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Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS)


The enterprise with serious bandwidth and security requirements has had a lot of network transport options over the years: private lines, Frame Relay, ATM, SONET and even IP-VPN. (Anyone remember X.25?) Each one was the new kid in town, until the next cheaper, faster, and smarter ‘hot new thing’ came along, leaving a trail of long-term telco contracts, equipment purchases, and sunken costs behind. They’re called legacy networks for a reason – too expensive to scrap, too woven through the network architecture to bypass. Fortunately, Multiprotocol Label Switching solves the multiple-protocol networking problem in a very elegant way. MPLS is a protocol-neutral labeling system - not a transport or service – that integrates all kinds of packet-switched data over one network.

How does MPLS work? Networks with several layers can carry many different kinds of packet traffic, from native ATM, SONET, and Ethernet frames – all of which have high-overhead requirements, to IP packets, which don’t. MPLS network design assigns low-overhead labels that reduce the ‘thinking’ required of any edge or inner-network router. Packets are forwarded based solely on the outer label, and both the length and contents of the packet are immaterial. And since only the label gets read, the limited number of choices allows for Classes of Services, traffic prioritization, and other network services too. This lets any ‘wolf’ travel an end-to-end circuit across any type of transport medium, using any protocol, as long as it’s covered by an MPLS ‘sheep’s skin’.

Why should enterprises take advantage of MPLS’ flexibility and scalability? An IP-VPN network over the public Internet is still not a reliable business-class transport for the corporate WAN requiring Quality of Service and performance guarantees. Any business whose applications include VoIP, video conferencing, real-time data traffic, or delay-sensitive business data like Ecommerce wants both security and performance, but doesn’t want to pay ATM or frame relay prices to get them. These companies can use MPLS over newer, easily scalable and more cost-effective transport such as Ethernet with the same security and privacy. MPLS makes replacing ATM or frame relay with Ethernet simple, without complicated LAN and WAN re-provisioning and maintenance, or expensive network redesign.

Ethernet LLC’s communications specialists can work with you to find the Ethernet Service Providers in your area that offer MPLS for your WAN. Ethernet LLC partners with Charter, Comcast, Dish Network, Insight, and Optimum Online for residential services, and ACC, Abovenet, Airband, AireSpring, Broadview Networks, CBeyond, Integra, Nitel, and Smoothstone for business services. The right Ethernet Service Provider can put your network on the secure, private and cost-effective footing Ethernet Service solutions with MPLS offer today.