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The basic concept of VPLS - Virtual Private LAN Service is that they use secure tunnels on the internet to bridge disparate Ethernet networks into a single virtual Ethernet LAN. An ideal definition of what a VPLS does would be that it offers Ethernet based multi-point to multi-point communication over packet switched IP networks.
In order to achieve this, a VPLS makes use of VPN aka Virtual Private Networking. The subscriber gets access to this secure tunnel, and is able to link to the main provider network. This main network also emulates a switch to route data between individual LANs using the VPLS, so that it looks like all the subscribers are on the same Ethernet LAN. The main reason for signing up with a VPLS is so that a spread out corporate organization can be on a single, secure network without having to open up to the internet.
This is possible because the VPLS governs the movement of packet data without mixing up data packets with other data that flows on the internet. Combined with the emulated bridge that puts all individual LANs on the same Ethernet, the net effect is of one giant network which has its own Ethernet-based lines of communication distinct from the internet.
Consider a company that is afraid to allow a branch office network to log into the main servers at the corporate headquarters, since that would mean opening up the network to the internet. If the company were able to get a VPN link between the two points, it would offer a secure line of communication between the two locations, and the branch office LAN could become a part of the main network at the head office.
The difference, with a VPLS, is that this concept can be expanded to a large number of different LANs which would all be part of the main network and able to communicate securely with each other. Each subscriber would simply be logging into the main Ethernet network, and not the internet. This does away with geographic and scaling concerns for a network, and a VPLS can put thousands of users on a large number of LANs across the world on a single virtual network.
VPN does require that ISPs allow, or support it. An internet service provider will usually allow VPN. But sometimes it has an extra price tag, so it's worth looking into, just in case the ISP decides to start charging each user for use of VPN technology.
What usually happens, though, is that the VPLS - Virtual Private LAN Service has an arrangement with ISPs to use VPN, so the subscribers don't have to worry about it. As far as customers are concerned, it is the only feasible option for a secure, global intranet. They're getting all the LANs tied into a single Ethernet network without having to deal with the internet.
March 10, 2014, 2:00:04 am, America/Chicago