you are 2 or 3 islands (or how ever many locations the customer has) in that ocean.

A point to point is a bridge that you physically build between these islands that you can transport data on. Generally this is very expensive since you are actually building the bridge.

Frame Relay is like an HOV lane on that higway. There are other users that are able to use your highway that is on the bridge, but you have a select portion that is only yours.

MPLS is a submarine. It is a protected vessle that can go between any of your islands. It is encapsulated and protected and goes underneath the ocean thus being the most protected and versitile method of data/ voice transport.

This is a very basic overview, but if taken to heart and understood in it's simplest terms, can help you move to a newer, more cost effective solution.

MPLS is the new Frame Relay. Using the added capabilities found in MPLS switching, companies are able to prioritize traffic for real-time packets like voice and video.

There are many flavors of MPLS sold by the carriers. The difference is usually based on the classes of service. COS is how you tag traffic for prioritization.

If the customer has a Frame Relay network or ATM or even IP-VPN, MPLS would likely be a beneficial upgrade in cost and quality, especially if the customer uses VOIP or Video.

For help in finding just the right solution involving MPLS .... or any bandwidth configuration for that matter .... take advantage of the no cost help provided here: MPLS Networks

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Friday, November 21, 2008

How Important Is QoS (Quality Of Service) To Deciding A Bandwidth Solution?

When going through the decision process for a bandwidth solution .... for example T1 or DS3 bandwidth .... QoS is AND should be a major consideration.

What Does (and should) QOS Mean To You?

Quality of Service (QoS) Definition:

In computer/telecom networks, a traffic engineering term. Refers to resource reservation control mechanisms, not service quality per se. Ability to prioritize applications, users, data flows, or to guarantee data flow performance.

But you knew/know that.

Alternative to QoS is high quality "best-effort" network communication, by over-providing capacity, such that it is sufficient for expected peak traffic loads. But high QoS often gets confused with high level performance, or achieved service quality (e.g., high bit rate, low latency, low bit error probability, and other arcane measures).

From a user perspective, however, QoS in telephony and streaming video, it is necessary to try to measure the quality that the user actually experiences, called "Quality of Experience" (or QoE), based on user perception or their level of satisfaction. Thus QoS needs to track subscriber satisfaction, which obviously is subjective and varies on a number of factors at the user end.

And when combined with experience, you get a sort of hybrid measure that can be called "Quality of Service Experience" (or QoSE), which tries to measure user experience relative to delivered quality, regardless of bit rates or other arcane measures. None of those matter if the user is not satisfied.

That's what QoS means to me.

I believe QoS is meant to measure the performance of the application delivered to the end user. If we references QoE when discussing QoS, we can now apply an experience based model (QoE) to the traditional network measures of service delivery quality (QoS). The addition of QoE to traditional QoS measures allows us to restate my 1st line to “QoE is meant to measure the performance of the application experienced by the end user”.

Since QoS measures the performance of the application, the measure of QoS varies depending on the application (Voice, VoIP, Video, Data, etc…). I believe that while QoS provides a good indication of the performance of the delivery of the application, the measure should be used hand-in-hand with some type of experience based model when available, such as QoE.

I guess QoS in in the eye of the beholder. It depends on the application, the network, the level of traffic and (not sure about this) the phase of the moon. Yet another measure of QoS is the MOS or Mean Opinion Score used in an attempt to quantize subjectivity in the Voice application space. Then there is the ITU-Ts Emodel...(so how was that telephone call for you?)

In academia thousand of research papers have been written and argued about. In the industry we have seen large numbers of IEEE specifications regarding QoS which all rely upon an assumption: Layer a software / CPU centric fix-it mechanism over best-effort IP comprising one or another packet prioritization scheme and you will have QoS. The industry calls this soft QoS.

None of these schemes are suited to traffic crossing multiple operator domains. MPLS over IP is a core technology, what we need for end-to-end QoS is an end-to-end solution. Hard QoS.

