Virtual Private Networks A Technology Overview

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Virtual Private
Networks A
Technology Overview
What is a Virtual Private Network?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a network
that uses the Internet or other network
service as its Wide Area Network (WAN)
backbone. In a VPN, dial-up connections to
remote users and leased line or Frame Relay
connections to remote sites are replaced by
local connections to an Internet service
provider (ISP) or other service provider's
point of presence (POP). A VPN allows a
private intranet to be securely extended
across the Internet or other network service,
facilitating secure e-commerce and extranet connections with business partners, suppliers and
customers.There are three main types of VPN:
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Intranet VPNs allow private networks to be extended across the Internet or other public
network service in a secure way. Intranet VPNs are sometimes referred to as site-to-site or
LAN-to-LAN VPNs.
Remote access VPNs allow individual dial-up users to connect to a central site across the
Internet or other public network service in a secure way. Remote access VPNs are sometimes
referred to as dial VPNs.
Extranet VPNs allow secure connections with business partners, suppliers and customers for
the purpose of e-commerce. Extranet VPNs are an extension of intranet VPNs with the
addition of firewalls to protect the internal network.
These types of VPN are shown in the following diagram.
All of these VPNs aim to provide the reliability, performance, quality of service, and security of
traditional WAN environments using lower cost and more flexible ISP or other service provider
connections. VPN technology can also be used within an intranet to provide security or control access
to sensitive information, systems or resources. For example, VPN technology may be used to limit
access to financial systems to certain users, or to ensure sensitive or confidential information is sent in
a secure way. There are many definitions of a VPN. Some of the more common definitions are as
follows:
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IP tunnels between a remote user and a corporate firewall with tunnel creation and deletion
controlled by the user's computer and the firewall
IP tunnels between an Internet service provider and a corporate firewall with tunnel creation
and deletion controlled by the ISP
IP tunnels between sites over the public Internet, or over a service provider's IP network that
is separate from the public Internet
ISDN, Frame Relay or ATM connections between sites with ISDN B channels, PVCs or SVCs
used to separate traffic from other users
VPNs Based on IP Tunnels
VPNs based on IP tunnels encapsulate a data packet within a normal IP packet for forwarding over an
IP-based network. The encapsulated packet does not need to be IP, and could in fact be any protocol
such as IPX,AppleTalk, SNA or DECnet. The encapsulated packet does not need to be encrypted and
authenticated; however, with most IP based VPNs, especially those running over the public Internet,
encryption is used to ensure privacy and authentication to ensure integrity of data. VPNs based on IP
tunnels are mainly self deployed; users buy
connections from an ISP and install VPN
equipment which they configure and manage
themselves, relying on the ISP only for the
physical connections. VPN services based on
IP tunnels are also provided by ISPs, service
providers and other carriers. These are
usually fully managed services with options
such as Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to
ensure Quality of Service (QoS). A Ten Point
Plan for Building a VPN shows some of the
steps taken when deploying an Internetbased VPN.
The following diagram shows an Internetbased VPN that uses secure IP tunnels to
connect remote clients and devices.
VPNs based on IP tunnels provide the
following benefits:
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provided using a single secure connection
Reduced telecom costs,
as dedicated and long
distance connections are
replaced with local
connections
Greater flexibility in
deploying mobile
computing,
telecommuting and
branch office networking
Easier e-commerce and
extranet connections with
business partners,
suppliers and customers
External Internet access,
and internal intranet and
extranet access can be
The main disadvantage of VPNs based on IP tunnels is that QoS levels may be erratic and are not yet
as high as alternative solutions. Also, for VPNs based on the public Internet, higher levels of security
such as authentication and data encryption are essential to ensure integrity and security of data. Note
that ISP connections used for VPNs do not necessarily need to be protected by a firewall as data is
protected through tunneling, encryption, etc. Also, you can use separate ISP connections for general
Internet access and VPN access, or you can use a single connection with a common router with a VPN
device and firewall in parallel behind it. In some cases, you can use devices that integrate one or more
of these functions.
VPNs Based on ISDN, Frame Relay or ATM
VPNs based on ISDN, Frame Relay or ATM connections are very different from VPNs based on IP
tunnels. This type of VPN uses public switched data network services and uses ISDN B channels, PVCs,
or SVCs to separate traffic from other users. Single or multiple B channels, PVCs, or SVCs may be used
between sites with additional features such as backup and bandwidth on demand. Data packets do not
need to be IP, nor do they need to be encrypted. Due to more wide-spread awareness about security
issues, however, many users now choose to encrypt their data. The following diagram shows a carrierbased VPN that uses ISDN B channels and Frame Relay PVCs to connect remote clients and devices.
VPNs based on public switched data networks are usually provided by service providers and other
carriers, and may or may not provide fully managed services. In most cases, additional services such
as QoS options are available. This type of VPN is
likely to become particularly popular in Europe,
where public switched data networks are widely
available and business use of the Internet is less
developed. The main benefits of VPNs based on
ISDN, Frame Relay or ATM connecstions include the
following:
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Connections can
be used for any
type of
communication,
from PBX
connections and
video
conferences to
private data
International
connections are
relatively easy
to obtain,
especially for Frame Relay, although they can be expensive
Extensive billing and accounting information is available, as these services
are well established
Security is less of a concern, as data is usually carried over the service
provider's or carrier's private network
The main disadvantages of this type of VPNs are that ISDN, Frame Relay and ATM services may be
expensive and are not as widely available as ISP services. Plus, it is often harder to provide extranet
and e-commerce connections to business partners, suppliers and customers.
