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MPLS, or multiprotocol label switching, shouldn't be mysterious; here are a few facts that you should know about what it is and what it does for your company.
IP Routing Versus MPLS
A packet traveling over the internet consists of a payload (the data contained within) and a header that tells where the packet must travel. With traditional IP routing, these packets are routed based on the destination address. Every time a data packet arrives at a router, the router has to examine the packet headers to figure out the next router the packet should hop to. Because each router has to take the time to analyze the headers at multiple "stations," the process is fairly inefficient.
In contrast, MPLS is a much faster and simplified way of routing data packets. MPLS relies on labels instead of a destination address to make data-forwarding decisions. When a packet first enters a network, it receives an FEC, or a forwarding equivalence class, by a Label Edge Router. The FEC informs routers where to send the packet just once at the beginning — instead of the perpetual analysis of the header at each stop. In addition to being more efficient than IP routing, MPLS can handle diverse types of traffic from varied networks — and it does so with consistency.
- Quality of Service (QoS) Control
One of the primary reasons companies use MPLS networks is the improved QoS. QoS functions usually consist of traffic marking, congestion management, traffic conditioning and more.
Of course, QoS is particularly important with real-time voice traffic; MPLS can prioritize VoIP to ensure it arrives at its intended destination quickly — and with crystal-clear quality.