So how about starting off with a clean slate design for global QoS. My starter for ten (for the sake of avoiding unnecessary complexity) would be lets insist on only two classes of QoS: best-effort and best-quality. Best-effort needs no introduction - thats what we are stuck with in today's Internet - no guarantees whatsoever, you get what you get, take or leave it. Best-quality should by definition enable IP networks for all the latency critical applications such as voice, videoconferencing, gaming database replication...on a global scale.

And thats where the next few killer apps might come from if we can implement two classes of QoS in a globally scalable, self managing manner.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What Would You Choose For A Business Cell Phone & Why?

When deciding on a business cell phone .... evaluating for features, cost, reliability, coverage, performance, customer support, etc. are all imprortant factors. But with so much to consider .... what would or should you choose?

First, understand that your decision depends on a number of parameters:

1. Where your organization is located
2. How much email-centric is the organization, and you.
3. How much you travel abroad.

If you are located in the US and/or travel abroad more than a week per month and/or your organization corporate email is NOT Exchange-based, then a Blackberry will be a very good solution for you in terms of cost/efficiency.

If not, then it is difficult for me to see the Blackberry paying for itself in short or long terms.

I suggest using a more direct approach and use Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) to sync your phones with your corporate mail.

Using EAS to connect the phones to the corporate server opens you to a very big variety of phones you can choose to use:

1. Windows Mobile 5/6 Pro phones (Pocket PCs) - these phones are my preferred ones. They use Windows Mobile as their OS, usually have a touch screen, sometimes have a QWERTY keyboard and operate as a small handheld computer. Can work as a GPS navigation device in many cases.

2. Windows Mobile 5/6 Standard (Smartphones) - Usually have all the previous have, except for the touch screen.

3. Nokia Symbian S60 devices - different operating system, better known for Nokia users, but more complicated than Windows Mobile for newcomers.

4. Apple iPhone (beginning from version 2 can also sync with Exchange).

Now, the parameters for my preferences:

1. Windows Mobile OS is my preferred OS.

2. From both categories, I prefer the devices with touch screens.

3. Battery life is VERY important for me. I won't take a device that cannot run for at least 8 hours with normal use.

4. WiFi is a must: when I travel abroad and get to offices or to hotels, I don't want to pay extras for cellular roaming.

5. Internal GPS is also something I would like to see, but not a must.

6. Reliability and Flexibility with 3rd party software installed.

Now, when you consider all the above, and also the different GSM and HSDPA frequencies, you will understand that you will have different preferred models in different countries.

After many years going around with different phones, my tecno nerd friend stabilized lately with the Samsung i780, which is a great phone in my point-of-view. It has all that he was looking for in a business phone: touchscreen, wifi, gps, full keyboard for messaging/mailing, EAS, quadband GPRS/EDGE .... so he can work in the US at EDGE speeds (even if I would prefer 3G), and a battery that in normal use days would give him 10-11 hours of use, and in extreme use days 7-8 hours.

Another nice device to look at (in the Windows Mobile world) is the Samsung Omnia i900.

If you prefer the Symbian world, I would suggest taking a look at the Nokia E71.

Regarding the iPhone: in my opinion, it is getting better since version 2 .... with EAS and some 3rd party software .... but at least for many diehards it is still missing much desired functionality.

In the end there's a lot to think about to arrive at the best decision for YOU. Take the above information ... look at your specific situation (likes, wants, needs .... applications of course) .... and go from there.

If you'd like some help to search and compare business phones here's an online resource that can do that: Compare Business Cell Phones

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Monday, November 17, 2008

How To Manage International Cell Phone Costs

Your company sends people out of the country for business and you are trying to figure out how to manage cell phone costs. What should you think about?

A few recommendations:

1. Blackberry devices are the most cost effective approach from the data side. Blackberries are the only devices that allow unlimited international data usage compared to other devices in the AT&T portfolio (WM, Good, iPhone). With WiFi available for the Pearl, Curve, 8820 and Bold, users can further reduce costs by taking advantage of available WiFi hotspots.

