MPLS is a convergence of various implementations of "IP switching" that use ATM-like Label Swapping to speed up IP packet forwarding without changes to existing IP routing protocols operating at Layer 2.5. The major motivations behind MPLS are higher scalability, faster packet forwarding performance, IP + ATM integration, Traffic Engineering, MPLS Virtual Private Networks, fast rerouting, and hard Quality of Service.
The deployment of MPLS in service provider Internet backbones has become possible since it is transparent to the end user. consequentially, at the architectural level, it has changed the basic longest match destination-based unicast-forwarding model, which has remained essentially unchanged since the inception of the Internet. In turn, it also impacts the routing architecture, requiring that routing protocols perform new and more complex routing tasks.
As the Internet continues to develop into a medium for the convergence of voice, video, and data communications, it has been growing (and envisaged to continue to grow) in terms of bandwidth, number of hosts, geographic size, and traffic volume. It has evolved from best-effort service toward an integrated or differentiated services framework with quality of service (QoS) assurances, which are necessary for many new applications such as Managed VPNs, Voice over IP, videoconferencing, and broadband multimedia services.
Service Provider backbone infrastructures are currently used to provide multiple services such as TDM leased lines, ATM, Frame Relay, Voice, video, and Internet services. ATM backbones, that were popular in the past due to their reliability and versatility in offering multiple service types were found not to integrate very well with IP and there are serious scalability issues that need to be dealt with, when running IP over ATM.
Hence, MPLS is here to stay for quite some time still. As the Internet metamorphoses into a combo of data, voice, video, Telepresence, and who knows what else, MPLS will keep growing with newer features and more flexibility being introduced to meet ongoing versatile demands at a well maintained regularity by the IETF MPLS Work Group and related standardization bodies.
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