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What Is MPLS and Why Companies Use It

Today, with the growth of computer networks, the intensity of traffic is growing exponentially, and the technologies of switching and routing packets in geographically distributed networks are becoming increasingly important. Here is more about MPLS technology.

What is MPLS?

The need to use the TCP/IP stack to support multiple types of traffic (data, video, and audio) requires implementing Quality of Service (QoS) mechanisms. Therefore, it is no exaggeration to say that the present and future of IP protocol networks are inextricably linked with multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), which is currently considered one of the most promising transport technologies.

The multiprotocol nature of MPLS technology lies in the fact that it can use routing protocols of the TCP / IP stack and other protocol stacks. However, one of its features is ignoring the IP protocol since the latter does not contain information for guaranteed QoS.

The main feature of MPLS technology is separating the packet switching process from the IP address analysis in its header, which allows packet switching to be carried out much faster. Following the MPLS protocol, routers and switches assign a particular label to each entry point in the routing table and communicate this label to neighboring devices. Such labels allow routers and switches that support MPLS technology to determine the next hop in the packet’s path without performing an address lookup procedure. There are three main applications of MPLS today:

  • traffic management;
  • support for classes of service (CoS);
  • organization of virtual private networks (VPN).

Basic MPLS modifications

Nowadays, the most famous are two modifications of MPLS, in which, to achieve specific mechanisms and protocols to supplement the necessary functionality, the principles of this technology:

  • a modification of the MPLS IGP, where MPLS is used only for accelerated forwarding of network layer packets along routes that are selected in accordance with standard internal gateway protocols – RIP or OSPF.
  • modification of MPLS-TE, where label switching paths are selected to solve traffic control problems (Traffic Engineering, TE) based on modified routing protocols. It allows you to provide QoS services with the required quality due to the most balanced use of network resources.

Why do businesses choose MPLS technology?

MPLS is a new architecture for building backbone networks, which significantly expands the existing scaling prospects, increases traffic processing speed, and provides excellent opportunities for organizing additional services. The main goal of MPLS, for which it was created, is the integration of IP and ATM networks, which allows service providers to derive additional benefits from the common use of these protocols.

From users’ point of view, the undoubted advantages of MPLS are a significant increase in the quality of work and significantly simplified construction of VPN access protection. There is no need for additional encryption and other high-security measures when using MPLS. In addition, any data can be transmitted over an MPLS-based network since the contents of the packet remain unchanged throughout the path. In addition, an MPLS-based VPN can perform other tasks, such as keeping mission-critical applications running 24/7. In this case, the service provider defines a fixed path for the duration of the user’s contract.

Undoubtedly, the use of MPLS in enterprise WANs with high traffic is more justified than the use of new architecture in small LANs since traffic isolation in local networks is not a problem for most users, and security requirements are usually implemented at the application level, so that separation of one user from another does not seem difficult.