2. On the voice side, make sure users are on the international world traveller feature. AT&T also offers a new business Global World Traveller feature, which you can request details of from your account manager. Depending on the countries your employees are travelling to, this may offer a better per minute rate.

3. Depending on your agreement, you may be able to take advantage of the OfficeReach Global User Group feature. With this option, when your international users are in one of the roam zone countries and they call back into your PBX, they get the corporate discount applied to the per minute rate of that call. There are a lot of qualifications to receive this feature, so again, you will need to speak with your account manager.

Ultimately, it's up to your company to educate your employees on the costs associated with utilizing devices internationally. While AT&T does offer coverage, there is a significant cost associated with that availability. If employees are going to be on a 2 hour conference call while they are out of the country, they should utilize a calling card or more cost effective solution than their mobile phone.

For a proven cost effective solution I suggest you consider the international cell phone packages offered by OneSim .... they've proven to be the answer for many businesses.

Go to: International Cell Phone

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Friday, November 14, 2008

What Is The High Speed Internet Technology Of Choice For Hotels And Resorts?

Deciding what to base your hotel or resort voice/data network infrastructure on ... T1, DS3, OCx, fiber, ethernet, etc. ... can be complicated and frustrating. There's much to consider to reach a decision that makes business sense.

Firstly, I would put hotels in the Multi-Dwelling Unit/Multi-Tenant Unit (MDU/MTU) category.

Secondly, we need to split this into high speed connectivity within a hotel and high speed connectivity backhauling traffic from the hotel.

Thirdly, we need to consider the physical media, i.e. copper, fibre or microwave.

The emphasis is towards an end-to-end Ethernet architecture at all layers, i.e. at the physical interface, service and transport layers.

Each hotel room will come with a cheap Ethernet port for connectivity and can easily cover bandwidth requirements. Common areas like the swimming pool and lobby will have broadband wireless access.

The thing about backhauling traffic back towards the service provider is that service providers have their capital 'sunk in' their E1s/T1s. An end-to-end Ethernet infrastructure promises a lot, but very much depends of these service providers making an oerhaul to their access networks.

This in turn depends on demand and also product availability. Why? As an example, we need to consider managing Ethernet SLAs in the same manner as E1s/T1s, so we need an equivalent to the smartjack devices. Yes, they are available, but we then need the economies of scale to make it worthwhile. Why add cost to the E1/T1 revenue stream?

There will also be other instances to consider. Tall buildings like hotels usually have masts at the top for cellular access. There will be sync requirements for these rooftop cell sites.

Although the push is towards Ethernet and packet, TDM (T1/E1) will still play a big part till the end of this decade. Saying that, standards bodies like the MEF and also equiment vendors (no surprise here as they could do with additional sales) are accelerating the development and deployment of Ethernet.

Laptop connectivity can be achieved by means of a data card that makes use of the cellular network. Cellular operators now also offer WiFi access (co-located).

Wireless broadband and wireless broadband services are driving wireless evolution (2G -> 3G -> 3G+ -> LTE) and also convergence.

WiFi, WiMAX, etc. all provide the 'front-end' air interface. Wireless broadband is indeed driving wireless evolution (3G+, HSPA, LTE, WiMAX).

We also need to have sufficient bandwidth to backhaul the additional bandwidth requirements brought about by these air interfaces. This may require DS3 bandwidth ... or more depending on the size of your physical plant and if there are multiple locations to cover or link together (think large resort/casino).

When we talk about E1s/T1s (PDH), we are talking about this backhaul bit. Hotels come under the MTU/MDU category. Very often, especially in metro areas, such buildings will have fibre laterals that connect to a MAN fibre infrastructure provider.

You should probably consider differently VOIP and data/internet. My suggestion is that you might decide to offer the second but not the first.


- Internet/data access is now a "must-have" commodity for guests and meetings, and the hotel is most probably the single best-placed organization to provide that.

