Multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) is an IETF initiative that integrates information on a layer 2 network and links it into layer 3 network IP in a particular autonomous system in order to improve and simplify its UP packet exchange. MPLS mechanism is used in high performance communication networks that usually direct data from one node in a network to the next through a short path label other than long network address. This enables it to avoid complex lookups in the routing table. MPLS provides a network operator with a great deal of flexibility to route and divert traffic around congestions, link failures and bottlenecks.
When packets enter into a MPLS network, a Label Edge router gives them an identifier which contains information that is based on the routing table entry such as bandwidth, destination, delay or other metrics. However, the routing table entry also refers to the IP address, layer 4 socket number identifier or other differentiated services. Upon completion and mapping of this classification, various packets are assigned to their corresponding labelled path switches while the label switch router locates the outgoing labels on their packets. With any LSPs network, an operator can divert and route the traffic-based on the type of data stream and the internet access customer.
The MPLS market has stabilised and matured over time in response to the changing mix of demand in wide area network and internet service infrastructure, government and enterprise networking. However, it failed to deliver on its key objectives of lasting, encompassing all network paradigms as envisioned by the original developers. However, the MPLS appear to have a going concern because right now there are better solutions with IP routers that support MPLS services, and thus allow us to hide other transport technologies under the IP address (Theoharakis & Serpanos, 2002).
What could be the replacement technology?
Multiservice switching future converges at IP/MPLS network to track the critical transitional period of MSS market. In this transition, the large obligatory equipment that suppliers continue to support is their original customer base. This happens at the same time while pursuing emergent opportunities in the wireless packet network, packet telephone migration and secure enterprise and government networking. The new entrants in this space are Ciena, Mangrove and Hammerhead systems which aim at exploring the advancement in software to create new and denser systems from a scratch. The motivators to this advancement are the presence of modular software architectures that foresee cost-effective implementation economically scalable and improved reliability. Both the new competitors and the new incumbents enable carriers to shift their networks to MPLS and IP as a primary way of positioning and differentiation (Osborne & Simha, 2009).
Do you think MPLS could be used in distribution and/or access networks?
The driving force why MPLS is used in the access network is due to network consolidation. By having one type of access technology, it allows the efficient use of fiber resources thus reducing the quantity and types of networking devices required. Network consolidation occurs as the core part of network service provider, with multiple services from separate networks being consolidated into a common platform based on MPLS (Davie & Farrel, 2008). Consolidation also occurs in the access part f network so as to avoid a CAPEX or OPEX that is associated with parallel operation of different networks. Ethernet is an important ingredient to the new access network, thus replacing the different legacy layer 2 and DTM technologies which have been previously been used.
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