Is your MPLS up-to-date with the current market needs?

Suresh Kumar Vijayen

Is your MPLS up-to-date with the current market needs?

Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) has been around for two decades and is a well-known forwarding technology around the networking world. It increases speed and controls the flow of the network traffic. MPLS relies on routing traffic using the shortest path based on “labels” rather than network addresses (IP address), thus allowing each packet to flow faster in a predetermined path. Additionally, MPLS  provides further advantages to an organization: 

  • MPLS is a reliable technology with direct routes from one edge to another, more towards hub and spoke models.
  • MPLS network management has an excellent service level agreement (SLA) which guarantees the users’ speed, bandwidth, reliability, and performance.

As a result, MPLS technology has been widely utilized for years by organizations with multiple branch offices distributed across multiple locations and requiring access to a data center or specific applications located at the headquarters.

In the present moment, moving forward with MPLS may present a few challenges. The market has changed due to the emergence of new technologies and trends in IT and communications, such as cloud applications, the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML). Under these new requirements, organizations are re-evaluating how Wide-Area Networking (WAN) service should be deployed in order to adapt to the new wave of change in a way that could drive growth. Below are a few MPLS drawbacks:

  • One of the biggest challenges is the cost. MPLS network is expensive as the cost per megabit is high compared to Internet broadband connectivity. Thus concerns arise when considering to increase bandwidth for high-quality video and voice streaming, IoT, AR/VR, amongst other applications requirements. 
  • Since MPLS is carrier-managed, the user is not responsible for network management. Nevertheless, changing routing protocols or performing general maintenance can sometimes be a time-consuming and tedious process due to interactions with the carrier.
  • Backhauling cloud-based SaaS applications like Microsoft 365, SalesForce, and Google Workspace to data centers are inefficient in cost and performance.

This set of MPLS disadvantages lead organizations to look for alternative solutions for their current market needs. Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) has always been mentioned as the MPLS’s successor, but some ignore that MPLS and SD-WAN can co-exist if the roles are well defined based on the needs. For instance, both MPLS with sufficient bandwidth for business-critical applications only and SD-WAN (broadbands) with high bandwidth for critical and non-critical applications ensure that data traffic flows quickly and efficiently to the end destination. Furthermore, SD-WAN features can provide the possibility for rerouting and scaling connectivity for the flexible traffic flow.