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Know Your Network: MPLS is Not as Complicated as You May Have Thought

Having trouble wrapping your head around MPLS? The truth is, multiprotocol label switching is just part of the natural progression of our reliance on the internet. Traditionally, networking through an IP uses routing to make a decision. MPLS does this, but also determines what the final destination will be. It then maps a path and applies a label to this path. This label is used by other routers to manage traffic.

Who Uses It – And Why?    

Asking “What is MPLS?” doesn’t quite explain why it’s in use, what with the rapidly-changing landscape of network and data. Companies use MPLS primarily to link up offices and data centers, offices to offices, and data centers to data centers. Approximately two out of every ten companies use it to connect remote sites.

Even with the evolution of computing, there are advantages to sticking with MPLS for business. Large routed networks can be tricky to navigate, and MPLS is a bit more simplified in that a carrier manages the WAN. The reduction of staff responsible for this area is a cost incentive for some companies.

Companies also won’t be saddled with dealing with the market’s usual suspects in terms of internet service providers, and may have their agreements include better forms of support and installation.

More than anything, MPLS is a good way for companies to avoid traffic jams. Through the logical management of traffic, networks can potentially be made more reliable and less prone to latency and downtimes.

It’s also essential for companies who rely on voice and video, the kind of traffic that can be easily disrupted with a virtual private network. This kind of traffic – which is so necessary to offices where communication and collaboration between the two are part of everyday operations – is prioritized by MPLS.

Other Considerations

MPLS, while useful, doesn’t come without its own drawbacks, and may not be right for every company. For instance, your enterprise does not fully control this network. The carrier plays a feature role, and for this reason, you’ll want to choose wisely.

In addition, it’s not the best option for those businesses who have locations positioned all over the world. This isn’t the gold standard in global networking.

Another big sticking point is security. Again, there is a high degree of reliance on your carrier or provider to come through with adequate security solutions.

Finally, while your quality of service (QoS) will certainly be improved, you must weigh this against the cost of adding bandwidth, which will certainly be necessary during growth periods.

Also vital is doing your research on the different types of MPLS. Layer 2 and Layer 3 MPLS may share the basics in terms of how it manages traffic, but there are a few differences. Layer 3, or L3, uses IP frames and route maps, while Layer 2 (L2) relies of circuit switching, circuit tags, and Ethernet frames.

If you have offices up and down the coast, you’ll want to consider MPLS as an option for your communications. With the advantages and disadvantages made plain, and a few exploratory conversations with carriers and vendors, your choice of network will be easier to decide on than anticipated.