Not necessarily. In these volatile times service providers recognize that many companies need some flexibility in their bandwidth commitments. This is where the idea of bursting becomes attractive. Bursting basically allows you to exceed your committed bandwidth rate for short periods of time. This can happen during seasonal peaks like additional shoppers you didn’t plan on or a sudden increase in traffic due to having your company mentioned in the media. Bursting is also useful when you are adding additional locations for your business and haven’t factored the additional traffic into your bandwidth budget.
Who lets you burst? Some providers offer this feature on their line or network services, some don’t. A traditional T1 line, for instance, runs at a constant 1.5 Mbps. You have exclusive use of all 1.5 Mbps whether you have traffic on the line or not. Whatever isn’t being used at a particular time sits idle. The same is true for DS3 at 45 Mbps or private line Ethernet services at, say, 10 Mbps or 100 Mbps. You can’t make a bandwidth service run any faster than its technical limitation, but you may be able to buy fractional bandwidth service with bursting capability up to the full limit.
Why would you do this? Perhaps you need about 20 Mbps on a rather steady basis, but occasionally that jumps up to 30 or 40 Mbps. You could simply order a 45 Mbps DS3 service and be covered for any contingency. Or, you could order a fractional DS3 at 25 Mbps with the ability to burst up to the entire 45 Mbps capability. The advantage of this approach is that you may pay less per month for the fractional service plus the excess bandwidth used when bursting that if you leased the entire 45 Mbps line.
This works especially well with Ethernet connections. The maximum Ethernet bandwidth is set by the port that is installed in your facility. If a Fast Ethernet port is installed, you can get any bandwidth increment up to 100 Mbps. If a Gigabit Ethernet port is installed, you can order any bandwidth increment offered up to 1 Gbps. Most carriers give you a wide range of bandwidths to pick from. Some even offer bursting options that present significant cost savings. If you find that your needs have increased so that you are always bursting, you can change your line service to a higher bandwidth. That may be much less expensive since the committed rate is cheaper than the bursting charges. Think of overage charges on smartphone data use. That’s very similar to how bursting works.
XO Communications has taken the concept of bursting to their MPLS IP VPN networks. As you know, MPLS is now the preferred way to connect multiple business sites together. There are big cost advantages over simply installing dedicated lines to each location. By using the multi-tenant MPLS network for most of the distance and only installing short last mile connects to each location, you have the advantages of high bandwidth connections at a considerable cost savings. You also have the option to tie all of your locations together in a many-to-many mesh network so that any location can easily communicate with any other. The network takes care of setting this up, you don’t need to make those connections at headquarters.
The core MPLS network has tremendous capacity. It is designed to support many simultaneous users at various classes of service without one user impacting another. You have the feeling that you are the only one on the network, even though there may be thousands of others. The network operator has to provide enough bandwidth to meet the committed rates offered to all it’s clients, even if they all decide to communicate at the same time. Excess capacity can be used to offer bursting to those clients who need it. With XO, you can commit to 100 Mbps but burst up to 1 Gbps. They discard the top 5% of traffic samples as anomalies and only charge you for the committed rate plus the excess rate that you have used during the month.
How about your business requirements? Are they rock solid or do you need the ability to rapidly and automatically respond to spikes in demand? There are great solutions available for both cases. Get competitive MPLS network and line prices now to compare with your current telecom costs.
Note: Image of Gamma Ray burst courtesy of NASA on Wikimedia Commons.