You might think of an MPLS network as something of a private Internet for business. MPLS networks are privately owned and operated and don’t offer resources or connectivity for residential users. MPLS is a B2B or Business to Business service. There are numerous service providers, each with their own MPLS networks having regional, national or international service footprints. In addition, there are service providers who specialize in interconnecting MPLS networks to create an even larger reach. The result is a multiple-MPLS or MPLS Mesh network.
MPLS is often the core network of a major service provider. The reason is the versatility offered by this technology. The underlying network is either IP native or SONET/SDH fiber optic service at 10 Gbps or higher. Many networks are now migrating from 40 Gbps to 100 Gbps, which is considered state of the art. What makes the network MPLS is a unique switching and routing scheme that is protocol-agnostic.
The name MPLS is an acronym for Multi-Protocol Label Switching. Multi-Protocol means that the network will accept Voice, Data or Video IP, SONET, T-Carrier or other traffic types. At any given time, the network may be transporting a wide variety of protocols without corruption or interference. Label Switching is the technique that wraps each packet that enters the network with a tag that is used only to forward that packet to the correct destination with an appropriate class of service. Those labels are removed as the packets exit the network in exactly the same state as they arrived.
Think of MPLS networks as private superhighway systems and access as the on and off ramps. A major advantage of procuring MPLS network service for long haul transport is that you only need to worry about getting your traffic to and from the network. The network operator optimizes performance of the MPLS network to ensure adequate bandwidth with low latency, jitter and packet loss. You need the means to get to and from that network with your traffic intact.
EarthLink Business offers a nationwide access-agnostic MPLS network with Service Level Agreements (SLA) based on Class of Service (CoS). They offer 5 different access technologies based on what makes sense at each business location. Note that you can easily mix and match access methods and still maintain complete CoS right up to your own network edge. Here’s what you have to pick from.
The classic and still most popular access method is T1 lines. They are almost universally available over common twisted pair telco wiring that is already installed to most business locations. T1 lines offer 1.5 Mbps symmetrical bandwidth that can be increased by bonding more T1 lines together. EarthLink boasts 4 hour mean time to repair (MTTR) private T1 lines if there is ever a link problem.
Many companies have looked to DSL as a lower cost alternative to T1. ADSL is an asymmetrical bandwidth service with higher download than upload speeds. Earthlink is the first provider to offer CoS traffic management over DSL, making this access method viable for serious business use.
Ethernet over copper (EoC) and fiber (EoF) is a strong competitor to T1, DS3 and higher speed SONET fiber services. Ethernet is a better match to IP traffic than switched-circuit oriented TDM (Time Division Multiplexing) technologies. Ethernet is highly scalable and lower in cost on an Mbps basis, where available.
Wireless access works for companies with new location that need rapid provisioning and for low cost access where DSL is unavailable. 3G and 4G cellular-based bandwidth is often available in rural areas and offers T1 and better speeds without the landline. Fixed wireless microwave transmission offers higher speeds that can be an effective alternative to fiber.
Another unique service from EarthLink is MPLS IPsec. You may recognize IPsec or IP SECurity as a VPN technology used to make connections over the Internet secure. The security comes from using the 3DES encryption algorithm (168 bit). That’s the finance industry standard for network layer encryption. IPsec allows businesses to procure Internet access from a local provider in outlying areas and connect securely to the corporate MPLS network.
Is MPLS a good fit for your business networking needs? Which access methods are right for your various locations? You can easily find this out with a complementary set of MPLS network and access service quotes to compare with your current WAN solution. You may be surprised by the savings possible.