A Note About the Term "VPN"
The term VPN is used for many different services, including remote access, data, fax, and voice over IP
(VoIP). The other sections in this discussion are concerned with just two types of VPN service: remote
access and intranet. However, much of the discussion on intranet QoS requirements is relevant to
multimedia, including VoIP.
VPN Benefits
VPNs offer considerable cost savings over traditional solutions. Find out how much you could save.
VPNs cost considerably less than traditional leased line, Frame Relay or other services, because longdistance connections are replaced with local connections to an ISP's point of presence (POP), or local
connections to a service provider or carrier network.
Reduced Costs
VPNs offer the network manager a way to reduce the overall operational cost of wide area networking
through reduced telecom costs. In the case of a managed VPN service, the savings can be greater as
the ISP or service provider manages the WAN equipment, allowing fewer networking staff to manage
the security aspects of the VPN. In many cases, implementing a VPN also means that more use is
made of an existing dedicated Internet connection.
Flexibility VPNs based on IP tunnels, particularly Internet-based VPNs, also allow greater flexibility
when deploying mobile computing, telecommuting and branch office networking. Many corporations
are continuing to experience explosive growth in the demand for these services. VPNs provide a lowcost and secure method of linking these sites into the enterprise network. Due to the ubiquitous nature
of ISP services, it is possible to link even the most remote users or branch offices into the network.
Examples
The following examples, based on real-life costs, show how you can make significant savings by
implementing VPN-based solutions. The first example
shows the cost of a dial up VPN service compared to a
traditional remote access solution, while the second
example shows the cost of an intranet VPN solution
compared to a traditional WAN solution. The final
example shows the costs of an international VPN
service based on an encrypted 128 Kbps Frame Relay
connection compared to a 64 Kbps dedicated leased
line.
Example 1—Dial VPN Versus Traditional Remote Access
There are two areas where savings can be made with a dial VPN solution
compared to a traditional remote access solution:
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Telecom costs. Companies can reduce telecom costs as users start dialing
into the network through local calls to ISPs rather than through direct longdistance calls to the company.Typically, a company has a dedicated highspeed connection to the Internet and one or more T1/E1 or ISDN PRI
connections to support remote dial-up users. Market research of Fortune
1000 companies by Forrester has found that more than 70 percent of
company sites had more than one high-speed connection. This multiple-line
approach is common even in small branch offices. A VPN can reduce the
number of lines, since dial-up traffic terminates at the ISP POP and is
delivered via the high-speed Internet link. In many cases, implementing a
VPN means that more use is made of an existing dedicated Internet
connection.
Staffing and equipment costs. Rather than maintaining a remote access
server (RAS), modem banks and ISDN terminal adapter pools for remote
access as well as a router for Internet access, a VPN can combine all of the
traffic over the connection used by the router for Internet access. Instead of
the burden of managing multiple RAS devices, modem banks and ISDN
terminal adapter pools, network staff now manage a higher-performance
router that offers VPN services. In the case of an outsourced VPN service,
the router can also be managed by the ISP or carrier, possibly reducing the
cost even further.
According to Forrester's research, the cost savings of an Internet-based dial VPN solution compared to
a traditional RAS approach are staggering as shown in the following table. However to assess the cost
justification completely, we must also consider the potential costs of making the switch to a VPN. A
VPN may not make sense if, for example, nearly all of a company's remote users need only make a
local call to access the network. This is especially true in the US where local calls are free as there are
no monthly usage charges.
In most European countries, however, this is not the case and a remote access solution based on ISDN
may actually be cheaper than a dial VPN solution. In many European countries, ISDN tariffs are low,
and extensive use of time cutting, protocol spoofing and filtering can dramatically reduce ISDN costs.
See Cabletron's ISDN and Telesaving white paper for more details.
Moving to a dial VPN solution means that each remote user requires an ISP account, and the POPs
must be local to the majority of the users. The cost benefits might not be as compelling if users are
switched to an ISP account with a flat monthly rate but then must
incur long distance call charges to connect to the ISP's nearest POP.
Example 2—Intranet VPN Versus Leased Line and Frame Relay
There are two areas where savings can be made with an intranet VPN
solution compared to a traditional WAN solution:


Telecom costs.
Companies can
reduce telecom
costs by using
leased line or
Frame Relay
connections to local
ISPs and relying on
the Internet for
long distance
connections.
Typically,
a
company
implemen
ts a
private
WAN
using
many long
distance
T1/E1
leased
line or
Frame
Relay
connectio
ns.
Studies by
Cabletron
have
found that
an intranet VPN can reduce the cost of leased line or Frame Relay
connections considerably.
Staffing and equipment costs. Rather than maintaining multiple routers
at many small branch and SOHO sites, companies can use an outsourced
VPN service where the routers are managed by the ISP or carrier to reduce
costs even further.
