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What is MPLS?

MPLS stands for Multi protocol Label Switching but what does it actually do?

The official technical definition is as follows:

MPLS is Short for Multi protocol Label Switching, an IETF initiative that integrates Layer 2 information about network links (bandwidth, latency, utilization) into Layer 3 (IP) within a particular autonomous system--or ISP--in order to simplify and improve IP-packet exchange.

Now for the real explanation !

MPLS enables service providers the ability to give priority to certain types of network traffic. We are fast moving towards integrated IP networks where you can run voice (VOIP), Video and data over one network. The issue with running multiple traffic types over data networks is that specifically with applications such as voice you need to guarantee a level of performance. A voice call that is delayed by 30 seconds is no good. Multi Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) enables you to provide Class of Service (CoS) (to certain types of traffic . In normal configurations voice will always be given priority over video, then data. However MPLS gives you the flexibility to give priority to the network traffic that’s important to your business. Maybe you have a Sales Order Processing system or Stock Control that is crucial to your business and you have Sales people moaning about the 2 minutes it takes to raise an order or update a record. With MPLS you can give that application priority over your network.

Multi Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) is offered by various different Internet Service Providers but service offerings can differ greatly. Some service providers allow any access point e.g. ADSL, SDSL or Leased Line to connect to their MPLS cloud but will only allow the Class of Service to be enabled on leased lines only, making an MPLS cloud an expensive option. Other Service Providers enable Class of Service on all types of Access Points reducing the cost of a new network however, beware as if your looking for resilience MPLS will not stop your network access point from dropping, especially if its DSL based technology.

You should look at MPLS if you have the following requirements.

  • V(oice)OIP, V(ideo)OIP, Critical Wide Area Network applications, bandwidth intensive applications and have a big enough budget.

You shouldn't look at MPLS if you're any of the following

  • On a tight budget, Have no VOIP requirements or can withstand Mobile quality calls