MPLS for your main network: good or bad choice?

All you seem to hear today for core networks is “MPLS.” It seems to be the fashionable option. But is it a good or a bad choice?

I think if you are talking about MPLS as a technology for your core network, rather than say, ATM, then the answer is easy. MPLS is the default technology for anything other than peer-to-peer networks. It has been developed with voice / data convergence in mind.

If you talk about MPLS as a product offered by the operators to the company, the answer is the same. It is designed to offer many different types of services for many clients on a single physical infrastructure. It is designed to minimize latency, minimize failover times, maximize redundancy, and provide a range of solutions that are tailored to the customer in the most secure manner. Also, and this is key, vendors have been developing equipment for MPLS as a priority for some time. The most sophisticated equipment and the fastest interfaces have been developed for MPLS. This is not because ATM (for example) has reached its limits, but rather because they chose to develop MPLS as the best way forward.

In fact, whatever solution a customer chooses for their network needs, it will end up being transported over an MPLS network somewhere, as even leased lines will likely be an MPLS VPN.

The cost benefits for operators are huge, virtualization is the way to go in the data center, and it also has huge savings on less kit required, less fiber on the ground, etc.

Regardless, there are several factors at play here.

The first is bandwidth and performance. The choice of carriers is much more important than the choice of technologies.

IE: a smaller operator who chose to implement MPLS vs. an operator with a better network that still has a non-MPLS infrastructure. That said, MPLS is usually the best solution, so you may not have many options. How many people (myself included) could suggest a second technology that is almost as good?

Any communication between multiple sites will always be more efficient with MPLS. The any to any model of full mesh networks versus the point-to-point or point-to-multipoint model of other technologies. Also, if your carrier offers SLAs for QOS, it will probably use MPLS.

So to summarize, you really don’t have a choice, as the industry has made the decision for you, and you really don’t have any other option other than MPLS. Fortunately it is a good choice.

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