Wide Area Networks
– An introduction to MPLS and VPLS
MPLS or Multi Protocol Layer Switching uses ‘virtual paths’ to link locations together. MPLS is unique in that it’s a Layer 2 service that can handle layer 3 applications at faster speeds.Like a P2P link, these paths provide speed and private connection but also offer a much more flexible and precise way to distribute traffic from user-to-user.
In an MPLS network, specific applications (IM, voice, email, web traffic) can be prioritized so the most important information gets the most bandwidth. This is realized through a process known as Quality Of Service or QoS.
MPLS networks allow the customer to view and dictate how their networks behave. The best network providers allow clients more control. For example, customers can re-prioritize bandwidth for a specific application as their needs change – without calling the carrier to do so. Businesses looking to manage a host of applications on a secure network where they can tweak settings and performance at their disposal MPLS solutions are the better solution.
VPLS or Virtual Private LAN Service has a lot of common elements with the MPLS network. VPLS can provide similar visibility and QoS characteristics as MPLS. In fact, a VPLS network sits on top of MPLS. MPLS is the engine that assigns routes or ‘pseudo wires’ to all the locations but there are a few important distinctions between the two.
Primarily VPLS provides a ‘LAN-like’ environment using static routing whereas MPLS is a dynamic environment which can automatically re-route traffic in the event of fiber or circuit outages. VPLS provides network control to the customer whereas MPLS puts control primarily in the hands of the carrier. In VPLS every location and device looks like its on the same local network using the same range of IP addresses.
There are several benefits to this pseudo-LAN environment. First, the end user has more control over the WAN. He or she can use their own routers to control Layer 3 traffic. Second, because there’s only one set of IP addresses to manage, troubleshooting and moves, adds and changes are greatly simplified for the administrator of the network. The reason all of this is possible because VPLS is really a Layer 2 application sitting on an Ethernet infrastructure.
For businesses with a few locations, looking for high speed, security and control VPLS is a logical choice. Think of VPLS as a logical replacement to P2P networks. VPLS is providing fast speed, control, and visibility with the predictable performance of a P2P service. Since every location is delivered on an ethernet interface, this also simplifies installation. Customer routers and switches can easily be connected at each location and operational pretty quickly. MPLS, on the other hand, because of its dynamic qualities, is better suited for organizations who need to deliver and manage voice, data and video to many locations.
Both flavors have their place in business networking. If you understand the similarities and more importantly, the differences then you can make a better decision about which network service is best for your business.