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February 23, 2018
6:12 AM
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VPLS over MPLS Bridges LANs
A great way to interconnect multiple business locations is MPLS VPLS for Virtual Private LAN Service.

By: John Shepler

Nearly every business has its own LAN or Local Area Network based on some combination of wired and wireless Ethernet. For businesses with a single office, everything is self-contained other than a single broadband connection to the Internet. What about businesses with many locations that include branch offices, franchises, warehouses, factories and data centers? Each of those locations also has its own self-contained LAN. The question is how to best connect them together.

Connecting Offices
There are all sorts of schemes used to provide inter-office connectivity, including using the Internet as a VPN or Virtual Private Network. Other companies, seeking more security or higher performance have created their own private networks using dedicated private lines from each location back to headquarters. This is an elegant, but both expensive and management intensive solution. Is there anything better?

MPLS Replaces Proprietary Networks
The introduction of MPLS networks created the opportunity for companies to get out of the proprietary network business and turn that traffic over to a privately run network that could interconnect their many locations in a secure and high performance fashion. There’s a substantial cost savings involved because MPLS networks aren’t dedicated to the traffic of only one customer. The cost of the network is amortized over the entire customer base, reducing the cost for each.

Not The Internet
Isn’t this the same as using the Internet to communicate? Not by a long shot. The Internet is a public resource that allows easy access to anyone and everyone with the modest price of a connection. There are no performance or security guarantees. Even so, for connection to the general public, the Internet is a terrific bargain. It’s just that you may not want your internal company communications on such a public network.

Security and Quality of Service
MPLS networks have inherently better security because they don’t use IP routing in their core. Instead they use a proprietary system called label switching that determines how packets get from one location to another. It’s all very deterministic and programmed by the network operator to ensure that each company’s data is visible only to that company. Resources are managed to ensure a committed level of bandwidth and technical characteristics such as latency, jitter and packet loss.

Supports VoIP and Videoconferencing
It sounds like MPLS networks are ideal for interconnecting business locations. In fact, MPLS networking has been growing rapidly and now includes the ability to connect to sites nationwide and even internationally. The quality of service controls make it particularly well suited to support latency sensitive applications such as VoIP telephony and teleconferencing.

VPLS Internconnects LANs
VPLS is a particular service offered by MPLS networks. It stands for Virtual Private LAN Service. Like any MPLS network, it interconnects two or more locations anywhere served by the network. But VPLS has some unique characteristics. It’s not just a mechanism to transport traffic. It’s a system that interconnects multiple LANs as if they were all part of a single bridged LAN. In other words, two offices on opposites coasts are just as close on the network as if they were right down the hall from each other.

Needs Ethernet Access
With VPLS, companies can truly create virtual organizations that are co-located on the network if not physically. There are a couple of technical requirements that must be met to do this. The virtual LAN depends on everything being connected through layer 2 switching rather than layer 3 routing. That means you’ll need Ethernet connections to the MPLS network. These can be Ethernet over Copper, Fiber, Fixed Wireless, or DS1 (T1) connections as appropriate. VPLS arrangements are also meshed by nature. They operate on an any-to-any basis, just like you’d expect on a LAN.

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