What price MPLS in an age of cloud networking?

It’s relatively unusual for information technology standards to have a shelf life that extends over decades. Ethernet is one example. Invented in the early 1970s by Bob Metcalfe, Ethernet has been through many cycles of evolution and remains as relevant today as it did 10, 20 or 30 years ago.

Multi-Protocol Label Switching, or MPLS, first saw the light of day in 1997 when it was birthed by the Internet Engineering Task Force. It was hailed at the time as a much-needed alternative to multilayer switching and IP-over-ATM. Pretty soon it was the primary weapon in service provider enterprise connectivity arsenals, used all over the world as a secure and reliable way to transport the data that was rapidly becoming the lifeblood of the corporate world. As the Internet era gathered force, MPLS was its enabler.

However, we’re well into a new era now – the cloud era. The way we consume applications and access critical data has radically altered. But the networking that enterprises deploy to connect various cloud endpoints together has not changed to match. Generally it’s still based around MPLS, designed for quite different needs. How long can MPLS remain a central plank in service providers’ offers? How can they move on from MPLS reliance and start to deliver connectivity that is somewhat more in tune with cloud’s ‘have it when you want it and where you want it’ ethos? Why is it still the 1990s inside so many service provider heads? These are increasingly pertinent questions, especially given the fact that Gartner was asking ‘Is MPLS Dead?’ back in 2013.

To harness the full benefits of SaaS applications, notes Nishant Singh, Product Marketing Manager at Aryaka Networks, requires integrating cloud data with a robust network architecture, a requirement that cannot be met with MPLS.

“Yet some traditional enterprises choose to sign two to three year contracts with their MPLS providers,” he says. “There is really no excuse to bury your head in the sand and rely on the laws of luck and probability for achieving success.”

Amir Khan, Founder and CEO of Alkira, agrees. He first came to prominence an SD-WAN pioneer, and is now in the vanguard of a new revolution in cloud networking: “As an enterprise user, you still in many cases have to call your MPLS service provider and they provision a connection for you,” he says. “This has typically taken weeks if not months. How long depends on what capacity they have available in the region where you need the connectivity. The cost for the bandwidth in question is pretty high too, compared to, for example, the Internet.”

There are a number of competing alternatives to pure MPLS, all designed from the ground up for cloud. Aryaka and Alkira represent two leading examples. Service providers not already searching out partnerships among the cloud networking community to help them migrate their enterprise customers away from reliance on MPLS are putting themselves in serious danger of obsolescence. MPLS may have served them well since the late 1990s, but its end is in sight as an effective and secure networking solution for the everything-as-a-service generation.

This event will feature in-depth discussion of these themes and many related ones.

And for further research into cloud networking, these names are among the leaders in the field:

Alkira

Arrcus

Aryaka Networks

Aviatrix

Cato Networks

Exabeam

Hashicorp

Lacework

NetFoundry

Volterra

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Book of the Month*

The Serendipity Mindset: The Art and Science of Creating Good Luck

By Dr Christian Busch
Serendipity is an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. To other people it looks like “good luck”, but it is more the ability to recognise and seize an opportunity, rather than have good fortune thrust upon one. Finding a wallet stuffed with money on the conference room floor is good luck, whereas holding it up and asking if anyone has lost their wallet might be the beginning of a valuable friendship – that would be serendipity.

Chance encounters, or strokes of fortune, feature in countless stories of business success. This book looks beneath the surface, reveals and teaches the mindset that can transform pure chance into opportunity. The author is director of the Global Economy Program at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, and a lecturer at the London School of Economics.

Serendipity is an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. To other people it looks like “good luck”, but it is more the ability to recognise and seize an opportunity, rather than have good fortune thrust upon one. Finding a wallet stuffed with money on the conference room floor is good luck, whereas holding it up and asking if anyone has lost their wallet might be the beginning of a valuable friendship – that would be serendipity.

The author says “This is a book about the interactions of coincidence, human ambition and imagination”. In the above example: finding the wallet is the coincidence; ambition is the desire to make something of the discovery; add imagination and you open up a whole menu of possibilities: from spending spree to earning a reputation for honesty – or even making a wealthy friend.

Business is typically forged on human ambition and imagination, but early success often feeds an appetite for control – and “control freaks” can be blind to the opportunities thrown up by the unexpected. They only see chance events as distractions. If plans go awry, they may blame the failure on “bad luck” rather than admit their own inflexible attitude.

The author himself admits to being “a German who is used to planning” and prone to feel anxious when something unexpected happens. That makes him an ideal teacher, because he has worked hard to discover and analyse the mindset that enables one to “connect the dots” and cultivate serendipity. He presents a goldmine of examples from science, business and life where an apparent mishap or failure lead to a breakthrough.

Indeed, studies suggest that around 50% of major scientific breakthroughs emerge as the result of accidents or coincidences. A well-known example is Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin, launching the whole field of antibiotics. Other examples include X-rays, nylon, microwave ovens, rubber, Velcro, Viagra and Post-it Notes – where would we be without these!

The book goes beyond the ability to recognise and respond to opportunities in chaos, but the subtitle – The Art and Science of Creating Good Luck – is actually a bit misleading. True, he does show ways to develop better fortune, but it would be better to call it “inviting” or “encouraging” good luck. For example, he suggests better ways to start a conversation with a stranger – ways that will make it more likely to lead to chance connections or shared interests.

The publishers may have chosen the word “creating” to make the book appeal to the human desire to control – for control freaks are exactly the readership that would benefit the most from this book’s wisdom and practical advice.

For the rest of us, it offers a great way to rediscover the sense of play that is so important in life – and too often lost in business.

 

“Following the success of The Serendipity Mindset hardback, a paperback edition has also now been launched under the title “Connect the Dots”.

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