Gopal Govinder
Gopal Govinder Executive Head: Business Solutions VPN

Anyone who has ever seen The Matrix knows how well technology can evolve.

Unlike the way technology tries to take over the human race in the movie, evolution means that we have more options to choose from when contemplating our Wide Area Network (WAN) design. Most wide area networks today actually consist of a combination of multiple technologies.

The first decision, and in many cases the easiest one, is whether to build your own physical network infrastructure or to use a managed service provider with the existing infrastructure in place. The regulatory environment has changed in South Africa, allowing many companies to provision their own infrastructure. But building your own private network is complex and comes at a high price.

Most companies today choose to go the Virtual Private Network (VPN) route and rely on wide area network service providers with existing infrastructure to provide and manage their corporate networks. One of these VPN options to consider is MPLS (MultiProtocol Label Switching).

So to answer the question: No, MPLS VPN is definitely not dead. It is alive and kicking and still thriving in many environments. The difference is that MPLS VPN has become a tool in an ever-growing basket of available options.

Why choose MPLS VPN?

With the growing number of available network options, it has become even more important to understand your requirements in greater detail to ensure you are using the tool that is the best fit for your requirements.

In its simplest form, MPLS VPN is an available mechanism for routing traffic, but it comes with its own specific benefits. These benefits include:

High performance: In an MPLS VPN network, routing is based on shorter labels which enhance performance to some extent but, more than that, the combination of the benefits often results in MPLS VPN being the protocol of choice for business networks with a high-performance requirement.

Any-to-any connectivity: Also known as a mesh network topology . It allows any site on the network to connect directly, dynamically and non-hierarchically to as many other nodes as possible. This helps improve aspects like voice and video traffic between sites and can help reduce costs when designing your WAN.

QoS support: Arguably the greatest benefit of MPLS VPN is the way you can manage your network traffic using a combination of Class of Service (CoS) and Quality of Service (QoS). MPLS VPN supports anything from basic traffic management to very complex traffic management policies. Getting your traffic management right can also save you money on expensive last mile connections.

Scalability: MPLS VPN allows you to scale easily and cost-effectively. Starting off from the most basic environment, MPLS VPN allows you to increase the complexity of your network as your business requirements expand. Due to the mesh topology, it’s easy to add sites to the network with less hardware investment.

Security: MPLS VPN provides some security benefits by “hiding” components of your WAN, making it difficult to identify and access devices from outside your specific network. MPLS VPN does not, by default, provide any advanced security such as encryption. Where required, additional security can be implemented on the MPLS VPN network.

Improved uptime: The way that MPLS VPN deals with routing protocol updates makes it ideal in an environment where sites may be running multiple links and load sharing or where you might have a passive back-up link that is only active when the primary link fails.

Features and benefits can be articulated at length, but the ultimate measure of success is the user experience. This can only be accomplished through an in-depth understanding of expectations and, more often than not, helping to adjust expectations based on successfully meeting multiple complex requirements.

To find out more on the state of MPLS VPN and other connectivity solutions, get in touch with an IS expert.

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