MPLS VPN Access Connections There are numerous options for connecting each site to an MPLS network, but some offer more advantages.
By: John Shepler
You’re convinced that an MPLS networking solution is the answer to connecting your geographically diverse business locations. But just how are you going to connect to the MPLS cloud from all those locations?
T1 Line Solutions
What you need is individual access networks for each location that will connect to the ingress tag router serving that geographical area. Right now the most popular connection technology is the venerable T1 line. Why? Because T1 lines are almost universally available, highly reliable, private, symmetrical, and relatively high bandwidth. Relatively means 1.5 Mbps in both the upload and download directions. For many businesses that exchange data files and even some voice traffic, this may be enough line speed. That’s especially true for branch offices and retail locations that simply need to connect to headquarters. But some applications may be limited by a 1.5 Mbps ceiling.
Higher Bandwidth From Line Bonding
The next thing you can do is take advantage of T1 bonding to increase access line speed. T1 lines are readily combined, or bonded, to double, triple or otherwise expand bandwidth. There’s a practical limit of around 10 or 12 Mbps for this approach, but that can be more than adequate for many needs. Even video and medical image transmission can get by with this level of bandwidth as long as demands aren’t too high.
What if you need higher bandwidth levels to access your MPLS network? DS3 is still a good intermediate level solution at 45 Mbps. It’s a mature technology and available in many areas, no not nearly as prolific as T1 when you get beyond the metropolitan and suburban cores.
Metro Ethernet Advantages
How about Ethernet as an access solution? Metro and Carrier Ethernet services are highly popular for a number of reasons. First, costs are often lower and sometimes much lower than traditional last mile connections for the amount of bandwidth you are ordering. For instance, it is not uncommon to get 3 Mbps Ethernet service for the same price as a 1.5 Mbps T1 line. 10 Mbps Ethernet is probably the most popular choice for new connections. It is priced attractively and available in most metro areas.
Another feature of Ethernet access services are that they are readily scalable up to the capability of the installed port. You may well start out at 3 Mbps but then find you need to double or triple that as business activity picks up at a particular location. No problem. A simple phone call to your service provider may be all you need to get that location upgraded. That can happen rapidly and independently of connection speeds at other locations.
Ethernet and MPLS Are Made For Each Other
If you are originating and terminating Ethernet packets, it only makes sense to use Ethernet connections to access the MPLS network. The network itself can easily transport Ethernet as well as other protocols. This gives you the option to keep everything in the Ethernet protocol and perhaps even create a multi-location LAN for ease of network management.
Copper or Fiber?
Higher bandwidth access connections, such as DS3 or Fast Ethernet, require fiber optic connections. With your building lit for fiber, you may be able to scale your bandwidth up to OC3, OC12, or OC48 SONET levels or GigE and 10 GigE Ethernet.
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