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Issue of June 2003 
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Vendor Voice: MPLS VPNs
Leverage on the benefits of MPLS VPN

Any organization looking for a highly secure, low-cost, high bandwidth, robust networking solution for internetworking will immensely benefit from MPLS VPN. by Vinod Chandran

In the previous article I wrote about how MPLS makes for a better VPN. This time I'll write about the benefits and services of MPLS VPNs.

The MPLS VPN provides a low-cost, highly secure and highly reliable enterprise networking solution. Enterprises can streamline their operations across the country, and enhance their business activity using this network. ERP solutions that are popular with enterprises, can easily run over the MPLS VPN network, interconnecting the various branch offices, dealers and factories—with the main office being almost anywhere in the country. Being fully deployed on an optical fiber backbone, this network is secure and offers lots of bandwidth, making the network scalable. Therefore, users of this network can choose to upgrade their network to higher bandwidth as and when required.

In effect, any organization looking for a highly secure, low-cost, high bandwidth, robust networking solution for internetworking between various subunits will immensely benefit from this cutting edge technology.

What are the services possible?
The MPLS VPN network provides a common infrastructure for carrying a wide range of services. Some of the most popular services include:

Multimedia Services: It is possible to distribute voice, video and data across the MPLS VPN network, just as it's done in a LAN environment. This service facilitates the exchange of information rapidly between the various sections of the organization.

Intra Office Voice Calls: The MPLS VPN network is capable of carrying voice calls. It gives high priority for voice thus ensuring QoS (Quality of service). This presents huge savings for a company, especially if the volume of intra-office calls is high.

VoIP: The MPLS VPN network can carry VoIP traffic, which may also include the service providers' VoIP traffic.

Video Conferencing: The MPLS VPN network enables users to set up video conferencing with certain equipment. This service is especially popular among enterprises as it saves time and travel costs. Universities can run a virtual campus through interactive video sessions. Interconnection among Universities can greatly advance the cause of research and development, as well as academic progress.

Data Transfer: High-speed data transfer is possible across this network. Since this is a dedicated network, the delay is non-perceptible and error free. This is an ideal solution to meet all the data transfer requirements of any organization.

E-mail: By setting up e-mail servers across their Internet, companies can transfer mail using the MPLS VPN network. This eliminates the need for any other type of official correspondence, while at the same time ensuring prompt delivery of information which greatly enhances the speed and efficiency of workflow within an organization.

ERP: Many companies use ERP solutions for online business transactions with peer companies, dealers, customers, branch offices, factories etc. Working online in this manner requires highly robust and congestion free networks, which is made possible by MPLS VPN networks of BSNL.

Access VPN: Employees, while on the move, may require to be constantly in touch with their organization's database for critical information, including product catalogue, pricing, marketing material, inventory check etc. Such users can access their MPLS VPN network through a dial-up Internet account, irrespective of their location.

Intranet: There is hardly any organization which does not have its own intranet for work flow management and for meeting their information requirements. Such intranet solutions can be run across the MPLS VPN network thus enabling integration of operations across the country.

Extranet: Companies may prefer to exchange information with other similar companies to speed up business transactions. The MPLS VPN network is capable of providing the extranet facility by interconnecting the VPNs, depending on the customer's requirement.

Internet: Customers preferring a common infrastructure for intranet and Internet access can have access to the Internet via the MPLS VPN network. However, this will be only according to the customer's preference.

Multicast: One of the important new features that MPLS VPN offers is multicasting. This is especially useful for applications such as video conferencing and customer specific broadcasting.

Let's suppose multiple customers at Chennai need to view a video clip being transmitted from New Delhi. With multicast it is possible to send a single signal over a long distance, which is replicated at the destination for multiple viewers. So after reaching Chennai, the signal is replicated into multiple signals for further transmission to specific customers. This saves bandwidth as multiple transmissions of the same video need not be sent from the source. Moreover, customers can join and leave the multicast group as they please. This solution is especially useful for services like Video on demand.

What are the benefits?
The MPLS VPN network reduces network complexity and cost. Rather than setting up and managing individual points between each office, customers need to provide only one connection from their office router to the service provider edge router.

Further, the interconnections are managed by the service provider. Fully managed services are also possible using a VPN network. This is called Layer 3 Service. Here the service provider manages the customer end router, thus removing the need for trained manpower, which is an added expense for the customer.

The MPLS VPN network also provides Layer 2 Service, which is almost like the physical leased line. This may be preferred by enterprises who don't want to outsource the management of their network. Moreover, the MPLS VPN network is also capable of handling the encryption of data. The customer is free to use encryption techniques such as Public Key/Private Key encryption, IPsec encryption etc.

The writer is DGM, BSNL

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