Virtual private LAN service (VPLS) connects local area networks (LANs) over the Internet and makes each private LAN act like a single Ethernet LAN. This is a seamless way to keep remote and branch locations connected-something practical in today's global marketplace. It has emerged as a new way to tap into high bandwidth.

The Internet Engineering Task Force, the primary fuel behind VPLS, offers this definition: “Virtual Private LAN Service (VPLS), also known as Transparent LAN Service, and Virtual Private Switched Network service, is a useful Service Provider offering. The service offers a Layer 2 Virtual Private Network (VPN); however, in the case of VPLS, the customers in the VPN are connected by a multipoint network, in contrast to the usual Layer 2 VPNs, which are point-to-point in nature.”

Translation: By moving Ethernet packets though tunneling, a VPLS moves information in the same form and fashion as a traditional LAN. From the users' end, things operate in the same manner-one would connect to the network, plain and simple. The technology is hidden, making many of the actual network users oblivious to how the connection is made.

Because the technology is scalable, VPLS are used by entities with just a few users and also by those with thousands. It is a solution suitable for all types and sizes of businesses-a rare find.

The VPN connection

Many mistake VPLS for virtual private network (VPN), and this isn't entirely wrong. VPN is the basis for VPLS-it could be considered next-generation VPN.

VPLS operates using multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) to create the appearance of a VPN at each user location. MPLS is used to help move traffic quickly around the network, which is a welcome benefit for any network.

Now MPLS is used in the Internet part of the VPLS equation by supplying quality and speed to the network administrator. Got that? Good.

Taking the lead

VPLS is considered a multipoint VPN. That is why VPLS is pegged to be the biggest competitor of VPN-most operations require a little more horsepower than VPN can provide alone.

Many businesses and organizations are turning to VPLS, because it offers a lower cost LAN for spread-out organizations. The fact that VPLS can allow for network access, from anywhere, simply through a connection alone makes it a popular solution.

Companies that routinely open new locations also find VPLS useful, because it allows these companies to open new branches and still maintain connectivity.

Even though VPLS is carrier-based, proper cabling must be in place. VPLS is scalable, however this scalability does not mean that the end-user will be able to expand the system without the proper cabling infrastructure and up-to-date hardware.

Contractors can help the end-users out, because they can prepare the facilities up front. Without proper cabling, the true benefits of VPLS can never be achieved. EC

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at JenLeahS@msn.com.