Want More Savings From MPLS? Try Burstable.

By Matt West

Director of Telecommunication Services, NPI

April 13, 2017

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Artwork Courtesy of iStock.com/nadla

When MPLS was introduced as a replacement to Frame Relay in the late 1990s, it was deployed in much the same way. Customer Edge (CE) routers were connected to Provider Edge (PE) routers with a fixed bandwidth access line and a fixed bandwidth port speed that generally matched the access line. The only variable was the bandwidth allocation to various classes of service. This is the way it was for over a decade. The charge for class of service was often either deeply discounted or waived, or – as is the case now – not charged.

From the onset, MPLS has provided enterprises with a more flexible and cost-effective alternative for data delivery across their networks. But, what many enterprises don’t realize (or are not taking advantage of) is that carriers are continuing to sweeten the pot. Enter burstable bandwidth and access.

Over the last several years, most carriers have introduced “burstable” or dynamic bandwidth and access options. Verizon introduced Looking Glass, a dynamic bandwidth application for their Private IP. AT&T and CenturyLink both have solutions that allow for variable port bandwidth.

The availability of dynamic bandwidth MPLS ports and Ethernet access combine to create a network cost reduction opportunity for many businesses. An enterprise client can now install a 10Mb Ethernet access line into each of its satellite sites. The client can subscribe to a 2Mb minimum port speed but burst to the full 10Mb when needed. The carriers in turn charge based on the minimum commitment with a different rate for bursting above the minimum.

This is ideal for companies that have periodic or seasonal increases in demand for high-bandwidth. Furthermore, it’s easy to administer. With some MPLS providers, adjusting MPLS bandwidth is as straightforward as operating a volume bar on your computer. Simply slide it up and down as needed.

Dynamic or “burstable” bandwidth MPLS is not a new technology, but it is one that’s underutilized. If your business has varying bandwidth demand – especially as a result of seasonal or periodic upticks – see what dynamic options are available from your carrier. Chances are that this path will lead you to savings. but it is an underutilized technology.