MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) is a high performance mechanism commonly used in wide area networks. Taking the benefits of frame relay and ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) technologies and adding innovations of its own, MPLS WANs work with existing IP routing protocols. MPLS is commonly deployed to connect thousands of locations over private networks.
With networks of this size, bandwidth and performance issues can and do occur. Other issues with MPLS include cost and the time it takes to install across a large region. Despite some of these disadvantages, MPLS is a tried-and-true technology, and many IT managers aren’t ready to abandon it. Meanwhile newer technologies such as IP acceleration, cloud-based WAN services, and software as a service have emerged. While it’s understandable that enterprises are reluctant to ditch their existing MPLS networks completely, they could take a hybrid approach.
For example, regional MPLS WANs that support VoIP and videoconferencing could be supplemented with IP acceleration and WAN optimization as a service used between regions. Similarly, it’s possible to use MPLS networks for specific business applications along with cloud-based networking as a service solutions for other bandwidth-intensive applications.
One example is to use a WAN optimization as a service in conjunction with MPLS. WAN optimization as a service involves connecting wide area networks to highly optimized “points of presence” (POPs) which are maintained by the service provider. Like other “as a service” services, customers are able to take advantage of the service provider’s resources as a service rather than having to invest in the hardware and software on their own. In addition to avoiding upfront capital expenses, customers do not need to support these optimized WANs because the service provider takes care of all of the behind-the-scenes support work.
What does such a service optimize? It depends on the service provider. However, you can expect a cloud-based wide area network virtualization and optimization service to optimize TCP/IP traffic, Quality of Service (QoS) monitoring, compression, de-duplication, and other complexities typically involved in wide area networking.
Another option involves IP acceleration for applications. Service providers often offer Web-based applications as a service, and now it’s possible for them to host legacy apps as a service using IP acceleration. With this option, instead of network users accessing the enterprise’s applications from an on-premises server, they access it from the service provider’s optimized network. IP acceleration allows for faster response times because the optimized network finds the fastest routes possible. This results in reduced latency issues and improved availability – and it reduces the need for enterprises to build and support their own data centers.
By blending MPLS with cloud-based WAN services in such a manner, it becomes possible to reduce MPLS bandwidth costs and gain access to more bandwidth at the same time. With IP acceleration added to the mix, users gain faster access to applications. Moving to an optimized, cloud-based WAN doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing solution. By taking a hybrid approach, you can leverage your existing technologies and gain the benefits of emerging ones at a potentially lower cost overall.