Based on a study by Cabletron, the following table shows the average annual savings per site on the
cost of intranet VPN access compared to the cost of traditional leased line access for different types of
site. Note that the costs shown in the table are for bandwidth only.
Based on a cost comparison alone, the reasons for moving to an intranet VPN are compelling.
However, a traditional WAN based on leased lines or Frame Relay provides guaranteed levels of Quality
of Service (QoS). Replacing a traditional WAN between branch offices and central sites with an intranet
VPN is unlikely to give the same levels of performance and QoS to users unless the service provider is
able to give throughput and latency guarantees as part of a Service Level Agreement (SLA). See
Quality of Service for more information about QoS and SLAs.
Example 3—International VPN Versus International Connections
The savings are particularly evident in the cost of international connections. A 128 Kbps VPN link between London and
Tokyo provided by an international ISP costs around $20,000 per year, while a 64-Kbps leased line provided by a
traditional carrier can easily cost around $160,000 per year. Even an international VPN service based on Frame Relay
provided by a traditional carrier costs around a third of the cost of the 64 Kbps dedicated leased line.
Internet VPNs
VPNs based on the Internet are becoming widely available, especially as an alternative for dial-up
remote access. Generally when people talk about VPNs, they implicitly mean an Internet-based
network as an alternative to a private network based on public network services such as T1 leased
lines or Frame Relay. The Internet has become so ubiquitous and Internet service providers (ISPs) so
numerous that it is now possible to obtain
connections in all but the most remote
locations. Most counties worldwide now have
ISPs offering connections to the Internet,
although some countries still restrict access. So
it is possible for many organizations, both large
and small, to consider the Internet not just for
external communication with customers,
business partners and suppliers, but for internal
communications as well using a VPN.
Internet-based VPNs can be used to outsource
remote access with significant cost savings and
greater flexibility. Modem racks, remote access
servers and the other equipment necessary to
service the needs of remote and mobile users
can be replaced with a managed service
provided by an ISP (see Remote Access VPNs).
While Internet VPNs are suitable for remote
access needs, there are still problems to overcome before moving to a full intranet VPN
solution.Although most VPN products now offer adequate levels of security, the issue of Quality of
Service (QoS) and Service Level Agreements (SLAs) remains.While most VPN service providers can
offer guarantees for connectivity and uptime, few can offer adequate throughput and latency
guarantees. In addition, there are few agreements between ISPs, so unless you can use a single ISP's
IP backbone for all your connections, you are likely to suffer service degradation where connections
cross boundaries between ISPs. Most users will not want to give up the levels of service currently
offered by leased lines, Frame Relay or ATM networks for something inferior. However, in the long
term these problems will be overcome, and Internet-based VPNs will become much more widespread
for intranet as well as remote access. In a few years, global VPN services based on the Internet will
become as cost-effective and as highly available as global Frame Relay and other public network
services.
Public Network VPNs
Public networks such as ISDN, Frame Relay and ATM can carry mixed data types including voice, video
and data. They can also be used to provide VPN services by using B channels, Permanent Virtual
Circuits (PVCs) or Switched Virtual Circuits (SVCs) to separate traffic from other users. Optionally,
authentication and encryption can be used where the identity of users and the integrity of data needs
to be guaranteed. Using PVCs, SVCs or B channels makes it easier to provide additional bandwidth or
backup when needed. The traffic shaping capabilities of Frame Relay and ATM can be used to provide
different levels of QoS, and because these services are based on usage, there is significant opportunity
to reduce telecom costs even further by using bandwidth optimization features.
Frame Relay in particular has become a popular, widespread and relatively low-cost networking
technology that is also suitable for VPNs. Running VPNs over a Frame Relay network allows expensive
dedicated leased lines to be replaced and makes use of Frame Relay's acknowledged strengths,
including bandwidth on demand, support for variable data rates for bursty traffic, and switched as well
as permanent virtual circuits for any-to-any connectivity on a per-call basis. Frame Relay's ability to
handle bursty traffic and built-in buffering means that it makes optimum use of available bandwidth,
something that is important in a VPN environment where latency and performance are concerns.
Frame Relay can be used to create a VPN in two ways:
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By creating a mesh of Frame Relay connections between sites. These
connections are essentially point-to- point links and are similar in concept to
dedicated leased lines. Data is kept separate from other Frame Relay users
as each connection uses a separate virtual circuit.
By using IP tunnels over Frame Relay connections between sites. As
above, these connections are essentially point-to-point links similar in
concept to dedicated leased lines and each connection uses a separate
virtual circuit. However, several separate IP tunnels can be run over each
connection, and each tunnel can be encrypted and authenticated to provide
additional security.
Frame Relay is an end-to-end protocol that
can be run over a variety of access
technologies, such as ISDN, DSL (Digital
Subscriber Loop), and even POTS dial-up
lines. New access methods such as
switched virtual circuits (SVCs), ISDN
access and backup mean that Frame Relay
is now a much more reliable and costeffective solution. Frame Relay can also run
over, and interoperate with,ATM
backbones, making it one of the most
widely available public data networking
services worldwide. As a result, major
service providers and carriers have created
global Frame Relay networks which are
cost-effective and offer high availability.
