Thursday, March 11, 2010

Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) …. The Basics

Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) …. The Basics

MPLS is the protocol technology used by businesses and organizations to build Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are provided by telecommunications/service provider companies …. e.g. Verizon, AT&T and BT. MPLS enables organizations to use a shared (virtual) data communications network rather than building its own private point-to-point data communications network using carriers relatively expensive leased line services.

MPLS is arguably one of the best standards to come out of the IETF. Small to large organizations around the globe have deployed MPLS in their networks because of the cost-effectiveness, flexibility, and scalability inherent in it. When you consider the challenge, risk and cost of serving more users in remote locations or branch offices, with an increasing number of devices for connectivity, and the expectation of delivering business-class voice as an application, MPLS is the answer. It's often thought of as the super smart traffic engineer controlling at the packet level.

This matrix compares MPLS VPN to traditional frame relay and IPSec VPN in an easily digestible way:

Comparing MPLS To VPN To Frame Relay

The cost of an MPLS-based VPN is based on three factors ….

1. Data network port speed i.e. how fast the data enters/exits the service providers network

2. Access type i.e. technology and speed between the customer site and service providers network (POP)

3. Relative priority and criticality of the business application using the network

Importantly, an MPLS network avoids having to connect every site to every other site …. E.g. N x N connections. Instead every site connects to the service provider’s network at Points-of-Presence (Pops) …. making a solution more cost efficient and more reliable.

The factors that decide the suitability include ….

• Number of sites
• Site locations; e.g. local area, in-country, worldwide
• Bandwidth required; e.g. sub-2Mbps, 2Mbps, 10Mbps, 100Mbps, 1Gbps
• Data Centre location(s)
• Minimum Performance requirements; e.g. end-to-end delay, packet loss
• Availability (reliability) of service defined by Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
• Application types and requirements; e.g. SAP, Siebel, email, intranet, telephony (see below)
• Cost; access, speed, customer-edge (CE) routers

Un-avoidably some sites will require dedicated point-to-point connects e.g. high-speed connections between data-centres. Also, where a local telecommunications company has a high-speed service it can often make sense to connect local sites together to form a MAN (Metropolitan Area Network). Therefore a solution often consists of MPLS and various point-to-point services.

Telephony over MPLS-based VPNs …. Most multinational companies will place significant numbers of telephone calls between their own offices. Each and every telephone call will incur a local, national or international call charge normally based on distance, duration and time-of-day. Accumulated, these telephone calls are often a significant cost to the business but essential to doing business. Conversely an MPLS-based VPN has a fixed cost however much the network is used and the distance between users. Global Voice Networking provides a Voice VPN service to exploit the MPLS model without incurring large upfront voice platform upgrade costs.

Now that you have the basics ….. for help deciding the best MPLS configuration and most cost effective provider of that solution ..… I strongly recommend the free assistance available from MPLS Network Solution

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