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The Basics of MPLS: Defining Smart Traffic Engineering

Posted By Jayne Swystun
March 30, 2010

Because MegaPath has been running its own core MPLS network for more than 10 years, we readily toss around the term MPLS and perhaps don't give enough consideration to how well understood the term is (or is not) amongst technology users from small business to large enterprise. We do know that MPLS (Multi Protocol Label Switching) is becoming the predominant wide area network (WAN) service, holding solid favor with service providers and end users alike for its flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and reliability.

SearchEnterpriseWAN.com provides a good working definition of MPLS that can be appreciated by business- and process-focused staff (in addition to IT owners) for its simplicity. In short, MPLS is a standards-approved technology for speeding up network traffic flow and making it easier to manage. MPLS involves setting up a specific path for a given sequence of packets, identified by a label put in each packet, thus saving the time needed for a router to look up the address to the next node in which to forward the packet. MPLS is called multiprotocol because it works with the Internet Protocol (IP), Asynchronous Transport Mode (ATM), and frame relay network protocols. In addition to moving traffic faster overall, MPLS makes it easy to manage a network for quality of service (QoS). For these reasons, the technique is expected to be readily adopted as networks begin to carry more and different mixtures of traffic.

Engineering MPLS networks for performance is one key IP service area where MegaPath focuses our efforts because we know its importance in taming bandwidth hogs, boosting productivity for branch office users, and ensuring QoS for applications like voice, video, and data transfer that are latency-sensitive. We invest a substantial amount of time working with customers to understand their IT operations and service management challenges, and the increasing need to provide uniformity of user experience.

Our approach is about service, scale, and control—and because of the flexibility and delivery we build into what we call the MegaPath Method to MPLS—cost reduction in both IT operating and capital expenses are top benefits that our managed services customers can expect to realize. In fact, we just released a white paper "The MPLS Network: A Future-Proof Engine for Voice-Data Communications" that addresses network traffic trends with new opportunities for business communications. Take a few minutes to peruse it, and then request a quick 5-step bandwidth assessment from our MPLS experts.

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