It’s very tempting for us to take the promises of the internet at face value and assume that lower costs and more flexibility await everyone. When the pressure is on to save costs, IT is often looked at as an area in which big savings can be made. Savings which can then be ploughed back into innovation and funding digital transformation projects.
These combined pressures can push businesses into signing up for what are effectively consumer services. The upside of taking the consumer route is that there are some really cheap options out there, with organisations seeing savings of up to 40 per cent on their current expenditure. Many services, however, aren’t secured with service level agreements (SLAs), which leaves businesses in the lurch when their internet connection goes down.
Unlike in Star Wars, there is no dark side or light side to align yourself to when it comes to the battle for connectivity. One solution is not necessarily better than the other — you need to think about what’s right for each critical site. Selecting the wrong solution can add a great deal of risk to your business.
Being able to deploy various connectivity solutions with different performance, resilience, and delivery guarantees — all based on business needs — is key to the enterprise. And the ability to manage those multiple solutions as a single global service is an important differentiator when choosing suppliers.
The question you should be asking yourself is ‘which sites are critical in terms of connectivity?’
For some, data centres will be the crown jewels. For others, it might be manufacturing plants. Whatever the answer, it should determine what flavour of network connectivity you choose.
Opting for consumer broadband may be fine for a handful of people operating in a nine-to-five office. But using consumer broadband to connect your regional office might not be such a smart move. In at least one real-life example that I’m aware of, a company with no SLAs lost its connectivity, and it took a week before the building was up and running again. Really, to assure resilience, the business should have had two circuits from two internet service providers, so that it had a backup in case of anything going wrong.
Typically, an enterprise’s critical sites include a mix of locations that house crucial applications, key sites in the provision of the enterprise’s product, and large personnel buildings/campuses. Providing these sites with rock-solid connectivity that minimises the risk of isolation gives the stable core of IT needed to run a business.
This is where MPLS comes back into the picture.
The fact that we can use new technologies now, doesn’t mean we need to completely throw out older ones. By combining MPLS with new services like SD-WAN, your solution can perform much better.
To deliver the level of reliability required for critical sites, dedicated access is required to ensure service diversity across the solution. Diversity begins with separate duct access into the critical location, allowing separate cable/fibre/equipment feeds from multiple points of presence, from multiple providers. This ensures that a physical breach of the path (cutting the cable or damage from fire or flood), or a failure in the provider’s high-order network does not impact all connectivity to the site.
Connecting those diverse paths into geographically separate local nodes of a Global MPLS network provides that next level of diversity and connectivity needed to ensure delivery. The MPLS service provides the ability for traffic at the IP layer to utilise the diverse connections into a site to guarantee the delivery of the service.
Class of Service markings are then used at a packet level to prioritise traffic types over that infrastructure to align with the performance attributes of the key applications.
With your critical sites connected in this manner, you have mitigated the key factors of failure by ensuring diversity in the traffic path between your critical sites.
Sometimes, the older methods are still the best.
Once you’ve secured your critical sites with a defined infrastructure network — like MPLS, with guaranteed delivery, reliability, class of service — you can build up a hybrid position using internet connectivity to service other, less critical, sites.
The key for a seamless service is that these less critical sites have a solution to get them into the MPLS network regionally, allowing them to consume business applications in a resilient manner.