Monday, November 03, 2008

MPLS For Your Core Network - Good Or Bad Choice?

All you seem to hear about today for core networks is "MPLS". Seems to be the fashionable choice. But is it a good choice 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 more than point to point networks. It has been developed with Voice/Data convergence in mind.

If you are talking about MPLS as a product offered by carriers to the enterprise, then the answer is the same. It is designed to carry lots of different kinds of service, for lots of customers across a single physical infrastructure. It is designed to minimise latency, minimise fail over times, maximise redundancy and to provide a range of solutions to suit the customer in the most secure way. Also - and this is key - the vendors have been developing equipment for MPLS as a priority for some time. The most sophisticated equipment and fastest interfaces have been developed for MPLS.

This is not because ATM (for example) had reached it's limits, but because they chose to develop MPLS as the best way forward.

In fact, whatever solution a customer chooses for their network needs, they will end up being carried across an MPLS network somewhere, as even leased lines will more than likely be an MPLS VPN.

The cost benefits to carriers are huge, virtualisation is the way to go in the data centre, and it also has tremendous savings in less kit required, less fibre in the ground and so on.

At any rate there are several factors at work here.

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

IE: a smaller carrier that chose to implement MPLS vs. a carrier with a better network that still has non-MPLS infrastructure. That being said MPLS is usually the best solution so you may not have much of a choice. How many people (myself included) could suggest a second technology that is nearly as good.

Any communication between multiple sites is always going to 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 SLA's for QOS it will probably use MPLS.

So to summarise - you don't really have a choice as the industry has made the choice for you, and you don't really have any options other than MPLS. Luckily it's a good choice.

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