When coupled with tunneling, encryption
and authentication, these attributes make
Frame Relay an ideal candidate for global
VPN services.
Remote Access VPNs
Remote access VPNs are rapidly replacing traditional remote access solutions as they are more flexible
and cost less.
Remote access refers to the ability to connect to a network from a distant location. A remote access
client system connects to a network access device, such as a network server or access concentrator.
When logged in, the client system becomes a host on the network. Typical remote access clients might
be:
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Laptop computers with modems used by mobile workers
PCs with modems or ISDN connections used at home by telecommuters
Laptop computers on a shared LAN. For example, some hotel chains are now
offering LAN connection points in hotel rooms so that Ethernet cards can be
used, with no need for a modem card.
We can divide remote access connections into two groups: local dial and long-distance dial. For
traditional, private, remote access networks, local-area users connect using a variety of
telecommunication data services. Remote access long-distance users rarely have a choice other than
modem access over telephone networks. The aggregation devices that the clients connect to typically
use channelized leased line and primary-rate ISDN, offering dedicated, circuit switched access.
With VPNs, local area users typically have a wider range of data services to choose from, regardless of
the support at the enterprise or central site VPN equipment. However, long-distance connections are
currently via modem access. What VPN carriers currently offer corporations are "Work Globally, Dial
Locally" services. The VPN equipment will use high-speed leased lines to the nearest POP of the chosen
VPN carrier and all remote access traffic can be aggregated or routed as IP datagrams over this single
link.
Advantages of Remote Access VPNs over Traditional Direct-Dial
Remote Access

Cheaper dial-service costs for long-distance users. When a company
partners with a VPN carrier to provide global remote access, the employees
are issued information on local telephone number access points in each
country for which they have support. Since local calls are significantly
cheaper than national and international call, this would appear to offer a
sizable saving. This saving does of course depend on the throughput
achieved and the relative cost of local, national and international calls. In
most regions of the world, local calls are not free, and this may mean that
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real savings are not achieved. For example, if local calls offer a 50% saving
over national calls, but the VPN throughput means that it takes twice as
long to copy mail from a central office than it would have using a direct-dial
call, no telecommunication savings have been made and company time has
been wasted. For local users with telephone lines (or ISDN), a VPN offers no
dial-in cost savings and a worse service for the user.
Better data rates for modems. Because long-distance VPN users can dial
a local modem at the VPN carrier's office, the data rate achieved by the
modem should be better than for a long-distance or international direct call.
Again, partnering with a VPN carrier to provide a service is important. For
example, international VPN throughput can deteriorate badly when using
the Internet as a carrier.
Scalability. Adding 100 users to a modem pool typically presents more
problems to the network manager than adding 100 users to an enterprise
Security Gateway that only deals with IP datagrams over a high-speed
leased line.
Less upgrading needed to the equipment at an enterprise or central
site. As modem technology improves, and new local loop services become
available, new hard-ware would be required at a "modem pool" site. With
VPNs, this problem is handled (and paid for) by the VPN carriers.
Improved local access services. With a traditional direct-dial remote
access network, the data services that can be used by the remote users are
dictated by the data services supported by the aggregation device. With a
VPN, the user can choose the best local loop service available, for example,
cable modems or xDSL. This advantage is only a reality for home workers
currently, but may eventually apply to mobile users.
Better utilization of bandwidth at the enterprise or central site. With
the traditional approach, each user is typically allocated fixed bandwidth, for
example, an ISDN B-channel or a 56Kb channel on a T1 circuit. Most remote
working sessions have very low overall utilization of the reserved bandwidth
allocated. Also, with a circuit switched approach, there is a fixed number of
users who can be supported before new users are completely blocked. With
a VPN approach, it is possible to fully utilize the available bandwidth; as the
number of connected users increases, the service to each user gradually
decreases, but is not completely blocked. Users equipped with high-speed
local access services may also take advantage of any spare capacity more
easily.
Using the link for both company and private business. If the
connection from a small office/home office (SOHO) to a central site uses the
Internet as a carrier, it is possible to use the link for company and private
business. It is also possible to send external mail using the ISP's mail
servers and other features (e.g. fax, voice-mail, DNS, direct browsing)
without burdening the company-owned servers. This does have the
downside of raising billing and security issues.
Disadvantages of Remote Access VPNs
Most of the disadvantages listed here refer to Internet-based VPNs and
solutions will be available on VPN-focused carriers. Possible disadvantages
of VPN remote access include the following:
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

Quality of Service. Unlike circuit-switched or leased line data services,VPN
links (or tunnels) over public routed networks do not typically offer any endto-end throughput guarantees. In addition, packet loss is variable and can
be very high, and packets can be delivered out-of-order and fragmented.
Because of these QoS issues, data compression performance over a tunnel
can be poor (zero-history compression).
Security. VPN connections are made by first connecting to a POP of the
public network, and then using that network to reach a remote peer to form
a private tunnel. Once the connection has been made to the POP,
unsolicited data from other users of the public network can be received, and
the exposure to "attacks" requires comprehensive and complex security
measures.
