The idea behind MPLS networks is the ability to send anything, anywhere, anytime without in any way affecting the voice, video or data involved. Many networks can’t do this very well. Take the Internet, for example. It definitely lets you connect to anybody, anywhere on Earth. How robust that connection is and how transparent it is to the packets that traverse it is another matter.
The whole reason for using TCP/IP to transmit data is to ensure that what you send gets delivered intact at the other end. It won’t necessarily happen on the first attempt. If is doesn’t work, TCP gives it another try. Eventually, everything you need to recreate a file on the far end that exactly matches the one that was sent arrives and can be re-assembled in order.
Time sensitive transmissions, such as interactive voice and video, may not fare so well. Just about any little upset causes them to glitch noticeably. Video may pixelate. Audio starts to distort and break up. As delays in transmission time mount, it may be hard to maintain an interactive conversation. You just don’t know when the other person will start speaking.
Little wonder that companies tend to stick with legacy technologies, like analog voice, that they know work, or create their own proprietary and very pricy internal networks. At least when you build it yourself, you have some control of the results.
The high cost and labor intensive nature of private networks combined with the flakiness of the public Internet is what makes MPLS networks shine. An MPLS network is a carefully engineered and managed wide area network for hire. MPLS networks have a regional, national or international footprint. You connect each of your locations to the network through an access connection, which may be anything from a T1 line or ISDN PRI, to a DS3, SONET/SDH, or an Ethernet over copper or fiber service.
MPLS networks are often referred to as “cloud” networks. You connect to and from the cloud, but don’t have to worry about managing the internals of the network. What’s happening inside the MPLS cloud is that special tags are added to your packets as they enter the network and removed when they leave. While on the network, those tags are used to route your packets from source to destination. The actual content of your packets is not disturbed in the process.
The MPLS network itself has to be transparent to all the traffic flowing through it. That means having adequate bandwidth available to support all users. MPLS supports all types of traffic, including IP data transfers, VoIP telephony, ISDN PRI telephony, video conferencing, video streaming and so on. You can specify the quality of service characteristic for each of your packets and the network will ensure that you have the bandwidth, jitter, latency and packet loss characteristics to support that quality. The MP in MPLS stands for Multi-Protocol, and that’s exactly what it is.
MPLS networks have largely replaced Frame Relay networks, a lower speed & less sophisticated approach to the same service. They are also replacing proprietary corporate networks constructed from multiple point to point line services. When it comes to connections that span the country and even reach out to international destinations, MPLS networks offer significant cost savings while maintaing high quality of service.
Do MPLS Networks make sense for your operation? Find out by checking the cost and availability of MPLS Network Services. Then compare price, effort and quality with what you are doing now to make the best decision.