Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS) VPN/VPLS

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MPLS Definition

Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS) is a method of getting packets of data to where they're supposed to go, by wrapping them in one or more labels, then forwarding them based on those labels (rather than their contents).

The information contained in the label can be any type of data, but typically it would be IP packets and Ethernet frames.

How to tell if MPLS is relevant to your business

MPLS is probably IRRELEVANT if:

MPLS is probably RELEVANT if any of the following hold true:

MPLS Illustration

The Benefits of MPLS

Improved uptime (from ultra-fast re-routing) - if a major link within the MPLS network goes down, and an alternative path exists, traffic can be re-routed down such a path in under 50 milliseconds. In other words, there can be a major outage, but you wouldn't notice a thing as the network detects and works around the problem, in one-sixth of the time it takes to blink an eye.

Cost-effective, scalable IP VPNs - forget complex meshes of tunnels between your various sites. MPLS IP VPNs make it far simpler to set up a scalable VPN, and to add new sites to an existing one. You don't need additional hardware, such as expensive firewalls. All you need are standard routers.

Improved experience from your VPN (thanks to different Classes of Service being applied to customer - defined prioritised classes of VPN Traffic) - instead of all traffic being treated as being of equal priority, the appropriate Quality of Service settings can be applied to traffic within your WAN, so that time-sensitive traffic is assigned priority over delay tolerant traffic. For example, if the inbound traffic to your head office from your remote sites maxes out your Head Office's connection, the traffic from your sites is prioritised in accordance to your wishes (e.g. phone and video calls might be prioritised above application traffic to a key server, which might be prioritised above web traffic, which might be prioritised above email).

Greater bandwidth utilisation within the WAN - the traditional way of ensuring Quality of Service within the WAN is to create virtual circuits dedicated solely to particular streams of delay-sensitive traffic (such as phone calls and site-to-site connectivity). This works, but is not ideal, as the circuits are underutilised for most of the time. MPLS allows prioritised Classes of Service. This is a far better way of achieving the same Quality of Service experiences, as the underutilised bandwidth can be used by other services when the services that have a higher priority don't need it.

Virtual Private LAN Service (VPLS) allows multiple sites to be joined together as though they were on the same LAN - your Birmingham, Manchester or Leeds offices can be as easy to connect into your LAN in your London office as the three PCs in the next room.

Quicker & easier service provisioning and upgrades - with MPLS there's no need to manually set up routing at every hop through the core network. The upshot is that the lead time between you placing an order and it being delivered may shrink. The time between you ordering an upgrade and it being delivered may also shrink.

Less network congestion - congestion can mean that the shortest path between two points may not be the best one for data to be sent along. MPLS offers sophisticated Traffic Engineering options that enable traffic to be sent along atypical paths, bypassing congested areas of the network. This re-routing also relieves the congestion to some extent.