MPLS may sound like it could be dismissed as another forgettable IT acronym, but the technology offers the potential to provide a business with a highly secure, low cost and highly reliable inter-site networking solution.
MPLS provides a secure and resilient private VPN for inter-site connectivity. The technology foregoes the need to purchase and manage multiple firewalls, as your traffic is routed within your own secure virtual private network. Rather than installing a firewall at each location, all that is needed is a router.
Conceived and developed in the late 90s by the Internet Engineering Task Force, MPLS, (Multi-protocol Label Switching) is a network management protocol originally intended to integrate layer 2 information about network links (bandwidth, latency, utilisation) into layer 3 (IP) elements within a particular system.
While traditional IP networks have no means of labelling, categorising or monitoring the packets that traverse them, Multi-Protocol Label Switching networks solve those IP shortcomings, placing labels on IP packets and providing that labelling function. And because it is an overlay protocol it can operate on top of the IP protocol in the same network without interference. MPLS is not designed to replace IP, rather it is designed to add a set of rules to IP so that traffic can be classified, marked and policed.
MPLS-equipped networks use MPLS-aware devices known as Label Edge Routers (LERs), positioned at the network's edges. These devices are designed to inspect IP packets entering the network and add MPLS headers, as well as removing the headers from packets leaving the MPLS network. Inside the boundaries of the MPLS network, devices known as Label Switch Routers (LSRs) look for an MPLS label on each packet that passes through them, looking up and following the instructions contained in those labels, routing them based on a list of instructions.
MPLS allows administrators to define routes known as Label Switched Paths (LSPs) from one LER to another, through a series of LSRS, across the MPLS network. These LSPs are pre-assigned and pre-engineered paths that packets with a certain label should follow.
One of the most obvious advantages of MPLS is that it provides customers with a number of tools for traffic engineering. An MPLS network can offer the same sort of quality of service guarantees that data transport services like Frame Relay or ATM can, without requiring the use of any dedicated lines. Customers, for example, can define an LSP that ensures VoIP traffic will be routed through the most reliable, highest performing sections of the network while less critical traffic, such as email, is sent across the slower sections.
The reason MPLS technology is contributing to the rapid growth of the Virtual Private Networking (VPN) market is that it provides service providers and network operators with a simpler means of adding VPN technology to their portfolios, and a simpler means of provisioning VPNs to their customers. Because MPLS allows service providers to create new VPNs without having to install new hardware, it significantly reduces the cost of implementation, which in turn reduces the overall cost of VPNs. And reduced cost is possibly the largest motivator in the migration from more infrastructure-heavy private networking.
While most of the benefits of MPLS lie on the service provider side of the network, there are results of the MPLS architecture that have direct benefits for end users.
MPLS-based service provider edge equipment is designed to communicate with CPE (Customer Premises Equipment) in a standards-based environment, reducing the need for customers to deploy new equipment, and protecting CPE investments.
Having visibility to the Internet from the core of the network, rather than from the Head Office, gives extra resilience to your Wide Area Network and ensures that your Head Office is not a single point of failure.
More access points to a company’s VPN (Virtual Private Network) means a greater potential security threat and a costly investment in infrastructure. If a business takes the traditional model of achieving inter-site connectivity by using numerous firewalls and IPSEC (Internet Protocol Security) VPNs to create a secure link between its different offices, it can be a costly solution both in terms of infrastructure and IT support.
IPSEC is a good multi-site solution, however, for these growing multi-site companies, it can be incredibly time-consuming to manage with numerous firewalls, multiple gateways to the Internet and browsing traffic from multiple sites. Multiple firewalls are a headache to the IT Manager as they can mean numerous avenues of attack to the company network.
In most Internet security scenarios we would assume that less firewalls means less security however in the case of MPLS, less firewalls actually means greater security. With only a single firewall pair, there is only one gateway onto the MPLS network, meaning only one point of compromise. All the offices connect to a MPLS network which is a private network with one Internet-facing gateway. With a single gateway, security can easily be managed, with all traffic in and out of the network monitored effectively.
Our MPLS service will dramatically reduce network complexity and cost through centralised control. Rather than setting up and managing individual points between each office, we only need to manage the connection your office router and our core network.
This central control effectively reduces the need for trained network professionals within your organisation and provides central management to give you greater control of Internet usage.
Hosted MPLS services offer better performance than traditional VPNs and are far more cost effective. As the intelligence resides in the MPLS network core, there is no need for any expensive VPN appliances to be located on the customer premises. Because hosted MPLS creates a new virtual private network without having to install new hardware, it significantly reduces the cost of implementation, which in turn reduces the overall cost of VPNs.
Despite the obvious advantages of rolling out an MPLS solution, many mid-sized businesses naturally have concerns about the implementation. New IT projects often foster the perception that hidden infrastructure and indirect management costs will arise. So a natural resolution to this would be to consider a hosted MPLS solution.
Deploying MPLS via a managed, hosted model has two immediate advantages for IT managers. Firstly, a reduction in costs – businesses can benefit from the latest technologies without the high cost of ownership and resource associated with maintaining and supporting systems in-house. Secondly, increased security – by connecting to the Internet via our state-of-the-art data centres, businesses automatically have a secure and resilient connection through managed firewall pairs, as well as dedicated resources in place to detect and eliminate security vulnerabilities.
A Vostron Managed MPLS Service also allows you to enjoy the related benefits of dealing with one vendor. Focusing on a single IT vendor allows a company to consolidate its IT spend and develop a higher service relationship with one vendor. The total cost of ownership of the MPLS solution can, therefore, be managed and driven down.SEE WHAT MPLS CAN DO FOR YOUR BUSINESS
We understand all of this information can be confusing, so if you have any questions about MPLS, what it can do for your business, or if you want to talk about any of our other services - simply get in touch via email, chat or a good old fashioned phone call.FIND OUT HOW A MPLS CAN CHANGE THE WAY YOU DO BUSINESS