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VPLS, or Virtual Private LAN Service, is an increasingly popular buzzword among service providers and it is being marketed by some vendors as the ideal VPN solution. It’s important to understand, though, that Cloud VPLS is not for everyone; in fact, there are some instances where it could do more harm than good. Cloud VPLS services should only be used by clients that require transparent LAN solutions in a multi-site environment.
It’s important to understand how the concept of VPLS developed over the years. When service providers were looking for an alternative to traditional technologies such as ATM and frame-relay, they turned to technologies like IP-based VPNs (Virtual Private Networks). These networks were successfully implemented using MPLS VPN technology.
However, the MPLS VPN networks did not fit the needs of certain incumbent service providers, which had to still transport traffic such as ATM-based video surveillance over their existing infrastructure. When MPLS VPN was first introduced, IP was widely accepted as the norm; however, large enterprises still found themselves having to support a fair amount of non-IP traffic. Many IP-based applications required communication via transparent LAN.
Networking vendors introduced several technologies that allowed for point-to-point transport of traffic, including L2TPv3 and AToM. These new technologies enabled service providers to develop pseudo wires that would carry ATM, frame relay or Ethernet data across the IP or MPLS infrastructure. Eventually, a technology was developed that would dynamically create these MPLS pseudo wires that would offer any-to-any LAN service – VPLS was born and the rest, as they say, is history.
Cloud VPLS technology provides any-to-any bridged Ethernet service among customer sites across a service provider infrastructure. Sites that are on the same VPN are connected through the VPLS service and belong to the same bridging domain. VPLS does not offer the layer 3 isolation or security features that are offered by VPN technologies, including IPSec and MPLS VPN.
The networking industry experts have made many attempts to implement layer 2 switching across lower-speed WAN networks. The attempts all failed because of the limitations of bridging. In order to have a successful layer 2 end-to-end solution, you must allow each workstation to communicate with the other workstations in the extended LAN environment. The Cloud VPLS solution does not provide an inter-site isolation solution.
This means that a single workstation can hog or saturate the WAN links that are connected to the VPLS. It also means that an intruder that gains access to one workstation can potentially gain access to all of the servers and workstations that are connected to the cloud VPLS system.
Another drawback is that VPLS systems can’t implement traffic filters, as they would violate the principle of the ‘transparent LAN’.
For these reasons, VPLS services should be only offered to those who truly need multi-site transparent LAN solutions. Customers who think they would benefit from the service should be told of the inherent risks associated with such a setup.
Cloud VPLS services are best suited for those who have non-IP protocol applications including Apple Talk and legacy Microsoft. VPLS also suits those who need disaster recovery systems.
April 25, 2017, 5:19:35 pm, America/Chicago