Deploying the Right Network Solution in the New Year
Businesses today are requiring network solutions that enable flexible, secure, high-performance connectivity. As organizations continue to adopt more third-platform technologies, such as cloud-based applications, big data, and analytics, increased strain is put on their networks. As a result, organizations are looking to deploy more advanced network solutions. However, before choosing which solution is the most suitable, businesses need to analyze several aspects, including the site distribution and the comparison of the feature sets for each option in order to make the appropriate decision.
When conducting an internal audit on which solution works best within an office environment, several factors need to be considered. One of the most important is the expertise on the IT team and the relationships with strategic partners. The risk of an incorrect implementation can open the business up to new vulnerabilities. Therefore, prior to picking the right solution, companies should also evaluate their internal abilities and vet experienced providers who can help with setup.
Below are three network solutions businesses are turning to improve performance.
MPLS stands for Multi-Protocol Label Switching. It is a network function where the user has full control over traffic engineering. The first MPLS RFCs had its release in 2001 so it has been around for some time and has proven reliable. An MPLS used in parallel with a broadband link ensures quality of service for real-time traffic like voice and video. With the labeling technology of MPLS, the speed of looking up designations and routing is very fast. The network assigns priorities to different packets based on what labels say about that packet. Therefore, packets with greater priority are given more bandwidth allocation. If a company has a lot of mission-critical, real-time applications running on the WAN, MPLS is a great option. However, MPLS circuits are costly for organizations that have many different locations, it doesn’t make sense to have an MPLS at each. Also, with consumers increasingly interested in bandwidth-hogging multimedia content, such as videos and augmented reality, the per-megabit cost that MPLS demands can be out of reach. MPLS does not offer built-in data protection either and if incorrectly implemented, can open the network to weaknesses.
VPLS, or Virtual Private LAN Service, is an Ethernet-based service that supports geographically distributed Ethernet LANS. It uses MPLS as the backbone network to transport the packets while keeping the interface at the enterprise appearing as a national Ethernet. It supports most connectivity types, including point-to-point, point-to-multipoint, multi-point-to-point, and more. When users log in to the VPLS, they are provided with the features of a standard LAN connection, as a VPN is used to create and manage connections and to move subscriber data within the network. The locations appear to be on the same Ethernet LAN even though the packet readers use the service provider’s MPLS network. This solution works well for certain sites, but it does not scale well. The Ethernet board consumes bandwidth on the network, which is not mitigated by buying higher bandwidth. If an organization is looking to scale to multiple sites, it’s not the best option. This can be seen as a simple solution, but it offers the smallest growth potential.
Software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs) are gaining serious traction and provide some great benefits to businesses. In fact, a recent market study projects a 200% growth based on survey results that indicated one in five respondents plan to deploy SD-WAN in the next 12 months, while one in 10 have already deployed an SD-WAN solution. By automating network deployment and management, SD-WAN offers enhanced performance, accelerated service delivery, and improved availability at a low cost of ownership. The plug-and-play concept of the Edge device and point-and-click provisioning of the technology are tremendous advantages. An SD-WAN can integrate into an existing WAN and can support MPLS as well as hybrid WANs, delivering improvements to any network infrastructure. With SD-WAN everything is centralized and GUI based. Unlike MPLS, SD-WAN allows users to easily upgrade by adding new links without changing the infrastructure or network.
Above all, the primary advantage of SD-WAN is security. Many companies prefer network architecture that integrate security, policy, and orchestration, and SD-WAN covers those bases by ensuring secure connectivity. Organizations benefit with end-to-end encryption across the entire network. As they look to better connect their remote and branch office employees and provide enhanced network services and cloud-based unified communications, the popularity of SD-WAN will only continue to grow.
There are numerous tools to improve network performance as we enter into 2018. Organizations need to evaluate their circumstances and the advantages of each to determine which solution is right for them. MPLS, VPLS, and SD-WAN technologies enable businesses to optimize cost and performance and should certainly be considered. Each option should be thoroughly reviewed with the essential needs for each particular business environment kept in mind. However, as we move towards more real-time services and continue to face new security challenges, the benefits of SD-WAN are hard to deny.