This post has nothing to do with MPLS or VPLS, but everyone has a need for more internet bandwidth…..
Every once in a while, you come across a product that is truly phenomenal. A client’s campus is so removed from mainstream internet pipes, that high dedicated bandwidth availability is very limited. Only one provider in the area can provide more than fast Ethernet speeds to the internet (Expensive to say the least.) But there are cable modem operators in the area.
I went in search of alternatives, and found a couple of companies that make bandwidth link “balancers” (for lack of a better term) in a box. Basically, you take a number of lower costs, lower bandwidth (DSL/Cable) connections and balance your usage across them. We looked at few, and settled on testing out the Peplink Balance Product, due to its high capabilities and good reviews. In a nutshell; up to 13 WAN connections, 1500 Mbps throughput to the LAN, and seamless failover if a wan link fails. (They do make smaller models for less intensive requirements) .
In initial testing, we added two Cable modem connections from a local cable provider (cheap bandwidth) and configured the unit in “drop-in” mode. Literally took about 5 minutes to configure the links, and BAM! All links are up and running. Added some outbound policies to push the student network segments out the lower cost WAN segments, but they will overflow if required to the dedicated internet circuit. Did some extensive fail testing (pulling WAN links) and the unit maintains active connections, but moves them to other circuits, with just millsecond delay. We also pushed it through its paces in monitoring link congestion, allowing it to control the policy based on latency of the various links, and balance the bandwidth between the links. The device will also monitor usage and warn if you are approaching a monthly total limit on a particular link ( say a contractual 2GB monthly total on a cellular link) and manage around it. Stunningly Impressive.
Overall, I am amazed at how well this product works, right out of the box. It does have the capacity to act as authoritative DNS, so if your main inbound links are congested, it will allow the other links to respond to inbound server requests; setup is a little trickier – but what a capability. It also can do multiple mobile 3G links, if you’re ever required to do a large capacity mobile hotspot on short notice.
The goal is to reduce High Cost dedicated bandwidth by 75%, and by adding additional cable and DSL links, that should allow the client to quadruple their internet capacity (going from 100 Mbps to 400 Mbps) for approximately 25% of the original cost, and pay for the hardware in 4 months. That’s pretty good ROI.