What is MPLS?

Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) is a term commonly heard when discussing telecommunications protocols.

December 08, 2016

What Does MPLS Stand For?

Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) is a term commonly heard when discussing telecommunications protocols. MPLS is a protocol or procedure used to shape network traffic flows and increase the speed between network nodes. Through this protocol, packets are forwarded on the switching level (layer 2) of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model – a reference model for how applications can communicate over a network - instead of operating at the routing level (layer 3).

MPLS works with other network protocols and transmission lines such as Internet Protocol (IP), Asynchronous Transport Mode (ATM), T1/E1, DSL and Frame Relay to create Label Switched Paths (LSPs). The LSPs act as transmission paths through the MPLS network that are set up by signaling protocols, helping to guide voice and data packets to their final destination. And while MPLS is frequently used in private networks, it can also be used at the ISP public network level as well.

MPLS Basics – A Brief History

MPLS was created in the latter half of the 1990's so that routers could bypass looking up routes in routing tables, thus improving the speed of network traffic flow. In 1994, Toshiba first presented ideas to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) which were precursors to current MPLS standards. Then in 1996, Cisco, Ipsilon and IBM announced plans to use label switching, leading to modern day implementation of the protocol. Finally, in the early 2000's, MPLS techniques were further developed and adopted, leading up to the large scale adoption that has taken place across companies within the last few years.

How Does MPLS Work?

Through most network protocols and connections, networks must look inside each individual data packet at the router level to know where the packet is headed. It's almost like a mail sorter at the post office having to look inside each envelope to determine its destination address, which obviously slows down and lengthens this process. So, in order to optimize data packet delivery, LSPs are affixed – so to speak – to each packet to enable each router to quickly ascertain where the packet is headed.

MPLS Purpose and Benefits

An advantage of using MPLS is that it can be used to improve QoS to meet network performance Service Level Agreements (SLAs) through defined standards. Improved QoS is accomplished in that service providers are able to decide in advance which paths will be best for certain traffic flows within private or public networks – in turn reducing latency, jitter, packet loss and downtime.

Using MPLS, Service Provider networks can separate their service levels so that there are distinct networks for voice, priority traffic and another for “best effort” traffic. Another way MPLS can be used to improve traffic flows is through the implementation of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and Traffic Engineering (TE). Additionally, utilizing MPLS eliminates dependence on any particular data link layer in the OSI Model, as well as eradicates the need for multiple layer-2 networks to satisfy various types of traffic.

Using MPLS is cost-effective because packets can determine their own path dynamically, reducing the need for extensive and expensive static infrastructure that is required in circuit-switched networks. Circuit-switched networks require more physical wires and T1 lines to provide for predictable routes. But MPLS in an IP packet-switched network is more flexible and scalable; routes can be modified as necessary for ideal traffic flow.

MPLS Networks in Practice

Companies can realize the full benefits of MPLS when they implement a comprehensive WAN MPLS solution. Products like Maxxis from Intrado go beyond typical MPLS solutions. Maxxis deploys a converged, all-IP network to provide optimized network performance, flexibility and resiliency. This MPLS solution uses multiple Tier 1 carriers to guarantee wide geographic coverage across a variety of interfaces, and includes intelligent application-based routing for maximum performance.


Video: How Intrado's MPLS Maxxis Network Works




As a fully-managed solution, Intrado delivers design, configuration and installation services – wrapped up in an integrated voice, data, video and internet services network architecture - with ongoing upgrades, maintenance and support included. Maxxis allows total control over network traffic and routing so that businesses always have reliable service and optimized performance. Moreover, network traffic is prioritized and bandwidth allocated based on enterprise needs. And with real-time and historical reporting, as well as built-in admin tools, IT support staff will have the information and tools necessary to make changes on the fly.

See how implementing advanced MPLS solutions in your network infrastructure can positively impact your network. Talk with us today to transform your corporate network and yield maximum performance.

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