- VOIP is a cost-effective solution, but there are other solutions: mobile phones or the hotel phone lines..

You might consider that you MUST provide good internet access, with some business model that allows you to deliver the needed bandwidth, eg "free" for hotel guests, and a flat daily rate for meetings organizers (a low price based on the number of attendees).

For phone, you might consider blocking VOIP (or more precisely SIP) access, and allowing 3rd parties to handle that with their business model. Of course, this will allow some skype-like calls thru your data connection, but you will not be judged on quality here.

Generally speaking, any hotel looking into what network technology makes the most business sense for guests, dedicated business suites, and conference activities ... needs to do their homework and not jump without a thorough analysis. For help with that assessment, I strongly suggest taking advantage of the no cost research and support available through Bandwidth Solution. They will save you time, money, and effort ..... and find you the best solution for your specific situation.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Distance Restriction Issue For Rural T1 Bandwidth

Here's an oft asked question .... If you wanted to have a T-1 line (or fractional T-1) installed in a very rural location, is the T1 subject to the same distance restrictions as a DSL line is?

The general answer is no. T1 lines do not have a maximum distance "limitation" as does DSL. Network carriers can use multiple T1 repeaters to regenerate (not just amplify) the T1 signal.

However, 2 distance "sensitive" components can increase T1 cost.

First, the T1 access loop. Most local exchange carriers (LECs .... e.g., AT&T/SBC/BellSouth, Qwest and Verizon) charge the ISP for T1 access based on distance between the ISP's router (Internet POP) and the customer's local serving exchange (LEC Central Office). That is why most ISP's T1 quote tools require the customers local phone number, or at least the 1st 6-digits (NPA-NXX) which identify the local CO exchange, in order to caculate the distance to the ISP's closest IP POP (Internet router).

Second, extrordinary construction costs. If the customer location is a great distance from the closest T1-equipped LEC central office, then the LEC must install additional T1 repeaters and possibly incur other transmission equipment / construction costs to reach the customer. In this case, the LEC has 2 options to deal with construction cost: either absorb cost themselves, or pass it on to the ISP who then pass it on to the end-user customer.

Assuming no extrordinary construction cost, there are ISPs that offer flat rate Internet T1s in the $4-500 range per month, anywhere in US, with no distance limitations between ISP POP and customer's serving CO. The flat rate cost includes T1 access loop and 1.5 Mbps Internet port. This can vary though so shop around. Also, don't get enamored with cost over performance and reliability. Cheapest isn't always best. In other words ... be careful of buying from "K-Mart" providers. Always go with reputable carriers (name brand) if the cost is reasonable (they all are coming down in price so this shouldn't be a big issue).

However, for most locations that are under 25 miles to the ISP POP, we are seeing Internet T1 bandwidth prices in the general range of $300-$400 per month +/-.

If you are looking for a T1 in a rural area I strongly suggest using the free search and rate quote support offered by T1 Bandwidth. They'll find you a solution that makes the most business sense ... and their services are no cost to you.

Keep in mind that in some cases a business may need more than a T1 for a bandwidth solution ... such as maybe a DS3 bandwidth line. The same type of concerns and solutions above for T1 also apply.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

When Is VPLS Deployment The Better Choice For Global Connectivity?

When should you choose VPLS (Virtual Private LAN Service) as the WAN technology for your enterprise-wide global connectivity ... as opposed to say Layer 3 MPLS VPNs?

Simply put .... the main reasons I hear most businesses say they chose VPLS over a Layer 3 (laymen term "MPLS") is:

1. They can control their own routing (this is the biggie)

2. It's inherently more secure (because they don't advertise routes to carrier)

3. If the client is already running a dynamic routing protocol such as EIGRP or OSPF, the migration is much easier that going to a layer 3 solution

4. Easier migration from point to point or frame relay network

To be more specific ..... one of the largest reasons for the choice of VPLS vs a layer 3 MPLS service is the ability to control one's own routing. In close second is the ability to select one's routing protocol of choice vs having to rely on the select set most service providers are able to support on their layer 3 MPLS offerings (e.g. OSPF, RIPv2, BGP, etc).

