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Kill the Spreadsheets! Automate VPN IP Assignments and Tracking over MPLS/VRF and vLAN

Gareth Barnes

Advancements in virtual private networking have extended system capabilities for service providers. Providers can divide LANs into multiple discrete segments using either Virtual Local Area Networks (vLANs), leverage Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) or Virtual Routing and Forwarding (VRF) to host Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) that support service operations over multiple instances.

As service providers increasingly employ virtualized network architectures to service their customers, vLAN and MPLS/VRF management is becoming more and more important. But challenges arise when operational teams have to track numerous configuration file tags in addition to IP addresses over this virtual framework.

For most providers, records for MPLS/VRF and vLAN configurations are stored within spreadsheets. This anachronistic method can become cluttered and confusing, lengthening the process of service delivery or even stopping services time-to-activation due to an accidental duplication or simply misconfiguration.

Furthermore, managing the associations of IP resources with a MPLS/VRF or vLAN tag raises the risk of mismanagement. If the only means of verifying and databasing packages of IP resources with their associated MPLS/VRF or vLAN tags is through manual data entry, network operators will vastly increase the chance for error, which can often lead to service delivery failure.

Once spreadsheets become outdated, the risk of service issues for end-customers increases due to the chance of duplicating an MPLS/VRF or vLAN identifier, causing a namespace collision. The last result any operator wants when implementing virtual systems is an increase in service call volume.

For MPLS/VRFs, multiple instances of a routing table exist in a router and work simultaneously. This increases functionality by allowing network paths to be segmented without using multiple devices, but comes with the significant challenge of attempting to manage tags as well as associated IPs.

Luckily, there is a way to avoid these issues. Operators require an integrated IP Address Management (IPAM) solution which include mechanisms to track MPLS/VRF and vLAN assignments for their VPN instances. These solutions benefit a service provider in a number of ways, including:

  • Maximizing the use of network IPs, as well as MPLS/VRFs and vLAN tags to avoid stale and unassigned resources
  • Reassigning IPs and MPLS/VRF and vLAN tags without manual reconciliation processes
  • Hastening the deployment and allocation of IP, vLAN, and MPLS/VRF assignments
  • Automated databasing of IP resources and associated MPLS/VRF and vLAN tags
  • Eliminating the risk of duplicate IP assignments and MPLS/VRF and vLAN tags with an automated verification processes
  • Safeguarding assignments and tags from name-space collisions

These best practices not only ensure that subscriber services remain intact, they also relieve operational teams from manual grunt-work and in many cases reduce OPEX. By implementing an IPAM solution that automatically detects and verifies in-use IP addresses, operation teams can significantly reduce the chance of service failure caused by duplicate IP assignments. Additionally, by ensuring that MPLS/VRF and vLAN tags are not duplicated, namespace collision risks are eliminated and operators can avoid a support call from the end-user.

Future-proofing your network is vital to continued commercial success. Ensure your IP address management solution is ready to handle the increasingly heavy virtual requirements in the not-too-distant future.

By Gareth Barnes, Product Manager at Incognito
Related topics: IP Addressing, Networks

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