A virtual private network (VPN) is a network tunneled through another network, and dedicated for a specific network.
One common application is secure communications through the public Internet.
Ex: There are two branch offices located in different parts of the world. They want to share their company information/applications to achieve this you create a VPN tunnel between these two branches, it will provide a secure channel for data transfer(Ex: If these branches are within a city, one will have a leasedline connecting branch 1 and 2, but when these branches are far located VPN comes into scene).
The physical network between these two branches will span across multiple ISPs/ASPs and their networks (such as leased lines, under sea fiber links, satlinks, Dsx, E1, T1..etc.)
Where as Frame Relay....is a data transmission technique, it uses Layer-2 frames instead of Layer-3 packets for sending the data between end points.
Ex: Again the far away located branch office 1 & 2 want to share their data/applications instead of having a dedicated international leasedline, you will use much cheaper frame-relay network.
In this case you take a leasedline upto the nearest frame relay-service provider and the service provider takes care of the data to transmit it to the branch-2. Here u will pay according to the usage of the link.
You can get lots of information on these topics on internet.
Frame Relay is considered a VPN type, in general there are 2 VPN types:
The overlay model, where the service provider provides emulated leased lines to the customer (no layer 3 peering between the provider and the customer), Frame Relay is an example of this type. This type represents the best isolation and security for both the customer and the provider, and relieves the provider from participating in the customer routing.
The peer-to-peer model, where the service provider and the customer exchange Layer 3 routing information and the provider relays the data between the customer sites on the optimum layer 3 path between the customer sites, MPLS VPN is an example of this type, and its main benefits resides in the ease of configurations, scalability and the add-on features, and thats why its is widely spreading now.
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