The virtualization of network infrastructure must respond to increasingly stringent criteria from many sectors. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) must scale massively in both capacity and reach. They must be secure, efficient, and resilient and must be able to be rapidly instantiated, assured and torn down to support dynamic workloads and microservice chains across multiple domains. Operational management must be intuitive, consistent, and highly automated across the lifecycle.
Ethernet VPN (EVPN) has evolved to be the right technology to meet these criteria and support a growing set of use cases in virtual networking, effectively and efficiently.
What is EVPN?
Ethernet VPN (EVPN) is a next-generation VPN solution that provides a unified architecture, in both the control and data planes, and supports a broad range of carrier and business VPN services and network infrastructures. EVPN enhances the essential characteristics of VPNs, such as security, capacity, performance efficiency and resiliency, and delivers a variety of benefits to service providers and their customers, including greater network efficiency, reliability, scalability, and mobility.
The EVPN control plane is founded upon the Multiprotocol Border Gateway Protocol (MP-BGP), which allows network reachability information, such as Layer 2 MAC addresses and Layer 3 IP addresses, to be efficiently signalled across the network.
EVPN provides resiliency via an all-active multihoming model, keeping traffic flowing even under failure conditions. In the data plane, a range of tunneling options are available depending on the application. This unified, consistent architecture supports a wide range of networking use cases (see below).
What challenges does EVPN solve?
Legacy Layer 2 VPN technologies, such as virtual private LAN service (VPLS), attempt to solve the same problems as EVPN, but have some significant shortcomings. The growth of the cloud, the popularity of video and other bandwidth-intensive services, and increased inter-data center traffic are all driving the need for the capabilities that EVPN technology provides.
Some of the principal issues in legacy VPNs are listed below with the EVPN features that resolve them and associated benefits:
Issue with legacy VPNs
Benefits to network operators and users
Basic flooding and learning of MAC addresses leads to a high impact of broadcast traffic, as well as unknown unicast and multicast (BUM) traffic.
MP-BGP Update control messages for address advertisement greatly reduce flooding in the network
Improved scaling (beyond the limits of legacy VPNs) and lowered resource consumption leads to reduced capital expense for supporting a given service load.
Weak multi-homing capabilities.
Powerful and flexible single-active and all-active multihoming with optional automated or manual operation and transient loop prevention.
Improved resiliency for users and applications brings improved uptime and boosts user satisfaction. Better utilization of link groups into central sites, for example, improves the return on capital investment.
Multiple protocols and control plane types are required to support for a range of services across Layer 2, Layer 3 and multicast networks
Consolidation and simplification on a unified MP-BGP control plane (with strong policy) for building Layer 2 and Layer 3 VPNs for a range of CSP and datacenter services with a variety of data plane encapsulations
Reduced expenses related to training . Improved reliability and resiliency, due to a constrained knowledge base and tool suite for network operations, lead to more available services for end users.
Time-consuming operations are required to configure the network and across the lifecycle of services
Automation is built into EVPN from its inception. EVPN has auto configuration capabilities, and the need for manual configuration is greatly reduced.
Day-to-day operational expenses are reduced by the automation capabilities of EVPN. Rapid, automated service lifecycle operations can unlock new use cases.
What are the principal use cases for EVPN?
With the advanced features of EVPN, service providers, and network operators generally have the ability to offer improved solutions to their customers and address different market segments. Some of the key use cases supported by EVPN include:
Layer 2 and 3 business services
Service Providers can offer a broad range of Layer 2 and Layer 3 business services leveraging the EVPN control and data plane architecture. Services such as ELAN, ELINE, E-Tree, and Layer 3 IP VPN services, including unicast and multicast offerings, are all supported with a robust, consistent, simplified and feature-rich operational model.
Data center networks
EVPN infrastructure is ideal for the construction of a powerful, reliable, and flexible data center network fabric. Load balancing capabilities maximize bandwidth utilization in the fabric. The ability to move hosts and workloads dynamically and seamlessly delivers excellent availability and service quality. Consistent practices and skillsets, across the end-to-end solution from the Data Center into the WAN, bring reduced OPEX.
Internet exchange point networks (IXPs)
Internet Exchange Points can deliver high capacity, reliable and secure interconnection capabilities to bring together the infrastructure of the Internet. Specific features to suppress unwanted and possibly malicious Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) and Neighbor Discover (ND) traffic are built into EVPN, further contributing to the smooth and secure operation of Internet services.
Mobile transport networks
The evolving mobile transport network must be efficient and secure. As mobile transport slicing is deployed it will be increasingly important to be able to rapidly instantiate, modify, monitor, and tear down transport slices. EVPN is the perfect solution for this use case with its built-in automation characteristics enabling efficient operations.
SD-WAN controllers, which guide and inform the overlay data plane, can use BGP EVPN peering to advertise network addresses at Layer 2 and Layer 3 efficiently.
Enterprise, industry and public sector networks and Rresearch and education networks
Many of the features that make EVPN attractive for service providers are also highly beneficial in crucial networks in enterprise, industry, research, and the public sector. These include consolidation and simplification, particularly in operations, efficient resource consumption, and strong resiliency and reliability via powerful multi-homing.
What are the benefits of EVPN?
Increasing efficiency and scalability
Using the MP-BGP control plane for address advertisement builds connectivity and reachability with minimal resource-consuming network traffic. All-active multi-homed links allow full utilization of valuable network edge bandwidth. These capabilities can improve the return on capital investment.
Improving reliability and resilience
Multi-homing capabilities contribute to improved resiliency at the network edge, free of loops and duplications. Data plane tunnels can be protected against link and node failures with fast rerouting. Network availability and the end user experience are both improved.
Automating and simplifying operations
EVPN is optimized for automation and programmability throughout the operational lifecycle from configuration to assurance, streaming telemetry, and troubleshooting. EVPN simplifies and reduces operations and training costs because its unified architecture supports a wide range of service and infrastructure VPN types.
Creating new revenue streams
EVPN enables service providers to create new revenue streams by offering more feature-rich connectivity services to their enterprise customers. For example, existing Layer 2 VPN/VPLS and Layer 3 VPN services can be extended to provide cloud, storage and other services using EVPN’s integrated routing and bridging (IRB) feature.
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