MPLS Explained

Posted on
Dec 7, 2018
ATSI Content Team
ATSI Content Team
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Image of laptop with globe illustration at backgroundMPLS is part of various communication networks such as the internet, computer networks or telephone systems. This particular type of technology uses labels to make decisions regarding how data will be forwarded. The following information describes what MPLS is, its benefits, and when this type of system may be most effective.

What is MPLS?

MPLS is the acronym for Multi Protocol Label Switching. MPLS works by directing data through network nodes instead of network addresses. Packets of data are given one or more labels. Each of the labels finds a path between the nodes. Throughout the MPLS system, labels can be replaced, added or completely taken off. This method avoids complicated lookups through a routing table. MPLS is sometimes called a layer 2.5 protocol. This is because it operates in the layer between layer 2 of basic OSI and layer 3 of a network layer. In simplest terms, this system has the ability to send network traffic and data along the most efficient route available.

What are the Benefits?

The main benefit of MPLS is that it eliminates the need for technology that involves data link layers such as Ethernet, SONET or ATM. Label switching also provides several other specific benefits.

  • Traffic Engineering (TE) — It can specifically control how and where traffic occurs within your network. Because of congestion in a network, the shortest route between two points isn't always the best path to take. MPLS can find the best path for data, regardless of whether it's the shortest.
  • Quality of Service (QoS) — Because this system uses labels, each customer can prioritize the labels. Customers have the option of subscribing to different bandwidth levels. This means that certain packets of data can have priority.
  • Works Well with VoIP — VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is phone service through the internet. MPLS can benefit VoIP through its bandwidth connectivity to both the internet and data centers. It also provides private connectivity, consistent connections and secure circuits.
  • Greater Reliability — Traffic in the network is both predictable and reliable. Labeled paths are determined ahead of time and only travel on paths where they have specifically been directed. This is generally considered a reliable technology that has been in use for many years.

Who Could Use This?

There are several platforms that are able to support MPLS. Those who would get the most use of MPLS are clients who use a packet-switching or circuit-based system. MPLS offers a unified data-carrying option that supports several different types of traffic, including Ethernet, SONET and ATM. MPLS is especially useful when several types of traffic are using the same data connection. This system is recommended for networks that often have high levels of congestion. MPLS also provides scalability, which means organizations with growing networks can rely on the system to easily expand without any major problems. MPLS can offer a variety of organizations a more effective way of managing their data.