One interesting topic which keeps coming up is how an enterprise can scale a VPLS service globally without routing. There are some customers who are keenly interested in enabling a global switched any to any infrastructure, with the only traffic the Service PRovider seeing at layer 2. All routing is typically handled via separate hardware in these types of designs. There's a great white paper on the subject at VPLS Decisions which explains in detail scaling of VPLS in large networks up to or over 1,000 locations.

From my standpoint, I put it more simply, it's a question of hardware and trust:

1. Do you want the service provider participating in your routing? Can you run or transition to a routing protocol they can support?

2) Does your own infrastructure have the ability to fully route it's own environment or is a shared Layer 3 routed infrastructure better for you given the reductions in processing power it can require?

Consider also what you'll use as a network backbone. It's likely that the backbone will be based off of a DS3 bandwidth network. However, you may scale up to OC3 bandwidth ... or scale down to a series of T1 bandwidth circuits.

There's much to think about if you are considering global connectivity of a network. For free assistance I suggest using the no cost services available at Bandwidth Solution


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Friday, November 07, 2008

When is MPLS the Best Choice For Your Network Backbone?

You have an often confusing menu of choices for your voice/data network today. A hot option for multi-site networks is MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching). Is MPLS the right choice for your business?

MPLS provides for use of short tails into a large network. The tail price being a larger proportion or any connectivity cost. Therefore, MPLS works out very well when compared to long distance point to point links or when connectiong multiple sites.

VPLS the new generation of MPLS enables multi-site to multi-site connectivity similar to having a WAN all on the same LAN subnet. This reduces single points of failure and provides for greater control and facilities the roll out of new services across a WAN as the end user doesn't require any technical knowledge to deploy mult-level QoS and virtual switching between sites. In layer 2 VPLS the network is completely transparent to the end customer.

MPLS usually is a cheap way of connecting several offices point to point for data transfer, and once you pull that one, expanding it to voice is plain and cheap. It all depends what technology you generally use to connect several points together.

MPLS is the best choice when you are running latency sensitive applications over your WAN. Also, if your business has multiple locations, MPLS is a great way to have redundancy built into your WAN. It also doesn't matter if the foundation is T1 bandwidth or DS3 Bandwidth.

MPLS brings the advantages of dedicated links in the cost of shared IP networks, with multiservice capabilities and support for traffic engineering as well as QoS. MPLS also provides faster operation on a shared service provider network by using label switching instead of IP routing table lookup at every hop. You can create both point to point or multipoint VPNs using MPLS.

So the answer is, when you want a single converged last mile (Services-voice/data/video/internet) for multiple locations in a cost lower than dedicated links ..... while having the efficiency as good as Or near to dedicated/TDM/ATM links. Then "MPLS is The Choice."

A couple additional comments based upon my carrier experience. MPLS is appropriate for voice/ data because the technology supports trafic prioritization (QoS). An additional consideration is that most carriers have standardized their engineering and network operations on supporting network MPLS-based VPNs. Consequently, you will be able to negotiate better SLAs from your Service Provider. One should also plan an end-to-end QoS strategy for your applications. Ensure you are aware of the application performance requirements prior to designing your network.

To summarize, the positive attributes of MPLS are the flexibility of access methods and transports supported, the scalability of bandwidth demands, and of course, the QoS and traffic prioritization capabilities.

Please heed a warning about the last mile provider. If you can find one provider to cover all of your locations (including the last mile), then this will cause you a lot less headaches.

For help in finding just the right MPLS solution .... comparing multiple providers including free rate quotes ... I strongly suggest taking advantage of the no cost support provided by MPLS Solution.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

When Does MPLS Make Sense For Your Voice-Data Network?

MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) makes sense in multi-site businesses with a high percentage of the data traffic being proprietary business application traffic. But it's not quite that simple.

