One downside of cobbling together DSL connections is that the available speeds vary due to the quality of copper lines and the distance between the corporate sites and the providers' central offices. The worst case for Wise is at its headquarters, where the maximum upstream DSL speed it can get is 512K bps, which is inadequate in times of high use, Picardo says. As a stopgap he installed two DSL lines to give an aggregate of 1M bps. Cable service in the area was prohibitively expensive because the provider would have to extend its network at Wise's expense.
Longer term, Picardo is looking into replacing the dual DSL connections with a T-1 Internet connection, which would have stricter service quality guarantees. Since most of the traffic from the headquarters site goes to the collocation facility where the data center now resides, he is also considering adding WAN-acceleration gear at headquarters and at the data center to boost throughput.
On the upside, the new architecture gives each site direct access to the Internet. Before, if a remote site wanted to reach the Internet, the traffic had to go over the MPLS network to the lone Wise Internet connection in Alpharetta, routing that introduced unbearable delays, Picardo says. "Before, you didn't want to get on the Internet. It was pointless," he says. Now the links are responsive and are used freely.
In shifting to the StoneGate firewalls, Wise also got rid of its Cisco and Adtran WAN routers because the firewalls handle all the VPN routing necessary. "It's not a true router, but it does what we need," he says. The transition from MPLS went smoothly. "We moved from MPLS to Stonesoft and moved the data center all in one weekend," Picardo says, "and there were no WAN issues Monday morning."
Despite abandoning MPLS for his data network, Picardo says he's ready to go back to the technology to support a corporate VoIP network that will replace an expensive Centrex service. The new Verizon T-1 MPLS links will fully mesh the eight sites and plug in via IP to Verizon's network, which will handle interfacing with the public phone network. When the MPLS network has free bandwidth, it can also carry data site-to-site to supplement the DSL and cable VPN connections, he says. All that for less per month than Wise had been paying for just MPLS data, he says.