Tightening IT infrastructure Featured

7:00pm EDT November 25, 2008

Technology departments are not immune from today’s financial and economic crisis. In today’s economy IT departments are being asked to look at ways to consolidate their infrastructure and maintain efficiencies, which brings challenges with both technology and people.

“For businesses with separate data and telecommunications networks, switching to MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) technology for a converged network may be a sensible solution,” said Dave Braner, Chief Information Officer for CIMCO Communications. “MPLS reduces costs, simplifies management, provides flexibility within your own network and standardizes platforms and technology for the business. The MPLS technology provides one underlying infrastructure that is scalable and adaptable.”

Smart Business asked Braner what enterprises should consider when switching to MPLS as a method of consolidation.

What are the advantages of MPLS?

MPLS technology provides an infrastructure that takes your business needs of today and ‘future proofs’ your needs of tomorrow. This infrastructure has been designed to support next generation applications, provide scalability as your company grows and reduce capital investments. You will receive connectivity to and from all locations within your network with built in redundancy from traffic engineering in the MPLS network. MPLS converges multiple applications (voice, video and data) onto one network. This technology provides the capability to prioritize traffic riding the MPLS network using CoS (Class of Service). Class of Service assigns the traffic to an appropriate bucket, in order of importance. This feature allows your network to function at a more efficient level. By having a consolidated network, you will see cost efficiencies and reductions.

What should you consider when determining if MPLS technology is the proper solution for your enterprise?

Start discussions with your IT team to identify how your current network infrastructure supports your business needs and areas where you can improve your company’s productivity and efficiencies. What is your current infrastructure and how does that meet the goals and objectives that you have today and in the future? Where are you with commitments with your existing technology? Would MPLS provide you with cost savings across your overall company? What is your current equipment and will it need to be replaced? Identify areas of risk. How is you company’s throughput? Evaluate your disaster recovery plan that exists today and identify how MPLS will improve that.

What factors should you consider when choosing a provider?

Selecting a service provider requires taking time to assess your networking requirements, environment and objectives. You need a reliable technology provider to ensure you can run your business effectively. Since an MPLS solution will be the foundation of your business communications, there are some important criteria to review.

How long has the provider been offering data solutions such as MPLS? What type of core infrastructure does the provider have supporting its own network? Do they have service level agreements (SLAs) that meet or exceed industry standards? Does the provider have a client list of references with similar solutions to what your company is seeking? What is their support process? Make sure to check the financial stability of the provider. In today’s economic climate, no matter the size of the provider, it’s imperative to make sure they will be able to provide service to you well into the future.

Do you have any examples of an enterprise migrating successfully to MPLS?

I have colleague in the industry that leads an IT organization for a company servicing the hospitality, medical and industrial sectors. The company had grown rapidly to 25 locations nationally and, in the process, acquired several Internet and voice providers. They transitioned all voice and data services to an MPLS solution, which provided the company its own private network. The company was able to prioritize its traffic flow over the network. The enhanced connectivity and increased bandwidth allows them to run several applications at the same time, improving productivity at all locations. In addition, they reduced expenses and capital that would have been incurred under the previous configuration. All services were consolidated to one vendor, eliminating multiple contracts and suppliers, and outsourced monitoring of the network to the same provider. Most importantly, this company is now ready for future growth with a network that can grow and scale along with the business.

DAVE BRANER is Chief Information Officer for Communications, based in the Chicago metropolitan area. Reach him at (630) 691-8080 or davebraner@cimco.net.