What Is A MPLS VPN And Why It Matters
By Paul Liu
Monday, January 26th, 2015
A MPLS VPN refers to a Virtual Private Network setup that is based on the Multiprotocol Label Switching mechanism. The use of Multiprotocol Label Switching helps in the creation of high performance networks which can transmit data through labels (nodes) rather than the endpoints. By using well-defined and point-to-point nodes, a MPLS network is able to transmit data a lot faster and avoid the lookup and address resolution problems that affect the performance of traditional networks. Also, since MPLS supports a wide range of access technologies (DSL, ATM, T1/E1, Frame Relay); VPNS based on the mechanism provide the ability to route and transport many different types of network traffic.
MPLS VPNs can be configured in three different ways:
1) Point-to-Point – A Point-to-Point MPLS VPN makes use of virtual leased lines to provide connectivity between networks. These VPNs are typically used to route TDM, Ethernet and ATM frames traffic.
2) Layer 2 – A Layer 2 MPLS VPN (also called Virtual Private LAN Service (VPLS)) operates just like a switch in the cloud and is mostly used to route video and voice traffic.
3) Layer 3 – A Layer 3 MPLS VPN (also called Virtual Private Routed Network (VPRN)) relies on virtual routing and forwarding technology to transmit traffic. Due to their complex design and difficulty of implementation, these are mostly used by large datacenters and enterprises.
Why Use A MPLS VPN?
MPLS VPNs offer several advantages over traditional Virtual Private Networks. A typical VPN routes traffic through the internet whereas MPLS based VPNs use the networking infrastructure of a single carrier to deliver data packets. The carriers also make it a point to keep traffic of different customers separate which essentially means that customers are getting access to a truly private network. These steps not only help to make the entire network more secure but also makes it possible for the carriers to meet special demands of the customers. For example, within a MPLS VPN setup it is possible to route traffic of certain customers faster or even prioritize certain types of traffic (VOIP, video streaming etc.) for a specific customer.
Due to its design, a MPLS VPN also results in improved connectivity and delivers a much better performance. Since the traffic gets delivered through named nodes without relying on endpoints, the overall operation becomes a lot faster. The technology also facilitates the design of networks where multiple point-to-point connections are required. MPLS VPNs are also a lot easier to manage since the entire encryption and delivery mechanism is handled by a single carrier.
While a MPLS VPN comes with lots of benefits, it usually costs significantly more than a traditional VPN service. That’s why it is not recommended for small businesses that do not have a big IT budget. However, using a MPLS based VPN service makes perfect business sense for medium to big sized companies that are looking for enterprise level security, reliability and performance from their VPN service provider. It is also possible for businesses to deploy hybrid VPNs that combine the best features of traditional as well as MPLS based VPNs.