The networks of the future are hybrid
While conventional VPN (virtual private network) connections were enough to give employees access to business applications at the company's data center until recently, current trends 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, requiring the use of hybrid networks consisting of MPLS and Internet lines.
Data transmission options
Employees have a number of options 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 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 predict that the market for MPLS VPN services will grow by 8.2 percent annually between 2014 and 2020.
Trends to 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 put a heavy load 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: user expect excellent connectivity everywhere, all the time. MPLS technology can provide this, but standard Internet lines are often sufficient and less expensive. In addition, companies are increasingly using public cloud computing, which means network data is increasingly being transmitted over the public Internet. To cut costs, traffic offloading solutions are an increasing focus. 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.
Setup and benefits of hybrid networks
Three factors are crucial when setting up hybrid networks.
- Internet VPN and IPSec gateways: the IPSec tunnels must feed into a significantly increased number of IPSec gateways
- Offloading: transport of non-time-critical data through the Internet VPN
- Cloud connector: the automated connection between customer VPN and cloud service provider to guarantee the best possible quality and short implementation times
The correct setup and use of hybrid networks have many advantages. Significant cost savings and performance increases can be achieved through offloading specific data traffic to less expensive IPSec Internet links. In addition, hybrid networks give companies additional possibilities for implementing their security policies consistently. They can ensure that users are subject to the same policies and protective measures everywhere – whether they are using a cloud service or are accessing the network on the go, with a mobile device. They also open the full potential of cloud environments – from private cloud to the parallel use of various public clouds.