VIRTUAL private network (VPN) has gone mainstream and multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) is slated to be its lingua franca.
MPLS-based VPN is gaining momentum in the IT world with many telecommunication service providers putting it high on their agenda and big corporations requesting for it. Leading provider of the MPLS VPN solution, Cisco Systems, has noted through its interaction with its partners, local corporations are also starting to specifically request for MPLS when looking for a VPN solution.
There are no surveys for the Malaysian, or Asian market that we can refer to but there is definitely a shift of mindset, Cisco Systems Asia Pacific telco business consultant Brett Waddington said.
He said companies seriously looking for MPLS tend to be international enterprises that have had very high frame-relay costs and are searching for alternative solutions to reduce those costs. The widespread use of Internet protocol (IP) is hastening the demise of frame-relay, which could no longer satisfy the growing requirements from both the technology and business management standpoints.
Every company that runs frame-relay is a potential customer for MPLS. The bigger the corporation, or the more remote sites it has, the more benefits and cost savings it would realise by going MPLS, Waddington said.
MPLS-based VPNs can support an enterprise's basic communication needs today, as well as future value-added applications. They can also create an intranet that links a corporate headquarters to remote offices over a shared, prioritised network and offer a cost-effective alternative to traditional leased-line, asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) and frame-relay technologies.
Extranet VPNs can link an enterprise's network resources with third-party vendors and business partners. MPLS provides the flexible, any-to-any connectivity that links members of the VPN to each other, a requirement for the dynamic nature of extranets.
In addition to improved service quality, a winning point of MPLS-based VPNs is traffic engineering. MPLS can help an organisation squeeze more data into the bandwidth it already has by deploying traffic engineering, which could use the existing bandwidth up to 50% more efficiently, thus postponing or relaxing the need to acquire more bandwidth.
A move to MPLS-based services may help enterprises simplify network management by reducing network complexity, especially for companies that manage their own frame-relay connections.
MPLS-based VPN networks the same level of security as frame-relay or ATM. And a corporation with a network based on MPLS flows, can establish richer policies to create access rules and bandwidth limits for individual flows.
Outsourcing is becoming increasingly popular as corporations seek to reduce cost as well as free up resources to concentrate on their business and core expertise. MPLS offers enterprises the opportunity to outsource many services that currently reside on their corporate networks. Among the services that companies can outsource with MPLS VPN are multicasting and connectivity for remote broadband users, such as travellers, telecommuters, and satellite office workers, regardless of the individual user's access provider.
Managed IP VPN services will yield US$20bil in revenues worldwide by 2006, according to projections by IDC and Ovum. MPLS-based managed services will generate the majority of this revenue at US$14bil, the balance US$6bil to be from IP security (IPSec)-based VPN managed services.
Waddington cautioned companies to consider MPLS in the context of an overall strategic network plan. Because the technology is young, the enterprise shopping for MPLS-based VPN services should make sure a potential service provider has MPLS connectivity in every site it does business.
There are many different types of VPNs. MPLS is just one of them. Determine your business requirements every company has different requirements, and find the service provider that can meet those requirements, he said.
He added that corporations could, via Cisco's website, find service providers recommended by Cisco.
Waddington noted that at the end of the day, enterprises do not really care about MPLS.
MPLS doesn't mean anything to the enterprise, just another acronym from an industry that is full of acronyms. All the enterprise wants is the guarantee that the system they adopt keeps the business running and the IT manager can sleep at night. MPLS has the potential to increase the corporation's capacity to provide better service, he said.
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