Providing a VPN with an SLA from anywhere. Is it possible?

Mika Skarp

In the first phase of consumer data communications we used dial-up modems to connect to the internet, send emails and then later access content. You remember dial-up; the unsettling screech, the somewhat relieving ping, ping of a successful connection and the entirely unsatisfying performance that followed. Granted, the access speed was slow, but at least it was constant, thanks to being a dedicated connection. Although on occasion the network would become 'busy', like a busy signal on a phone line, and in that case the connection was impossible and would not be established.

In the second phase of "always-on" broadband, we moved from analog connectivity to a Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) service. DSL came in two flavors. Consumers could choose between either a dedicated connection, that was fairly low speed, but constant, or a shared connection that could deliver much higher speeds, but with much greater fluctuation. Despite the notable improvements that came with DSL, there remained two big limitations. First was the fact that capacity was capped and to make any changes or improvements required a fairly long lead time. The second was that via a WiFi connection, the physical range would be limited to 100 Meters from the connection point.  So how to overcome these limitations and deliver high capacity to everywhere?

Although the expanded capacity and speed afforded by fiber has mitigated these issues in a relative way, they haven't been solved. Whereas, on the mobile side these issues may have potentially disappeared, but that mobile network provider elected not to attach SLAs to them for a variety of reasons. The most critical of these is the at once insurmountable challenge of providing dynamic access. In other words mobile networks could guarantee capacity but didn't have the ability to dynamically differentiate different types of connections and attach unique SLAs to these.

Cloudstreet Dynamic Profile Control (DPC) effectively removes this bottle neck to allow SLAs to be delivered over 4G networks. But still, the challenge for delivering full dynamic capacity remains, as no mobile network enjoys a direct connection to a given Enterprise Cloud or Intranet. So while in your hotel you may need a 10Mbps symmetrical connection to properly access and use your company's Intranet, the hotel simply can't or won't provide that level of service. So how hard would it be to make that 10Mbps connection possible?

Hint: Not easy

First, even if the hotel were to provide access to their WLAN (which they wouldn't), that wouldn't necessarily solve the problem. You'd have to get direct access to the network settings to make configuration changes to the backhaul, and that would be both difficult and impossible (again, because they wouldn't let you). 

Another, much easier and more realistic route would be via your mobile operator, (or their roaming partner where ever you happen to be). In this not so imaginary pie in the sky scenario, the mobile provider would provide you with a Cloudstreet Dynamic Profile Controller service that could at any point and on demand provide you with a dedicated Access Point Name (APN) to the network. The APN would be configured via a Software Defined Network (SDN) controller, and boom!, you're there with an unflinching 10Mbps symmetrical connection when available.  This solution would vary in its design depending on whether operating in a fixed common network or bridging two different networks. 

So the answer to our rhetorical question is yes and no.

We are now at the point that with the right (and now available) technology that a VPN can be provided for applications whereever they might be. As strange as this may sound, this can be seen as a kind of return to the dial-up era, only with much faster access, speed and of course, mobility, Because any network might fail the availability test, a true SLA can't be assured, but when that service is there, which would be 99% of the time, it would be there 100%. We might call that a "much better" effort.