Through Hugo Boucher Piat
Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) is a recent technology used to transmit data between two locations. MPLS achieves this with greater speed and consistency than conventional networking methods.
MPLS makes better use of the existing network infrastructure, typically requiring only one new link to configure for implementation. However, the cost associated with this technique is proportional to its added value.
In this article, we describe what MPLS networking entails and the value that this networking technique offers to corporate users in China.
What is MPLS?
The conventional networking method used by most businesses is Internet Protocol (IP) networking. The IP method involves an address (the IP address) as the only known information to direct data from point A to point B. It is unlikely that this data will travel directly to the address, but rather through multiple networks when transferring. transmission.
A suitable analogy is that of a product purchased from Amazon or Taobao. If you buy a product on one of these platforms, you can use a function to track the delivery status of the package. When you track the package from the source to your address, the package goes through a series of shorter networks, such as logistics company, customs checks, etc., which make up the larger network. Finally, your package arrives at the final destination.
Data travels much the same way, except that these logistics and checkpoints are replaced by data paths (such as cables) and routing hubs, which connect the paths together. Along the way, this data competes with other data on these networks. This competing network traffic can affect data quality by delaying it, just as a traffic jam would delay a logistics truck.
Unlike this standard method, the MPLS networking technique essentially provides a custom network for data transit. A label is attached to the data, which details a predetermined path for the data to follow to the final address.
This method takes into account potential network traffic problems, resulting in more stable and consistent data transmission. Going back to the delivery logistics analogy above, this would be tantamount to having your own dedicated service that bypasses road traffic and the checkpoints that standard packages must pass through.
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MPLS provides increased network stability
MPLS technology can remedy the problems associated with network delays, and many others, by dedicating a network to data communications. MPLS offers three applications to achieve this.
Traffic Engineering (TE)
Traffic engineering refers to the concept mentioned above, where the data path is customized to take advantage of the most efficient paths. Well-designed traffic leads to more stable connections and higher speeds than relying on standard internet, which is less predictable.
Example: If you make a phone call on a regular cellular network, or even Skype, and that call fails to connect, it is the result of heavy congestion.
Quality of service (QoS)
Quality of service prioritizes tasks that are important to a company’s operations.
Example: If lag-free video conferencing with customers is a key function for a business, it can be assigned with the highest priority. Then, other data vying for bandwidth will not be able to compete with that bandwidth allocated for videoconferencing.
Virtual private networks (VPN)
A virtual private network secures data by encryption. This is not an automatic feature of MPLS; it must be implemented in addition to MPLS.
Example: An MPLS network can still be tricked by computers acting as a node in the network under certain circumstances. For this reason, a VPN is recommended for highly sensitive data networks.
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Common types of data that would benefit from an MPLS network include:
- Audio data (e.g. VoIP calls)
- Video data (for example, video calling and conference software)
- Business applications (for example, ERP systems)
Audio and video data tend to consume greater amounts of bandwidth. Such data also requires low latency. This means that the time between data leaving the sender and reaching the recipient should be as short as possible. The implementation of an MPLS network aims to offer a lower latency than that of standard networks.
Alternatively, if an ERP system takes priority over your business operations, it can take priority over other data and be allocated with the necessary bandwidth.
In short, key functions of your business come first, as opposed to a standard internet connection where all data is equal and has to queue in internet traffic.
Cost of implementing MPLS
Keep in mind that MPLS networking is a technique. Therefore, the associated costs are related to the use of a provider’s network. There is no cost associated with infrastructure purchases, such as routers, cabling, etc.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in first-tier cities, such as Beijing, Shenzhen, and Shanghai, tend to offer relatively lower prices than second- and third-tier city providers for MPLS networks. ISPs include China Telecom and China Unicom, which outsource their bandwidth to providers who then provide MPLS service to customers.
Some providers may have their own infrastructure or a dedicated ocean cable, both of which contribute to a more stable service. These two factors are ideal and key considerations when selecting a supplier.
A 4 Mbps (megabits per second) MPLS link in a first-rate city would cost between $ 800 and $ 1,000 per month. In second-tier cities, this price would increase by around 20-30%. These estimates are rough and depend on the presence of ISP infrastructure in the target city, as mentioned above.
To clarify what this means in a more practical sense, consider the following situation. 1 Mbps is needed for a good quality HD video call between two parties, and a 1.5 Mbps connection would ensure this. For each additional participant in a video call, approximately 1 Mbps should be added. Therefore, for a 4 video call, a minimum of 4 Mbps would be a safe allowance, and ideally 5-6 Mbps.
In addition to the standard network costs, also consider any one-time installation costs that may be required. Finally, be sure to specify the length of service of your networking contract, which is generally set at 24 months.
Act as needed
Selecting an MPLS network provider depends on both the city where your office is located in China and the target destination outside of China. Some country specific providers include Orange (France), Deutsche Telekom (Germany), HKT (Hong Kong) and Telstra (Australia).
Hong Kong supplier HKT, for example, connects offices in leading Chinese cities to Hong Kong for around $ 700-1,000 per month, in addition to one-time setup fees. Again, these are approximate prices to frame the potential costs associated with an MPLS network.
When selecting a provider, select one that can provide a testing platform, which measures network latency (speeds) and reliability. Additionally, vendors with their own Network Operations Center (NOC) are favorable, as it simplifies the process of troubleshooting or maintaining issues in the future. Finally, figure out where these NOCs are located and how this may affect any communication (for example, Hong Kong-based centers would accommodate English and Cantonese speaking staff).
Although this comes at an additional cost compared to traditional networking options, MPLS systems can dramatically improve the quality of an organization’s network. This is especially beneficial for users who frequently communicate with offices outside of China, as the country’s notorious internet controls make data transmission less reliable compared to many other countries.
When adopting MPLS networking in China, companies should consider their business needs, what they are aiming to achieve through technology, and take stock of their available resources and issues related to the technology. location that may arise. A successful MPLS implementation can greatly improve network performance in a country where Internet usage is a perennial challenge.