Multiprotocol Label Switching - or MPLS - is a breakthrough telecommunications system that allows data to be distributed in a more streamlined and efficient manner. Since it is a method, not a service, it is highly adaptable to any number of functions. It was designed by the Internet Engineering Task Force - or IETF - with the express goal of preparing networks for the increase in traffic to and from networks connected to the internet. As network traffic continues to expand alongside the technology, MPLS will likewise continue to grow in importance.
To be able to understand why MPLS is so important, a cursory examination of the methodology it replaces is necessary. Before the arrival of MPLS, packets being transmitted through networks were analyzed by each router in which it was relayed. This process was necessary for the router to pinpoint the destination of the packet - in effect revealing where the packet must be forwarded. This is a cumbersome process as precious time is being expended each time one of these routers has to independently reassess the packet.
Using MPLS methodology, however, each packet is given a type, more specifically known as a Forwarding Equivalence Class. This Forwarding Equivalence Class, or FEC, is looked up on a given table, granting the router the necessary data to send the packet on its way. This removes the time consuming process of thoroughly examining the packet for a destination and allows the router to simply examine the appropriate packet's label for forwarding information. Additionally, it allows for a greater degree of packet characteristics to be quickly accessed by each router, giving network administrators the ability to prioritize packets based on any number of attributes.
The benefits of MPLS methodology are wide and varied. Not only does it allow service providers to compensate for the expansive nature of internet growth, it also allows for different data types to be transmitted simultaneously, provides options when dealing with various routing integrations and provides a very functional fail-safe to retrieve data in the case of network failure. It is similarly interface independent, allowing a greater range of network types and speeds to communicate effortlessly.
Companies that have found it increasingly difficult to handle massive network traffic as the years go by will find MPLS methodology to be very effective in dealing with this problem. MPLS will allow business networks to connect with one another in a way that will surely induce sighs of relief to those used to older forwarding methodology. Due to its effectiveness and scalability, integrating MPLS methodology will give service providers the means to deter a wide range of future problems, as well as providing them with the ability to deal with methodology they will surely use for a long time to come. Finally, with the increasing need to communicate in real-time, the MPLS methodology's quality of service implementation will ensure audio and video applications that facilitate communications will have higher priority during data transmissions, allowing these specific packets to flow through networks without trouble or delay.
Phillip Harfield is the author of this article and writes regularly about the latest router technology that is required to keep up with advances in broadband technology.