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What is MPLS

What is MPLS?  Otherwise known as Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) it is a data carrying technique rather than a service.  Therefore, this technique is seen as secure. It directs data from one network node to the next based on short path labels rather than long network addresses.  Ultimately it ensures reliable real time connections.

MPLS Pros and Cons

In an article by Networld there are benefits in using MPLS.  These are scalability, performance, better bandwidth utilization, reduced network congestion and a better end-user experience.

MPLS itself does not provide encryption, but it is a virtual private network and, as such, is partitioned off from the public Internet. Therefore, MPLS is considered a secure transport mode. And it is not vulnerable to denial of service attacks, which might impact pure-IP-based networks.

On the negative side, MPLS is a service that must be purchased from a carrier.  And is far more expensive than sending traffic over the public Internet.

As companies expand into new markets, they may find it difficult to find an MPLS service provider who delivers global coverage. Typically, service providers piece together global coverage through partnerships with other service providers, which can be costly.

And MPLS was designed in an era when branch offices sent traffic back to a main headquarters or data center.  It may not for today’s world where branch office workers want direct access to the cloud.

MPLS vs. SD-WAN

If you listen to the hype, cheap, flexible SD-WAN is going to wipe out MPLS, the slow-footed dinosaur. But, in fact, both technologies have a role to play in modern WANS.

SD-WAN is the application of Software Defined Networking (SDN) concepts to the WAN. This means the deployment of SD-WAN edge devices that apply rules and policies to send traffic along the best path.

SD-WAN is a transport-agnostic overlay that can route any type of traffic – including MPLS. The advantage of SD-WAN is that an enterprise WAN-traffic architect can sit at a central point and easily apply policies across all WAN devices.

By contrast, with MPLS predetermined routes need to be painstakingly provisioned and once the fixed circuits are up, making changes is not a point-and-click exercise.

But once an MPLS network is deployed, it delivers guaranteed performance for real-time traffic. SD-WAN can route traffic along the most efficient path. However once those IP packets hit the open Internet, there are no performance guarantees.

The most sensible strategy going forward will be to offload as much MPLS traffic as possible to the public Internet.  And continue to use MPLS for time-sensitive applications that require guaranteed delivery.  Nobody wants to get caught in the cross-hairs when the CEO’s monthly videoconference with branch office employees drops off mid-sentence.

If you are considering MPLS, contact us for a chat and we can determine if this is the best route for you.

 

 

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