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1 November 2013 S P E C I A L R E P O R T Defining the Value of MPLS VPNs

2 Table of Contents Introduction... 3 What Are VPNs?... 4 What Are MPLS VPNs?... 5 What Are the Benefits of MPLS VPNs?... 8 How Do MPLS VPNs Support Cloud and Mobile Computing? The Value of MPLS VPNs 2

3 Introduction Multiprotocol label switching, or MPLS, is a networking technology that helps create a virtual private network within your organization. A virtual private network, or VPN, connects your office locations and/or data centers so they can communicate securely as if on a single network. VPNs are an alternative to leasing point-to-point lines, such as T1s between your locations, offering you cost savings and network scalability. But not all VPNs are created equally. Historically companies have built their own VPNs using routers over the public Internet. With added security and encryption this has been an adequate solution and remains so for remote access for telecommuters and road warriors. However, now that companies are moving to cloud and mobile computing, their needs for security and QoS have increased, making MPLS VPNs delivered and in some cases managed by a service provider increasingly attractive. The U.S. managed IP VPN market continues to show a resurgence in growth across all company size and vertical segments, but especially with more medium-sized businesses that are moving away from DIY VPNs, said Nav Chander, research manager, Telecom Services and Network Infrastructure, for IDC in a May 2013 report. Managed IP/MPLS VPNs will also enable enterprises to leverage their VPN service provider to provide secure access to other external cloud-based enterprise and SaaS as enterprises plan to increasingly adopt private cloud-based WAN services and applications in the coming years. The U.S. managed IP VPN market continues to show a resurgence in growth across all company size and vertical segments, but especially with more mediumsized businesses that are moving away from DIY VPNs. IDC s Nav Chander The Value of MPLS VPNs 3

4 What Are VPNs? A virtual private network, or VPN, connects your office locations and/or data centers so they can communicate securely as if on a single network. One way IP VPNs can be built is by placing gateways or routers at each of your locations to create secure tunnels across the public Internet. These Internet-based IP VPNs work across multiple networks. All you need is a broadband Internet connection and a publicly routed IP address. Using your existing Internet connection makes this a cost-effective way to set up a VPN, especially for international or remote locations. But it also means that your network is subject to Internet congestion that can slow your connection. You can configure your routers to add priority tags for real-time traffic, like voice and data, but your ISP may or may not heed these instructions. And, in order to keep data secure as it travels the public Internet, you must properly configure encryption protocols, such as IP-Sec, PPP or SSL. So, while Internet-based IP VPNs take advantage of the Internet s low cost and ubiquity, they also are disadvantaged by the Internet s lack of quality or security. Internet-based IP VPNs usually are self-managed, which can be another advantage if you have the technical expertise in-house. But as more and more sites are added, management complexity grows. For these reasons, companies of all sizes, but especially small and medium businesses, are moving away from do-it-yourself VPNs to more secure, carrier-class and managed options. Typically, that means subscribing to an MPLS-based VPN service. Site-to-Site Internet IP VPN Site-to-Site Connection Network Access Server (NAS) Internet Main Office Branch Offices The Value of MPLS VPNs 4

5 What Are MPLS VPNs? MPLS stands for multiprotocol label switching. Put simply, MPLS enables a service provider to create private paths for your company s traffic within its network. Site-to-Site MPLS VPN Service Provider MPLS Network Internet Customer Edge Routers Provider Edge Routers MPLS VPN Port MPLS VPNs, which use private networks, offer greater levels of security than VPNs that use the public Internet, and encryption can be added to boost protection. But VPNs based on MPLS have the added advantage of supporting quality of service, including the ability to prioritize different types of traffic, such as voice, data or video, by classes of service. The Value of MPLS VPNs 5