Accounting and billing. If dial-in costs are being incurred on a link that is
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not directly connected to the company that will pick up the bill, it becomes a
neat trick to monitor the budget (although this seems achievable with VPN
carrier-based L2TP).
Bandwidth reservation or Quality of Service (QoS) at the enterprise
or central site. Bandwidth reservation refers to the ability to "reserve"
transmission bandwidth on a network connection for particular classes or
types of traffic. It is much harder to achieve with VPNs than traditional
networks. Some reservation can be done on out-bound traffic, but for
inbound reservation to be achieved, the VPN carrier would need to help.
Some inbound flow control is available with L2TP. However, controlling
incoming data from power users is a problem that requires some way to
flow-control input from each remote client.
Two-way calling. Small office/home office sites that use ISDN to access a
central site directly enjoy the capabilities of two-way calling, e.g. if the link
is idle (the inactivity timer has fired and disconnected the call) and traffic
needs to flow from the central site to the remote site, the central site can
initiate the call. In a VPN network, this is a capability missing from common
ISP offerings today. Call-back is a related topic; offering to pick up the dialin costs incurred by partners and customers is also difficult. Again, L2TP
does include support for these features at the moment.
Centralized telesaving control. Managing cost-effective use of dial links
centrally may no longer be possible.
Overhead. VPN tunnels impose overhead for dial-in users: encryption
algorithms may impact the performance of the user's system, there will be
an increased protocol header overhead, authentication latency will increase,
PPP and IP compression will perform poorly (compared to a direct link), and
modem compression won't work at all.
Support issues. Replacing direct-dial links with VPN tunnels may produce
some very painful fault-finding missions. Due to the complexity of VPN
carrier networks, the opportunities for "hand-washing" are enormous.
Reconnection time. Using tunneling may increase the reconnection time
for dial users. With the VPN carrier L2TP model, the client has to go through
two authentication phases: one on contacting the VPN carrier POP, and
another on contact with the enterprise Security Gateway. Although the
authentication exchange with the POP may well be trivial, the VPN database
look-up can take time. For ISDN SOHO sites that wish to use cost-saving
techniques, special features may be needed to cache these look-ups to
allow rapid reconnects.
Multimedia. Applications such as video conferencing only work acceptably
over low latency links that can offer the required minimum throughput.
Currently on the Internet, latency and throughput can vary alarmingly.
Multichannel data services, such as ISDN and xDSL solve this problem in
the short term, allowing the "data" channel to be used for VPN tunneling,
and a separate "voice" channel to be used for business telephone calls or
video conferencing.
Encryption. When using encryption to protect a tunnel, data compression is
no longer achievable as encrypted data is not compressible. This means that
hardware compression over a modem connection is not possible.
Intranet VPNs
Intranet VPNs can be used to provide cost-effective branch office networking and offer significant cost
savings over traditional leased-line solutions. Intranet, or site-to-site,VPNs apply to several categories
of sites, from small office/home office (SOHO) sites to branch sites to central and enterprise sites.
SOHO sites could be considered as remote access users where dial services are used, but as SOHO
sites often have more than one PC, they are really small LAN sites. In an intranet VPN, expensive long
distance leased lines are replaced with local ISP connection to the Internet, or secure Frame Relay or
ATM connections as shown in the following diagram.
Local ISP connections can be provisioned using many technologies, from dial-up POTS and ISDN for
small sites, to leased lines or Frame Relay for larger sites. New emerging "last mile" technologies such
as DSL, cable and wireless provide both low-cost and high-speed access. Many ISPs and service
providers are now starting to support these
emerging technologies for Internet access,
particularly for home users and SOHO sites.
The intranet market is one where traditional
WAN carriers are likely to compete heavily with
ISPs.Traditional WAN carriers can offer a VPN
service similar to a Frame Relay service with
Quality of Service (QoS) based on Committed
Information Rate. Traditional WAN carriers are
well placed to push their advantage in
providing secure, reliable, low-latency, intranet
links by adopting their current services to
support routed VPN links.
Advantages of Intranet VPN
Solutions

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

Cheaper
line rental.
Typically,VPN carriers provide a leased-line feed by contracting with a
traditional carrier company. Since leased lines often have a distance-related
cost structure, connecting to a local POP will provide savings compared to a
direct long-distance or international link.
Scalability. Unlike leased lines and Frame Relay PVCs, there is no additional
cost for new peer-to-peer links. However, in order to offer Frame Relaystyle Quality of Service,VPN carriers may well need to introduce a pervirtual- link factor to cover costs.
Cheaper backup. If a company sticks with traditional-carrier, end-to-end
data services for primary intranet links (which is advisable), the VPN carrier
service may offer cheap "get what you can, when you can" bandwidth,
backup or low-priority data routing. To do this effectively, the tunnels need
the support of dynamic tunnel monitoring. For example, how does a CPE
router know the effective throughput of a tunnel without an end-to-end
reliable data link or intimate knowledge of the higher-layer protocol sessions
carried over the link? Without a solution to this problem, path sharing
between a VPN tunnel and a private leased line may give worse throughput
than using just the private leased line. If the VPN tunnel is used in
partnership with a private data service which had a use-based tariff, for
example Frame Relay, then this solution could offer considerable savings.
