MPLS Compared with Frame Relay and Internet VPN

Internet VPN

With the drop in the cost of Internet bandwidth and VPN hardware, many companies utilize hardware based Internet VPNs for their Wide Area Networks. This historically has been cost effective with satisfactory performance. But as application requirements change, the Internet can become an unsatisfactory medium for your WAN. Applications particularly susceptible to the variation in Internet performance are interactive applications such as ERP, Citrix, RDP, VoIP and video. When these applications come into use, companies realize they need a more robust WAN infrastructure. The issue arise from the lack of quality of service on the Internet. Packet loss and latency can vary depending on your route which can change at any time.

  • Relies on the global internet, which has absolutely no quality of service guarantees.
  • Packet Loss and Latency statistics deteriorate with distance, with greater variability of performance as distance increases.
  • When network is congested, latency and packet loss rise.
  • Frame Relay has no quality of service (QoS) manageability and is largely being replaced by the more cost effective MPLS VPN Solutions.
  • Hardware VPNs are commonly configured as a hub and spoke network.
  • While some limited prioritization can be accomplished with hardware devices, tags are usually removed, limiting effectiveness.
  • Lowest cost approach to WAN, if performance meets your requirements

Frame Relay

  • AT&T was by far the largest Frame Relay provider, with an installed base estimated at $6 billion annually. This number is has almost come to zero, as customers have adopted newer and more cost effective MPLS networks.
  • Frame Relay, until recently, was a networking technology that was the primary service for Wide Area Networks.
  • Relies on the underlying assumption by carriers that not all customers will be using the full bandwidth of their circuits at the same time.
  • Frame Relay uses an over subscription model.
  • Carriers will sell you a CIR or Committed Information Rate on their Frame Relay Network. This rate is the bandwidth you are GUARANTEED by the carrier. For example if you purchase a 256 Kbps CIR from a carrier, all traffic up to that point will be guaranteed to be delivered.
  • You may burst above your purchased CIR but in times of heavy network congestion any packets you send above the CIR will be eligible for discard by the carrier.
  • Frame Relay has no quality of service (QoS) manageability and is largely being replaced by the more cost effective MPLS VPN Solutions.
  • Frame Relay is commonly configured as a hub and spoke network.
  • Frame Relay can run over MPLS to obtain the benefits of traffic prioritization and management.
  • As of Q4 2013, you will be hard pressed to find any users of Frame Relay, since carriers have migrated their customers to MPLS networks.

Why Switch to MPLS?

MPLS is a protocol that uses packet labels to prioritize network packets to optimize network performance.

    If you have Quality of Service (QoS) sensitive applications such as VoIP, video conferencing, SAP, Oracle, Citrix or other real time applications running across your WAN then you should consider MPLS.
  • MPLS is a private networking technology similar to the concept of Frame Relay in that it is delivered in the “cloud”.
  • The primary difference with MPLS is that you can purchase quality of service for applications across your WAN.
  • During the provisioning process the carrier will interview you in order to determine which applications are important to your business, they will then build a QoS template to service these applications on your WAN.
  • These applications will be given priority over all other traffic in times of peak load. While MPLS may not be the least cost solution, it is the ONLY technology that will support QoS.
  • For applications such as Citrix, SAP, Oracle, Siebel, Peoplesoft, VoIP and Video, performance using the QoS capabilities of MPLS can dramatically improve quality and productivity.
  • If an application works well on a Frame Relay, it will work better using MPLS. If an application not performing adequately on your Internet VPN, if the problem is packet loss or latency, MPLS will be the solution.

Do I really need an MPLS network?

We used to advise our clients that an MPLS network was the best solution in nearly every case.  As technology improves, we now offer appliances that take multiple internet access circuits and measures the latency, packet loss and jitter every 20ms to direct your traffic over the best path, based on class of service specifications.  This technology is so robust, that an VoIP call over one internet circuit will not fail if that circuit goes down; provided that you have two or more other internet circuits connected.  While there is a hardware investment, this approach will reduce your monthly recurring costs since you can use regular internet connections, provided that you have at least two at each site.  We would be happy to explain how this works if you contact us.

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