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What are the benefits of MPLS VPN/VPLS connections?

Telecom networking expert Ivan Pepelnjak breaks down the speed, bandwidth and security benefits of moving from a simple cable Internet connection to an MPLS VPN or VPLS connection.

We just migrated to a new parent company's domain and are on their exchange, updating and moving domain data back and forth. We're upgrading to a 50/10mps cable line, but are getting some pressure to spend a lot of additional money for a MPLS line.

What are the speed benefits of that type of connection, and how does the speed differ from a "regular" ISP connection? (NOTE: We don't use VoIP or utilize any video conferencing services here.)

The "regular" ISP connection you refer to is probably a simple connection to the Internet. Usually, it has no end-to-end Quality of Service (QoS) guarantees—the bandwidth quoted in the ads and on websites is the bandwidth toward the next-hop router, not the end-to-end bandwidth between your sites.

If you connect to the Internet, you're also exposed to all sorts of third-party attacks, as anyone from anywhere in the world can try to get into your router or your LAN. That mandates using a reasonably well-configured firewall, which increases your costs yet again. You could run the firewall functionality on a router, but you'd usually need additional software licenses to do so.

An "MPLS line" is either a VPLS connection, sometimes known as Carrier Ethernet service, or a Layer 3 MPLS VPN connection. In both cases, the service provider should provide end-to-end QoS guarantees (including sustained and burst traffic rate between your sites) as well as total isolation from the rest of the world. Since you're connecting your gear to a (virtually) isolated networking infrastructure, your security needs are way lower, allowing you to use simpler and cheaper devices at your sites.

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This was last published in May 2011

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