MPLS: Panacea Or Passing Fancy?
by Bob Bellman
Published February 2001
Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) promises to make all-IP networking a reality. By plotting static paths through an IP network, MPLS gives service providers the traffic engineering capability they require while also building a natural foundation for virtual private networks (VPNs). In addition, MPLS has the potential to unite IP and optical switching under one route-provisioning umbrella.
If you've been in the business for a few years, you probably remember similar world domination claims for ATM. And while ATM has gained popularity among service providers, it has not and will not achieve universal protocol status.
Will MPLS take over the world? Definitely not. Nothing ever does, and IP visionaries are already promising new routing techniques that will make MPLS obsolete. Will MPLS replace ATM? Eventually, but only after MPLS-based QOS proves out. Does MPLS offer real value? Absolutely. MPLS is an elegant solution to a real-world problem—traffic engineering in IP networks—and it builds on lessons learned from years of IP, frame relay and ATM networking.
Without MPLS, service providers will continue to struggle with costly, inflexible network overlays. With MPLS, they can simplify their operational procedures, deliver more versatile IP services, sign meaningful SLAs and still get a good night's sleep.
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