Why oil and gas needs MPLS network infrastructure
The energy sector, particularly the oil and gas industry, where mission-critical data needs to travel between sites, needs a fast and flexible network solution to remain competitive. With a fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) network infrastructure as the backbone and an MPLS wide area network (WAN) as the arteries, energy companies can enjoy best-in-class data transmission rates and company-wide connectivity that delivers better business outcomes.
How an MPLS network works
MPLS networks are fast because they require no examination of data. As each data packet enters an MPLS Network, the ingress router assigns the packet a Label Switched Path (LSP). The LSP is determined by the destination Internet Protocol (IP) address and by the type of data, which is found in the IP header of the data packet. The ingress router attaches a label with the LSP to the packet.
At every routing switch, the label is read and then replaced with details for the next stage in the data's journey until the packet reaches the egress router. The egress router removes the final label and delivers the packet to its destination.
MPLS and quality of service
MPLS networks prioritize packets, so data that is sensitive to latency or delay is guaranteed to travel at the speed you need it to. This functionality allows internet service providers (ISPs) to deliver quality of service (QoS) guarantees.
QoS capability means that your teams can communicate seamlessly across large distances by ensuring that VoIP and teleconferencing data takes priority. QoS levels for each data packet are determined by the contents of the Type of Service (TOS) field in the IP header. The QoS treatment is part of the packet's label, which means that when two packets arrive at the same time, the router has instructions for which data packet should be processed first.
MPLS for a virtual private network
The same principles apply to an MPLS WAN. Using a company edge router and Border Gateway Protocol, packets travel from one site to another via a dedicated pathway, similar to a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Once your data leaves your edge router, only the label is examined. Data from remote sites, head office and any other location in your company network travel through a direct virtual pathway.
At the infrastructure level, an FTTP MPLS network can't be beaten for speed, scalability, and savings. The cost of setup is comparable to installing any other line, and QoS capability means oil and gas companies can invest in VoIP and cloud computing technology to keep remote sites connected.
MPLS WANs are the ultimate scalable solution. MPLS networks allow for the set up of temporary energy exploration sites at virtually no cost because they will work regardless of the Internet connection type. No special hardware is needed to add locations to the network, which means new sites can be added to the network with ease. Data transmission will be slower than with FTTP, but it will work. Once temporary sites are ready for a permanent FTTP connection, the transition is seamless.
Another advantage of MPLS networks, at both the infrastructure and the company level, is that they provide the same speed over great distances. When you are managing sites that are thousands of miles apart, this benefit is extremely compelling.
MPLS networks provide basic security because data travels along a dedicated route, and the internal structure of the network is not visible to outsiders. It is difficult for attackers to target a location that they are unaware of. However, it is recommended that any sensitive data be encrypted to add an extra layer of security.
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