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Enterprise MPLS: What You Need To Know

Multiprotocol Label Switching has been the standard technology to connect branch offices with essential sites such as corporate headquarters and private data centers since the turn of the century.

This blog will examine how financial services digital transformation through MPLS networks have evolved with the advent of new networking technologies.

Is MPLS dead? Read on to find out!

What Is MPLS?

Multiprotocol Label Switching is an IP-connected bandwidth solution for mid-sized to large enterprises that provides high reliability and can be used to build private networks.  It has been a foundation technology for over 25 years.

IP routing is a standard protocol that sends data packets only to the IP address of the destination or target’s IP address. Each router makes a separate forwarding determination depending on the packet’s network-layer header.

All the routing decisions made can lead to a decrease in performance. Each router processes each packet’s destination and chooses the ideal route. The router references an often large, overbearing memory route table. The overbearing memory route table can be particularly problematic for latency-sensitive applications like video and voice.

How does MPLS Works?

MPLS assigns packets to specific forwarding classes of service (CoS) the first time they enter the network. Also known as forwarding equivalence classes (FEC), these are indicated by adding a short bit sequence (the Label) to each packet.

These classes can often be used to indicate the traffic they are receiving. One example is that a business could label these classes real-time (voice and video), mission crucial (CRM), vertical app, and best effort (Internet) and then place each application within one of these classes.

The fastest and lowest latency path should be reserved for real-time applications like voice or video. This will ensure high quality. With other routing protocols, separating traffic based on performance is impossible.

The main architectural feature of all this is that labels can be used to attach additional information beyond what the routers already have.

The Strengths Of MPLS

MPLS’s success is due in large part to its capabilities. The packet-switched, high-performance network technology is highly reliable. It allows data to be transferred from one network node to another.

MPLS has the advantage of optimal routing, meaning it can achieve extremely low latency. The fact that it’s a private network increases security. MPLS can guarantee adequate bandwidth and managed latency, which can help eliminate jitter.

An MPLS network, despite all its advantages, is not something that can easily be installed or modified quickly, cheaply, or easily.

This wasn’t an issue a few decades ago. However, cloud adoption has changed the pace of business and how organizations work. Engineers and CIOs are now looking for more flexible network technologies to support the cloud’s on-demand, flexible nature.

The old IT infrastructure for enterprise IT required a lot of planning upfront and used a mostly guesswork method to provision capacity.

Given the high cost associated with MPLS deployments, network managers would be prudent not to overprovision their networks.

Operations would buy what they think they need over a multiyear period, with no buffer to meet future traffic demand. They would use the hierarchical application and service rules to ensure that critical traffic is prioritized.

MPLS site changes can take months. Also, any reconfiguration that needs to be made on the network live makes for a tedious management process.

Regarding questions like MPLS vs SD WAN, new technologies like Network Function Virtualization and Software Defined Networking are fundamentally changing how enterprises interact with MPLS networks.

MPLS Issues and Challenges

Now that you know the basics of MPLS and how it works, let’s discuss the problems. It can be challenging to use MPLS to reach other locations. MPLS providers are unavailable worldwide, so companies must develop their own solutions. Even if it’s possible to create something, it will take some time and may still have issues such as latency and packet loss.

MPLS isn’t optimized for a mobile and remote workforce. MPLS networks cannot reach workers who leave their office, whether they’re a salesperson visiting clients or developers working remotely. A VPN or another solution is required to provide security and network connectivity. This may not be possible for every employee, depending on their location.

Reporting from an MPLS network without additional software is almost impossible, no matter where you live. This increases cost and makes strategic planning more difficult. MPLS cannot connect to 98 percent of cloud and SaaS applications without additional hardware or software.

Why Should You Care?

MPLS is about improving the quality of communications. It makes it easy to segregate traffic types, allowing for faster routing decisions to packets and applications with higher performance metrics. It is possible to ensure the highest quality perception for applications with low-latency paths (like voice or video).

This quality perception allows MPLS routers to segregate and classify traffic and access a predetermined path (Label Switched Path or LSP) to route traffic based on the FEC. This advantage makes table look-up and routing extremely efficient.

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