Cheaper high bandwidth over last mile. Renting high-bandwidth leased
lines—for example,T1/E1 or T3/E3—is expensive, and cheaper options exist
for last-mile connections in some areas such as cable, xDSL, wireless and
satellite.
Cheap global virtual backbone. For companies that do not already have a
national/international backbone, there is no cheaper option than setting up
a virtual backbone using VPN carrier services.
Disadvantages of Intranet VPN Solutions
Possible disadvantages of intranet VPN include the following:


Denial-of-service attacks. Unlike a private leased line, traffic that is not
from the peer remote site (tunnel end-point) can flood down the receive
path of a VPN tunnel from anywhere on the public network. This unsolicited
traffic may reach such a level that solicited data can no longer be retrieved.
To combat this, the VPN carrier could offer to filter non-VPN traffic, or
perhaps provide a band-width reservation or QoS service.
No end-to-end data link in some cases. For some tunnel technologies,
there is no end-to-end data link, so detection of reachability will need to be
supported at the routing layer with protocols capable of rapid failure detection and instant re-route.
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Packet loss. A VPN tunnel can sometimes suffer high packet loss and can
reorder packets. Reordering can cause problems for some bridged protocols,
and high packet loss may have an impact on the optimal configuration of
higher-layer protocols.
Latency and multimedia.This is very much a next-generation VPN carrier
goal that will require considerable investment to do properly.There are
serious doubts as to the chances of the Internet achieving success in this
area in the near future. Data-link carrier companies and newly-formed VPNfocus companies offering VPN services have a better chance.
Increased downtime. Decreased mean time between failures, longer
lasting outages, painful problem solving and downtime compensation
claims.
Aggregation of functions. Doing business with partners is clearly easier to
achieve using the VPN model, but aggregating private tunnels, customer
tunnels and web publishing access in a single system is difficult without
combined VPN and firewall capability. Separating VPN and non-VPN traffic is
a sensible precaution.
VPN Issues
There are a number of issues, both technological and practical, that need to be overcome before you
can implement a VPN. Here are some of these issues.
For a VPN to function successfully, it must provide a number of essential features—in particular,
features that solve the problems that stem from routing private data across a shared public network.
The main features are discussed here.
Security
Since a VPN is a shared-access, routed network, security is the main area of concern.
It will require the use of encryption, secure key exchange/re-keying, session and
per-packet authentication, security negotiation, private address space confidentiality,
complex filtering, and a host of other precautions.
Performance and Quality of Service (QoS)
IP datagrams sent across the VPN carrier service may experience packet loss (silent
discards) and packet reordering.
Packet loss tends to be greatly increased by stateful algorithms designed for pointto-point reliable links, for example, PPP compression and encryption algorithms.
Throughput may also vary from POP to POP, country to country, and even hour to
hour.
Reordering will cause problems for some LAN protocols, for example, when running
bridging over a VPN.
Monitoring Actual Throughput
In the absence of Quality of Service guarantees from the VPN carriers, mechanisms
are required to allow performance monitoring of tunnels.
Preventing Denial of Service Attacks
Being connected to a public network, the VPN receive-data path can be clogged by
unsolicited data to such an extent that no useful business can be achieved. Unlike a
private leased line, traffic that is not from the peer remote site (tunnel end-point)
can flood down the receive path of a VPN tunnel from anywhere on the public
network. For client-based tunnels, there are no services currently.
In the case where the VPN carrier is providing the tunnel, the VPN carrier could offer
to filter non-VPN traffic, or perhaps provide a bandwidth reservation service. For the
L2TP VPN carrier-based approach, the client is protected by the fact that it is not
reachable via the public network, as no global address is assigned
Scalability
The term scalability refers to how well a system can adapt to increased demands. A
scalable network system is one that can start with just a few nodes but can easily
expand to thousands of nodes. Scalability can be a very important feature because it
means that you can invest in a system with confidence that you won't outgrow it. If
VPN carriers are to succeed in VPN deployment, the technologies they use need to
scale easily. The VPN customer will also require this at larger Security Gateway sites.
Enterprises will need to consider:



The overhead associated with security mechanisms.
The overhead associated with encryption and compression,
which both require a lot of processing power. Hardware
compression and encryption may be needed cope with this
load.
Key management, including methods of key generation,
distribution and exchange.
Management
Client-based software should be as transparent as possible. VPN carriers will require
new management tools in order to simplify the configuration and monitoring of a
corporate customer's VPN. Also,VPN customers may well want a privileged
management window into their VPN carrier-held database to make changes for
themselves!
Flexibility To offer a "go anywhere"VPN service,VPN carriers are keen to provide a
service that can support all protocols and all data links (e.g. PPP over anything).
Telesaving
Telesaving means making cost-effective use of WAN data services. Telesaving is
appropriate to all WAN links, but is particularly useful for "pay-as-you-use" data
services, for example, ISDN. For clients using this type of service to access the VPN
carrier network—and from there, a tunnel server—telesaving needs to be performed
from a central site (an Enterprise Security Gateway) for data links that are connected
indirectly via the VPN carrier network.
New, VPN-specific, telesaving features will be needed to take advantage of the
possibility of cheap bandwidth via a VPN link, while maintaining some layer of service
using more expensive, private data links when needed.