6 MPLS is a protocol-independent networking technology that operates between Layers 2 and 3 of the Open Systems Interconnection model, which groups similar communication functions into one of seven logical layers. OSI Reference Model UPPER LAYER TRANSPORT SERVICE APPLICATION LAYER Message format. Human-machine Interfaces PRESENTATION LAYER Coding into 1s and 0s; encryption, compression SESSION LAYER Authentication, permissions, session restoration TRANSPORT LAYER End-to-end error control NETWORK LAYER Network addressing; routing or switching DATA LINK LAYER Error detection, flow control on physical link 2.5 PHYSICAL LAYER Bit stream: physical medium, method of representing bits MPLS Source: International Organization for Standardization Because MPLS essentially resides at Layer 2.5, it can run over existing Layer 2 ATM, Frame Relay and Ethernet networks or over Layer 3 IP networks. As such, MPLS supports two types of VPNs: Layer 3 MPLS IP VPNs, which is what most people mean when referring to MPLS VPNs Layer 2 virtual private LAN services, or VPLS VPLS With VPLS, employees in various office locations appear to be connected to the same Ethernet LAN. This simplifies the topology, which is an advantage if you want to keep routing control while taking advantage of a service provider s infrastructure. Because it requires Ethernet access, VPLS is more difficult to scale, and is often used between critical data center and headquarters sites. The Value of MPLS VPNs 6

7 MPLS IP VPNs MPLS IP VPNs, on the other hand, can be accessed over any connection T1, Ethernet, DSL, etc. making them scalable and ideal for connecting even your branch and small offices. They also take advantage of service provider core routing. And, if you want to turn over management of your premises routers, too, most providers will offer a managed MPLS service option. Each service provider s managed MPLS offering may vary, but may include design, implementation, configuration, monitoring, managing, maintenance and troubleshooting. The Value of MPLS VPNs 7

8 What Are the Benefits of MPLS VPNs? MPLS-based VPNs offers several benefits including network convergence, classes of service, scalability and disaster recovery. Network Convergence Network convergence simply means that voice, data and video traffic travel on the same network. This makes MPLS-based VPNs ideal for multimedia applications like unified communications and collaboration. MPLS Converges Traffic Types VOICE DATA VIDEO Classes of Service While different types of traffic travel over the same network, they can be segregated into classes of service, assigning high priority to real-time traffic such as voice and video, or mission-critical activities, such as credit card processing, but lower priority to data traffic like or Web browsing. MPLS Enables Classes of Service on VPNs Example Configuration Voice traffic receives the HIGHEST PRIORITY Data and video receive the SECOND PRIORITY Internet traffic receives the LOWEST PRIORITY The Value of MPLS VPNs 8

9 Scalability MPLS also offers a fully meshed architecture, meaning each site is connected to every other site with a virtual path. This enables additional benefits including scalability. Adding a new location simply requires the addition of a node on the MPLS network. Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery MPLS also delivers inherent support for disaster recovery, because it s easy to redirect traffic through the network. If fiber is cut, for example, traffic reroutes onto the backup path almost instantaneously. MPLS Enables Fast Reroute City 2 City 2 Physically diverse circuits Backbone Router Backbone Router City 2 City 2 Effects from a fiber cut Backbone Router Backbone Router Active/LIVE Circuit Traffic Flow The Value of MPLS VPNs 9

10 How Do MPLS VPNs Support Cloud and Mobile Computing? If your company implements cloud computing, it will need to ensure all locations have secure connectivity to its data center and each other. With its ability to easily support multipoint fullmesh connectivity, MPLS is well suited to meeting this requirement. If you plan to use a cloud provider or more likely multiple cloud providers they are easily added as another node on the network. (Note: The latest trend is for cloud providers to establish connections to MPLS providers, so depending on your provider, you may have ready access to cloud computing services.) As you move more data to the cloud, security will be critical. MPLS VPNs run on private networks, offering a first layer of protection that can be boosted with added encryption. Security also is a concern if your company supports mobile computing, and particularly if it allows for bring your own device (BYOD). MPLS offers a way to address security concerns by using multi-virtual Routing & Forwarding capability to segment the corporate network, creating a separate network for BYOD devices that does not have access to sensitive information. MPLS also can be paired with IPsec for more cost-effective secure mobile access to the corporate networks. IPSec can provide a secure tunnel to an MPLS provider edge router, offering an economical alternative to using an MPLS access link, the cost for which typically is too high to use to serve just a single end user or a very small office. IPSec VPNs add encryption to a traditional IP Internet connection and may be managed and created by the end customer or the service provider. MPLS VPN With IP VPN for Remote Access CPE IP VPN IPSec Tunnel Service Provider MPLS Network Remote Access Internet MPLS VPN Port Customer Edge Routers Provider Edge Routers The Value of MPLS VPNs 10

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