Now that we have dispelled the myth about the technical issues we need to take a hard look at the "administrative" issues involved with a broadband site-to-site VPN network. This can be relatively simple if you have a network comprised of only one vendor (which is probably not the case) or downright miserable if you have a large network comprised of a multitude of providers at the end points (which is most likely what you're facing).
Can you imagine having to reconcile hundreds of invoices from the various Bells and cable providers each month? Yikes! It is not a pretty picture, is it? Well, don't worry; the solution is simple.
All you need to do is to outsource the network to a full service firm that harnesses the broadband services from a variety of providers, manages all of this for you and then provides you one itemized invoice for all of your remote locations at the end of the month.
In all probability, when you displace Frame Relay with broadband site-to-site VPN you will start receiving a small, easy-to-read invoice in place of the telephone directory sized invoice you receive from your Frame provider today. It typically takes me about 8 hours to slog through my Frame Relay invoice and less than one hour to process my Broadband VPN invoice, both networks of which have a comparable number of locations. So you do the math.
The site-to-site Broadband VPN will introduce numerous end-point providers. Not to fear, this is an opportunity to take advantage of an aggregator as I described above.
Let the aggregator manage your network on a 7/24 basis. This eliminates the need for you to worry about monitoring the network at all hours and the small monthly fee you pay for this service will be recouped many times over with the savings you reap by making the switch. Simply speaking, you will continue to enjoy one-stop shopping, management and billing while cutting costs and potentially reducing staff.
The Next Step
O.K. lets get to the bottom line, since there appears to be no significant technical challenges or administrative burdens to incur. First tally up your monthly spending on Frame Relay then ask yourself if you are willing to double or triple the bandwidth capacity while cutting your monthly recurring costs in half.
Then I recommend you research some of the full service network consolidators such as Megapath or Go Remote (links below) and get a first-hand look at what services they have to offer as well as some of their success stories. I suspect you may find an off-the-shelf solution that you can easily plug into your existing infrastructure with very little engineering time. Actually the only engineering time you should have to expend is how to interface the VPN network securely to your infrastructure, and even then, the time spent should be realm of hours versus days.
In the next installment we will discuss the design considerations and help you to put together a cost benefit analysis.