Bandwidth Reservation and Quality of Service (QoS)
Bandwidth reservation and Quality of Service (QoS) refers to the ability to "reserve"
transmission bandwidth on a network connection for particular classes of traffic or
particular users. It allocates percentages of total connection bandwidth for specified
traffic classes or users, which have given priority levels assigned to them. A
bandwidth reservation algorithm is used to decide which packets to drop when there
is too much network traffic for the available bandwidth.
Given a fixed capacity VPN WAN link (say a T1), it is desirable to reserve bandwidth
outbound (and inbound if possible) on a per user (remote access) or per remote LAN
basis.There are, however, some questions about how bandwidth reservation can be
accomplished over tunnels. For outbound reservation, the Security Gateway could
implement transmit priority queues, but inbound reservation requires the assistance
of the VPN carrier.
Some possibilities for inbound reservation are:




The ISP POP access device could apply tunnel/non-tunnel
bandwidth reservation and filtering techniques to the
client's requirements.
The VPN carrier could offer an SVC-style service where
each VPN link has some predetermined capacity.
L2TP network servers or access concentrators have the
option of inbound, dynamic, flow control to help inbound
bandwidth reservation.
Remote VPN clients can be flow-controlled using L2TP
sequence numbers/window size in order to reserve
appropriate bandwidth for individual VPN clients and nonVPN traffic. To be effective, the VPN carrier POP would
need to support at least a broad VPN/non-VPN queuing
priority inbound to the L2TP network server.
It would be useful if bandwidth reservation could be
managed dynamically.
High-Performance Routing Issues
With encryption being used from intranet or host-to-host, the nature of IP-switching
filters changes. For IP-switching (L3 switching) to function on encrypted data flows,
it may need to understand the IPSec and L2TP standards. For example, the definition
of a flow may need to make use of the IPSec protocol headers to identify a
communication stream. As an example, it may be possible to trigger on the SPI field
of the ESP header used in IPSec as a means of identifying a stream. For L3 switches
that terminate secure tunnels, no fast forwarding is possible since the encrypted IP
packet needs to be reconstituted before being forwarded. There is also the extra load
of decrypting/encrypting for these secure tunnels. In time,encryption (and
compression) will be present in all hosts and there will be less need for routers to
terminate secure tunnels-allowing switching based on tunnel header information and
requiring no encryption/decryption horsepower. Work to redefine the TOS field of IP
packets as part of DiffServ may deliver the means to reinstate traffic prioritization in
L3 switches for secure data flows.
Quality of Service
What Quality of Service can you expect from your VPN service provider and how can you measure
what you are getting? Most data services, such as Frame Relay, provide guarantees for uptime and
availability, as well as throughput and response time. These guarantees, or Quality of Service (QoS)
metrics, are defined in the Service Level Agreement (SLA) with your service provider.
While most managed VPN services provide a certain level of guaranteed uptime and availability, many
do not provide comparable performance and latency guarantees, nor do they offer throughput
guarantees. There are several different schemes used to provide Quality of Service, some of which
have been developed specifically with a particular technology or protocol in mind, such as Ethernet or
ATM. Other schemes are specific to the IP protocol and are being developed by the IETF. Examples of
different QoS schemes are:





ATM and Frame Relay traffic shaping schemes.
These bandwidth reservation mechanisms are built into the ATM and Frame
Relay standards. Examples are ATM ABR and CBR, and Frame Relay CIR.
IEEE 802.1p and 802.1q.
IEEE specifications that allow Level 2 switches to provide traffic prioritization
over Ethernet and Token Ring LANs.
Differentiated Services (DiffServ).
An IETF standard that defines ways of assigning specific service levels and
priorities to IP traffic using the IP TOS field.
Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS).
A method of encapsulating and tagging IP traffic to improve efficiency and
control of routed networks.
Resource Reservation Protocol (RSVP).
An IETF standard that defines how routers and other network devices
should reserve bandwidth across the network on a hop-by-hop basis.
If you are considering a managed VPN service, you need to pay particular attention to the QoS metrics
specified in the SLA from your service provider. If the service provider is unable to provide adequate
SLA guarantees, you may need to reconsider how you deploy VPNs in your environment. Some
applications, such as dial-up remote access, are very suited to the VPN approach as users are
unaccustomed to guaranteed uptime and availability and are less demanding of the service. However,
replacing dedicated leased line or Frame Relay connections between branch offices and central sites
with an intranet VPN is unlikely to give the same levels of performance and QoS to users unless the
service provider is able to give throughput and latency guarantees.
SLA Checklist
Here are some things to ask your service provider about SLAs:






What QoS scheme is used in the network and what does it cover?
What is the level of guarantee of network availability? A typical guarantee is
99.8 percent network availability.
What backup options are offered and at what cost? Check to see whether
the service provider offers backup connections such as ISDN or Frame Relay
SVCs should the main connection fail.
Do customers get a credit when there is an outage and if so, what is the
level of credit? Many service providers give service credits based on the
duration of outages.
Is service availability covered in addition to network availability? Simply
having a connection to the network is not enough; the VPN service that runs
over the network must also be available.
