Virtual private networks (VPNs) have been around for over two decades. Enterprises have often resorted to using a mix of Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) VPNs with premium grade access and IPSec VPNs with lower cost broadband Internet.
These hybrid designs include MPLS primary and IPSec broadband backup designs at a site, or MPLS-IPSec load-sharing configurations at a site, or a combination of both MPLS and IPSec sites as part of one single VPN. SD-WAN (software-defined wide area network) technology further augments these hybrid designs with dynamic path selection across multiple links at a site.
It is beneficial for enterprises to optimise network choices according to individual site needs and build configurations as part of a single VPN on a regional, national or global scale. This can provide a cost-effective VPN that meets a wide range of performance needs while maintaining the required budget.
Cost-performance optimisation is not the only benefit of such a hybrid approach. For an enterprise that is already making use of MPLS VPN, it can deploy SD-WAN at specific locations as needed. What’s more, it also makes life-cycle management easier, seeing as sites can switch from one configuration to another and match the changing needs rather than having to adopt a ‘rip and replace’ approach.
For customers with more uniform configurations across a bigger spectrum of sites, such as restaurant chains and large retailers, the same configurations can be replicated and subsequently changed according to their needs.
VPN has underpinned business site-to-site communications for decades — it’s a well-established part of the IT armoury. Initially seen as something to “grow out of”, a route to upgrade to MPLS, or migrate services to the cloud, as you grow, the reality is that VPN will continue to support business connectivity albeit it not necessarily in the form it’s most known for.
VPN has evolved from a fiddly, unreliable linking of sites via layer 3, through a generation of MPLS as inflexible, static software overlay for multiple sites, all the way to SD-WAN. Today, advanced encapsulation techniques are the foundation for software enhancements such as bi-directional QoS (Quality of service), aggregated bandwidth and instant failover, delivering layer 2 or 3 over any type of connection, public or private.
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