Until recently, conventional VPN (virtual private network) connections were sufficient enough to give employees access to business applications at the company's data center. Current trends, however, point to a different scenario: the explosive growth and increasing mobility of data traffic, combined with the increasing variety of clouds and apps, are taking conventional networks to their limits. This requires the use of hybrid networks consisting of MPLS and Internet lines.
Data transmission options
Employees have a number of options at their disposal for accessing business applications. One professional method is to connect locations through MPLS VPN (also called MPLS IP VPN). In this approach, data traffic does not use the public Internet, but instead works with an especially secure, high-performance IP network with guaranteed transmission quality. MPLS VPN solutions aren't just flexible and reliable, but also feature numerous monitoring options. As such, market studies predict that they will increase in popularity: the enterprise consultants from Grand View Research
estimate that the market for MPLS VPN services will grow by 8.2 percent annually between 2014 and 2020.
Trend towards hybrid networks
The rapid growth of data traffic is putting an increasing strain on conventional networks. The Cisco Visual Networking Index
™ predicts that IP traffic will double between 2016 and 2019. This means annual global IP traffic will pass the two zettabyte mark by 2019. Factors in this growth include desktop videoconferencing, IP telephony and the increasing popularity of HD video. Companies want to give their employees access to these modern communication resources, of course, but these high-bandwidth apps are placing a strain on the IP VPN infrastructure, hindering access to mission-critical applications.
The Cisco Visual Networking Index
™ makes it clear that worldwide mobile data traffic will grow three times as fast as stationary IP traffic in the next three years. Many companies also support the BYOD (bring your own device) concept, which in turn increases demands for additional features for mobile devices, such as the automatic provisioning and encryption of mission-critical data. However, enabling access to business applications through mobile devices via MPLS VPN can be critical. As a result, companies are increasingly betting on a combination of "cloud first" and "mobile first" strategies and are using cloud-based applications such as Office 365.
As mobile devices continue to increase in popularity and cloud computing offers greater convenience, users want to have more than just the monolithic business applications their IT departments provide. Today's network users are IT consumers who install the applications and want to use them both at home and at work. This increasing trend toward consumerization is transforming the IT world, requiring versatile resources that have to be managed, maintained and protected effectively. In turn, this also impacts the structure of the network: the wide diversity of applications leads to different forms of data traffic, each routed to different targets. Despite this, user expect performance to remain stable and constant at all times.
New demands – new solutions
Networks are being used in new ways: users expect excellent connectivity everywhere, all the time. MPLS technology can provide this, but standard Internet lines are often sufficient. In addition, companies are increasingly using public cloud computing. Hence, network data is increasingly being transmitted over the public Internet. To cut costs, traffic offloading solutions are an increasing. These solutions make it possible to use free capacities from Internet backup bandwidth in regular operations. A secure Internet link is configured as an additional, permanent transmission channel and used for applications with lower communications demands, for backup cases and to smooth peak loads. This enables the cost-optimized utilization of existing resources. Therefore, we will see the increasing deployment of hybrid networks in future, consisting of MPLS (multi-protocol label switching) and Internet VPN.
Setting up hybrid networks
Three factors are crucial when setting up hybrid networks:
- Internet VPN and IPSec gateways: Optimal networking (reduction of latency times, data throughput and IP packet losses) through a high number and geographical distribution of IPSec gateways
- Offloading: transport of non-critical data through the internet VPN
- Cloud connectivity: connection between customer VPN and cloud service provider via MPLS, Ethernet, or internet depending on requirements
Connectivity to public and private clouds based on requirements
Cloud connectivity as the third factor is a challenge for network administrators, especially when the company is pursuing a cloud strategy. Depending on the cloud type and application, the connection must meet the respective requirements, such as short latencies for IP telephony or rapid integration of a new public cloud service. For that reason, companies need the right path to the cloud for every usage profile: through fast MPLS, exclusive Ethernet, or encrypted via the public internet.
When it comes to public cloud services, high-performance MPLS connections are increasingly chosen, because multimedia applications, such as video conferencing, require higher transmission quality than the internet offers. The challenge: cloud providers each use proprietary interfaces for connecting the company network. The processes, such as ensuring the SLAs, are also different. This problem is solved by provider-specific preconfigured gateways.