Does the SLA cover temporary disconnection, for example when faced with
hacker attacks on a firewall? Elective downtime should be part of the service
to protect the integrity of your network.
SLAs In the Future
Over the long term, SLAs for VPN services are likely to improve as the various different QoS schemes
are deployed more widely. However, until this time, SLAs may be limited to connections over a single
service provider's network. To ensure end-to-end SLAs in the interim time, traffic should stay on the
same network. If the connection goes across networks, a service provider has little control over the
quality of the other provider's network. This situation is likely to remain until service providers reach
agreement on SLA interworking.
VPN Futures
VPNs are only just starting to be deployed. Once VPNs are in wide use, they provide the opportunity to
integrate other types of communication such as multimedia and Voice over IP (VoIP).
The primary concern for VPNs will always be security. However, once VPN products are widely
available, the focus will fall more and more on delivering quality of service (QoS) and class of service
(CoS) over IP networks as part of a VPN. As voice and data services merge into one (voice over IP, IP
fax), new network services are being developed to offer the QoS/CoS required for data, telephony and
fax. (For more information about QoS see Quality of Service and SLAs.) As products develop to take
advantage of this opportunity, all communication devices will become IP addressable, providing voice,
fax, video and data to the desktop.All of these services can make use of VPN security protocols.
Name servers could become very useful for configuring and reconfiguring VPNs. If the routers in a
complex intranet VPN network were to make use of name servers to locate peer routers, then these
networks could be reconfigured simply by changing the name-to-address mapping. Work is in progress
to extend the use of DNS servers to provide a secure (IP Security-based) mechanism for routers to
find peer routers and clients to find servers.
Next Generation VPN Carriers
New VPN carriers are emerging to take advantage of the new markets, and traditional
telecommunications providers see that the aggregation possible with routed networks makes good
sense for remote access data, as it reduces the strain on long-haul dial services as well.
New 'last-mile' technologies like Digital Subscriber Loop (DSL) deliver a means for the phone
companies to provide high bandwidth IP access over existing cabling (twisted-pair copper). Cable
companies also offer the potential to deliver high bandwidth IP access over existing and new cable
infrastructure. As the phone and cable companies become familiar with delivering IP services, these
new last-mile technologies put them in a good position to acquire a significant share of the Internet
access and VPN markets.
New providers are focussing on providing VPN services. A popular technique is to build an ATM or
Frame Relay backbone and then offer VPN links with guarantees on throughput and latency to enable
customers to outsource remote access,
site-to-site and even interoffice fax and
voice.These networks are well placed to
offer everything from voice to site-to-site
by making use of the quality of service
options inherent in ATM and Frame Relay
networks.
To offer global services to a VPN customer
with global data needs, consortiums of VPN
carriers are forming to offer a uniform
service internationally. Many of these
services are based on ATM and Frame
Relay, although new IP based services are
becoming available.
VPNs and Voice/Data Convergence
Companies today use different
communications infrastructure to provide their voice, data and Internet connectivity needs. On the
voice side, components include a PABX, key system or Centrex service with features such as voice mail
and automated attendant. Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) applications may also be used to link
voice capabilities with data applications. On the data side, LAN infrastructure is typically provided by a
stackable or chassis based hub with multiple 10/100 Ethernet segments. WAN connectivity is typically
provided by a router using leased lines or Frame Relay, with Internet connections for e-mail and web
browsing provided via a separate firewall connection.
Companies that use a variety of data and voice services to meet their communication needs will find
new alternatives becoming available that offer direct and indirect cost savings. New customerpremises routers are now appearing that act as both Security Gateways and Multimedia Gateways.
These Multiservice Routers integrate a number of LAN and WAN capabilities such as hub and routing
functions, and also support new applications such as Voice Over IP (VoIP), IP-fax, Internet access
(browsing, publishing, e-mail, e-commerce) as well as VPN traffic over a single local-loop link to a
service provider POP.
An initial investment in web access and web
publishing may well be the starting point for
a company that wishes to take advantage of
VPN services. For the move from web
publishing and e-mail to full e-commerce,
companies may follow these steps:



Web
publishi
ng.
Compani
es are
already
becoming
familiar
with
accessing
and
publishin
g
information and exchanging e-mail over a public routed network.
Private remote access via VPN carrier networks: out-sourced remote
access.
Providing a more scalable remote access solution with cheaper access to
corporate networks. The existing "modem pool" may be preserved for
backup.
Partnership access with customers, partners and suppliers
(extranets).


Rather than arrange for one-off solutions each time a new partner needs to
be linked to the corporate network,VPN networks provide a common
technology to reduce the complexity and expense of adding new partner
network links.
An intranet VPN based on carrier networks with outsourced
backbone links.
Once VPN networks can offer QoS guarantees, corporate backbone links
could be outsourced to managed routed networks. These would have builtin failure recovery, and should have a lower cost per month than traditional
dedicated leased bandwidth.
Full electronic commerce, that is, doing business over public
networks.
For example, electronic-fax, voice-over-IP and electronic ordering.With the
growth in the reach and capacity of the Internet and the IP protocol suit,
there is the promise of providing all common communications services over
the same communications link-an IP datagram service.
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