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Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) is a protocol-agnostic routing technique designed to speed up and shape traffic flows across enterprise wide area and service provider networks.
MPLS allows most data packets to be forwarded at Layer 2 — the switching level — rather than having to be passed up to Layer 3 — the routing level. For this reason, it is often informally described as operating at Layer 2.5.
One of the defining features of MPLS is its use of labels the L in MPLS. Sandwiched between Layers 2 and 3, a label is a four-byte – 32-bit identifier that conveys the packet’s predetermined forwarding path in an MPLS network. Labels can also contain information related to quality of service (QoS), indicating a packet’s priority level.
Benefits of MPLS Networks
MPLS is a layer 2.5 technology. It allows shared network resources, but private routing for customers’ data.
It has some of the scalability and cost advantages that Layer 3 public Internet has, but it also has some additional security and some efficiencies that make it really good for deploying these large-scale, IP-based but protocol-agnostic, and much more private type of network services.
Quality of Service (QoS)
One of the oft-cited benefits of MPLS is the ability to assign QoS features to traffic. Because MPLS works with a system of labels, customers can determine prioritization levels associated with those labels.
When it comes to the scalability of larger or more complex networks, if you have MPLS, that allows you to do automatic configuration of the network and setting up of tunnels or label-switched paths. It’s less resource-intensive physically, to configure the circuits.
In addition, another MPLS benefit is its protocol-agnostic nature. Many different types of traffic can be carried via MPLS routing without regard to what type of traffic it is.