What Is A MPLS Network?

An MPLS network is a VPN ( Virtual Private Network or Private Virtual Network ) that makes use of a shared network infrastructure that is cheaper and more reliable, similar to Frame Relay or ATM networks, but by making use of MPLS ( MultiProtocol Label Switching ) technology in the IP Backbone.


MPLS is a technology that makes the IP network safer, more reliable, and easy to administrate and customize...eliminating the IP network deficiencies at the same time keeping its advantages.  Additionally, with quality gain in the classification (CoS) and prioritization (QoS) of data, voice and video...making possible the coexistence of multimidia and other critical aplications on the corporate network.

The IP/MPLS is perfect for companies of all sizes that need to interconnect their network matrix with quality, security and flexibility for future aplications...afforded by the simplicity of IP protocol allied to the security of the MPLS (MultiProtocol Label Switching) technology.

This technology enhances data, voice and video transmission with security, reliability, flexibility and performance guaranteed through QoS (optional), which makes IP/MPLS networks most suitable for medium to large enterprise companies.

Some additional features we see provided by the use of IP/MPLS:

- QoS (Quality of Service)

- Security: All the traffic isolation is implemented and done on the IP/MPLS backbone.

- Costs reduction: The use of MPLS structure guarantees the formation of a secure network with low costs, because the distance among the points of the VPN or its configuration does not cause impacts on the total cost, guaranteeing the best price and benefit in a network upgrade. The use of QoS ( optional), besides it permits the traffic of voice, data and video over IP, it optmizes the resources fulfilling the network expectations and accomplishing the traffic treatment per application.

- Traffic treatment: The QoS ( quality of Service) main function is to optimize the network resources.  It means, with up to 12 different classes, the company can choose which applications shall be treated or not.  Thus it guarantees: 1) voice over IP ( VoIP) and videoconferencing with quality, independent of the links occupated by data traffic, and 2) use of corporate applications without the concerns regarding bottlenecks in the links, through the optimized use of the network resources.

- Management: MPLS simplifies the management by the user, reducing the network complexity.

- Scalability: MPLS was developed to support the expansion of companies and the use of multi-location network connectivity, including new types of applications, without negative impact on network upgrades.

- Quality: The Service Level Agreement assures the quality of the IP/MPLS backbone, guaranteeing the network will work properly and in conformance with (and support of) customer applications.

-Topology types: This technology permits the conformance of the logical VPN topology to the traffic profile in each point of the customer network, be it full mesh, hub-and-spoke, or mixed.  With bandwidth economy and the possibility of higher internal control of access and security.

To simplify .... advantages of MPLS are: save costs, prioritize traffic, optimize and economize bandwidth use, scalability, flexibility, customize usage, and greater security.

There is a lot of junk talked about MPLS by people who don't really understand the technology, and therefore don't really understand its application.

To be honest it's not really a choice you need to make as an end user any more. MPLS is the network of choice for all decent carriers - they either have it, have had it for ages and are bringing in their second generation, or are implementing it.

To the carrier it allows them to put in a core network which is resilient, allows them to use traffic engineering to define which network path is preferred for each customer, utilizes all available capacity and uses fast re-route if there is a failure.

Nowadays all decent MPLS networks will be built on a transport network using fibre and something like DWDM for maximum performance and flexibility.

For you the decision is really about does your provider offer you the features you need. Basically it is a piece of string, so all IP apps will work on it - the issue is do they support features that will enhance your apps - so will they give you QoS for your voice etc, will they allow muticast, can they offer L3 VPNs and L2 psuedowires etc). You need to know how the resilience works (fast reroute should take micro seconds).

QoS is another subject much misunderstood - what you need to remember is that QoS doesn't deliver any packets faster, it decides which packets to drop if you have over-subscription on a link. In many cases over-provision and redundancy is much better (depending on cost). The best MPLS networks may over-provision therefore not use QoS on the core.

If or when SIP enters into the discussion - something to look out for here is multi topology routing.

So basically, if the price is right, go for it - you may find that a lot of "point to point" services are already provided on an MPLS core.......

To learn more about what your best options are for the backbone of your MPLS network click on Business Ethernet

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