Next-generation wide area network services on the rise

MPLS and Ethernet are taking over from older WAN protocols.

Although most businesses are still using legacy wide area network (WAN) services, they are steadily migrating to next-generation services like MPLS and Ethernet VPN .

New research from analyst firm In-Stat found that 62% of 810 surveyed businesses (In the USA) reported that they are still using legacy WAN services such as frame relay and asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) networks. However, In-Stat senior analyst Steve Hansen said the majority of those companies using legacy WAN services plan to switch a portion -- or all -- of their networks to next-generation WAN services.

In its research, In-Stat defined next-generation WAN services as technologies such as MPLS and Ethernet- and IP-based VPN technology. These WAN technologies allow organizations to build more resilient and robust network topologies.

"We see that legacy services have served the business world well, but the times are changing, and people are in the process of moving on to these other services," Hansen said.

Most of the wide area network migration tends to be gradual, he said. Companies with multiple sites are moving their smaller sites first because those are more manageable.

The legacy WAN services most in decline are frame relay, ATM and private leased lines, Hansen said. Companies are migrating to MPLS and other services to support network convergence and improve reliability.

"Things that tend to drive it are those such as convergence, where you're integrating things like voice, data and video," Hansen said. Companies also want to move away from the hub-and-spoke approach of legacy WAN services and adopt a mesh approach.

"The network is not a utility anymore," he said. "It's a strategic tool that businesses use to remain competitive. And what's happening is there's a trend toward a more anywhere, anytime connectivity. The new WAN services tend to accommodate that more than legacy services, so people are transitioning to them."

Respondents to In-Stat's survey identified business direct Internet (37%), Ethernet VPN (36%) and MPLS (30%) as the services to which they plan to migrate over the next year. (Respondents were allowed to select more than one option.)

Evidence of the move is also available locally, as we reported this week in the story of Kent Removals, which has migrated to metro Ethernet, having found Frame Relay no longer meets its needs.


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