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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