Multi-carrier MPLS service debuts

Virtela Communications last week said it is offering an Multi-protocol Label Switching-based IP VPN service that spans multiple carriers' MPLS networks - with class-of-service guarantees intact.

For several years, Virtela has offered an Internet-based IP VPN service using dynamic best-path routing across multiple tier-one ISP networks. Now, it claims to have done the same thing across multiple operators' MPLS networks by bringing together the world's top MPLS networks in a "supernetwork" arrangement for customers that prefer the privacy of non-Internet-based IP VPNs.

It is handling the CoS mapping from carrier network to carrier network itself, offering four service classes.

The carrier says the service is already in use by a dozen customers with locations on four continents, that it reaches more than 190 countries and can be accessed from 5,000 access points around the world.

Unlike frame relay and ATM, there is no MPLS network-to-network interface standard for preserving QoS among different carriers' networks. (Even if there were one, it has been difficult to get carriers to engage in the business models required to hook their networks together using these interfaces.) So Virtela compiled a database of service levels offered by more than 200 carriers and mapped them to one another itself.

As with its Internet-based IP VPN service, Virtela Multi-Carrier MPLS Service points-of-presence are multi-homed to at least three carriers' MPLS networks. Virtela constantly monitors performance of these backbones, dynamically rerouting customer traffic if performance should degrade.

Again, as with Virtela's Internet-based service, enterprises should consider Multi-Carrier MPLS if:

  • They need the cumulative, broad reach of the network service (nearly 200 countries), which Virtela says is more than a single carrier can provide.

  • They are interested in the optimal-path routing/automatic failover to a second carrier at the service provider edge that the multi-carrier service provides.

  • They are interested in seeing how the price compares with a facilities-based provider.

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