My criteria for implementing MPLS vs other options, are:

1. Security
2. Reliability
3. Performance
4. Cost

Of course there are other important factors when choosing the carrier that will provide you a MPLS solution.

Depending on the carrier's implementation, MPLS adds several security benefits:

A. The data is encapsulated in MPLS packets which keeps the data more secure from the rest of the traffic on the Public Internet Backbone.

B. Some Carriers keep the MPLS traffic on a private IP Backbone which is even more secure.

C. The Internet Gateway from the MPLS cloud to the Public Internet, is managed through very high end carrier class Firewall equipment that provides a single point to manage all of your firewall rules consistently applied to all of the sites on your network.

Reliability is generally a lot better on an MPLS network than on some of the alternatives. If you are considering a "Roll Your Own" network, for example, be sure to take into account the management of the network equipment, as well as your disaster recovery options should any of the network equipment fail. The Carrier class equipment used at the Edge routers, Internet Gateway Firewalls, and multiple paths around the cloud offered by MPLS carriers is definitely worth serious consideration.

Performance is a complicated topic. While it is true that, you will probably get more raw bandwidth for your investment with DSL or a Cable connection, one thing you get with a solid MPLS carrier is network engineering help, in planning and implementation of the network. QoS can be complicated to get right depending on the applications run on the WAN, how bandwidth intensive and sensitive to Latency the applications are, and the user load at each location can be difficult to balance correctly. The backbone for MPLS normally runs over a T1 or DS3 bandwidth network.

Cost is always an issue. In General, MPLS is less expensive than Frame Relay (which is no longer even offered by many carriers), and ATM. DSL and Cable will generally provide a lower cost for a given amount of bandwidth, but will be more complicated to manage, and potentially be harder to diagnose problems.

So, does MPLS make sense? Yes it does. BUT .... look a bit deeper to make sure. It's not that simple.

Whatever your need for voice-date networks .... you can get no cost assistance through the services at Bandwidth Solution.


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Monday, November 03, 2008

MPLS For Your Core Network - Good Or Bad Choice?

All you seem to hear about today for core networks is "MPLS". Seems to be the fashionable choice. But is it a good choice or a bad choice?

I think if you are talking about MPLS as a technology for your core network, rather than, say ATM, then the answer is easy. MPLS is the default technology for anything more than point to point networks. It has been developed with Voice/Data convergence in mind.

If you are talking about MPLS as a product offered by carriers to the enterprise, then the answer is the same. It is designed to carry lots of different kinds of service, for lots of customers across a single physical infrastructure. It is designed to minimise latency, minimise fail over times, maximise redundancy and to provide a range of solutions to suit the customer in the most secure way. Also - and this is key - the vendors have been developing equipment for MPLS as a priority for some time. The most sophisticated equipment and fastest interfaces have been developed for MPLS.

This is not because ATM (for example) had reached it's limits, but because they chose to develop MPLS as the best way forward.

In fact, whatever solution a customer chooses for their network needs, they will end up being carried across an MPLS network somewhere, as even leased lines will more than likely be an MPLS VPN.

The cost benefits to carriers are huge, virtualisation is the way to go in the data centre, and it also has tremendous savings in less kit required, less fibre in the ground and so on.

At any rate there are several factors at work here.

The first is bandwidth and performance. The choice of carriers is much more important than the choice of technologies.

IE: a smaller carrier that chose to implement MPLS vs. a carrier with a better network that still has non-MPLS infrastructure. That being said MPLS is usually the best solution so you may not have much of a choice. How many people (myself included) could suggest a second technology that is nearly as good.

Any communication between multiple sites is always going to be more efficient with MPLS. The any-to-any model of full mesh networks versus the point-to-point or point-to-multipoint model of other technologies. Also if your carrier offers SLA's for QOS it will probably use MPLS.

So to summarise - you don't really have a choice as the industry has made the choice for you, and you don't really have any options other than MPLS. Luckily it's a good choice.

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