Some tech lesson: Multiprotocol Label Switching

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  • 4 years ago
  • Posted: November 11, 2014 at 9:24 am

Multiprotocol Label Switching:

What is MPLS: ‘A Bit of Speed?’

“Anyone who slaps a ‘this page is best viewed with Browser X label’ on a web page, appears to be yearning for the bad old days, before the web when you had very little chance of reading a document written on another computer, another word processor, another network.” Who would have said it better than the father of Networking, the man himself, Tim Berners-Lee? It all started with the invention of electronic computers in the fifties and the revolutionary concept of the Internet. When the first message was sent from a California lab via the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), among the first functional TCP/IP-Functional packet-switching network, the grandsire of what has become a global phenomenon.

Computer Networking is the very concept of relaying information from a one Computing Architecture to another. When the Internet went boom in the nineties, the science of computing has evolved, particularly networking. Of specific importance is the idea of Multiprotocol Label Switching which revolutionized telecommunications by its versatility and functionality. What you must understand is how information moves through this cacophony of cyber-space; via packets of bits that are protocol-tagged if you can call it so, switched through cyberspace to achieve the intended end. Perhaps an interesting analogy to this process is to consider Einstein’s photoelectric effect when he mentions that light travels in “packets of energy” known as photons; bits, like photons, travel in packets (“packets of information”). How far this analogy might go to explain this concept is food for greater minds, but it should have set you upon that path.

Thus, what is Multiprotocol Label Switching?  It’s a technology that helps to boost the speed of network traffic flow and ameliorate how to manage it. This involves setting up a specific trajectory for a given sequence of packets, labeling each of the packets in the travel, making it rather easier for the router to look up the address to transit to the next node and deliver the packet. Multiprotocol, because it utilizes various networking protocols like IP Suite (Internet Protocol Suite or TCP/IP Model/ TCP/IP Stack), Frame Relay, Synchronous Optical Networking (SONET), Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM).It’s based on the OSI-Communication Model, that is, Open Systems Interconnection, a conceptual framework designed by Cisco International to facilitate telecommunication, and has morphed into various forms or versions to be able to support telecommunication protocol.

MPLS: “In for a Packet, In for a Bit.”

One cannot begin to extol the virtues of using Multiprotocol Label Switching without beginning with the fact of speed, which it improves remarkably. What it does is it increases Uptime, meaning a data package gets there within fifty milliseconds or less. Concealing Network Complexity which arises between two sites (acts as a long Ethernet cable to create a Virtual Private LAN), up-marking Bandwidth Utilization (multi-type network traffic flow enables priority bandwidth utilization), reduction of network congestion (by exploiting non-standard paths, thus reducing data latency (you get your info faster), User Satisfaction (especially protocols like VoIP, no one wants to speak in fits and starts!), privacy (creating Virtual Private Networks, what can be called an Alternative Site in traffic flow). Thusly, what is MPLS: Its satisfaction and sophistication to the Ultimate User? Yes, it is.

Evolutions in MPLS:

When considering innovations in MPLS, we in no doubt tend to have Cisco International in mind; especially, when you consider their Cisco NX-OS Software and Cisco Nexus 7000 Series Switches assist transforming your data center in achieving high scalability and agility. It helps you achieve enhanced deployment of secure segmentation of a consolidated network, which enables a cloud prepared infrastructure. With the Nexus 7000 Series you get a comprehensive network-consolidation and virtualization feature set where you get to enjoy:

-Overlay Transport Virtualization

-Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) Layer 3 VPN

-Virtual Route Forwarding

-Virtual Device Context (VDC)


For Cisco is about building networks without limits, especially the perennial vermin of ‘network clogging’ or breakdown perhaps you might experience at your work place or mobile operator network. Data centers, most especially, being at the heart of Information technology infrastructures for business, government or even private endeavors. They contain storage, network, and compute infrastructure, servicing a variety of applications that feature across the whole layout of the network. Data centers are undergoing a fundamental shift in how they manage information and the end user, specifically with the advent of cloud computing (you probably have experienced this shift first hand or indirectly).

This shift is compelling data center architects to consider the use of multi-tenancy as pertinent requirement in next-generation network architectures, not to mention of its cost effectiveness both in terms of operational efficiencies and capital expenditures, while adding to the service base. The two main benefits experienced by Information technology managers are network consolidation and network efficiency and bandwidth on demand; the former allows for service providers and enterprises to deploy multiple services over the same network infrastructure, thus increasing efficiency and manageability whilst the latter ensures that customers can augment the efficiency of the network architecture, providing bandwidth flexibility for applications and services on the premise of event-focused  demand such as new product launches or payroll applications.

On another hand, having looked at Cisco’s innovations, let’s look at Aricent’s Mobile Backhaul Networks. Aricent is an international provider of innovation solutions and services for packet transport and backhaul technologies. They offer development and deployment of IP-based mobile back hauls, licensable protocol frameworks and stacks for Metro Ethernet and Carrier, Multiprotocol Label Switching, Multiprotocol Label Switching Transport Profile (MPLS-TP), and Packet Microwave. Their software tends to support timing and frequency synchronization methods over Ethernet, such as Synchronous Ethernet (SyncE, ITU-T G.8261/2/4) and Precision Time Protocol (IEEE 1588).

Aricent’s Intelligent Switching Solution (ISS) enables telecoms manufactures to develop a vast range of intelligent Ethernet backhauls that have been applied globally. Backhaul technologies often refer to internet provision and coverage; it usually refers to the part of the network fabric that connects to the global internet, acquired at market rate, then it is ‘leaked’ downwards in terms of wholesale to the retailer (consider Safaricom’s fibre optic architecture, their backhaul technology connects you to the global internet, especially to your phone, and here is where Aricent’s mobile backhauls comes in). As MPLS networks continue to evolve, the application and service demands required from the MPLS architecture will evolve as well.

What is your opinion on the topic?
Stefan Wolf
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