The convergence of voice and data on a single wire is, perhaps, the most exciting network development since the invention of the private branch exchange (PBX). Over the past decade, Multi Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) technology, which enables voice and data to be transported together on wide area networks (WANs), has matured to provide a platform for almost unimaginable communications and cloud-computing possibilities. This is especially important considering the increasing network traffic trends that affect organizations—large and small, public and private sectors—across the globe. MPLS helps solve the service management problems brought by the fast-ramping demands of video and other bandwidth-intensive, jitter-sensitive, and latency-sensitive applications.
Originally designed to allow Internet protocol (IP) routers to mimic the speed of much faster Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) switches, MPLS assigns labels to data packets; the packets’ forwarding action is executed based solely on the contents of the label, rather than by the router examining the details of the entire packet. This feature dramatically increases the network traffic routing speeds.
Currently, MPLS is the fastest-growing WAN technology on the market because of its performance and versatility. For example, MPLS is called multiprotocol because it works with the IP, ATM and Frame Relay protocols. Its packet label orientation allows end-to-end circuits to be created across any type of transfer medium, using any supported protocol, which allows organizations to combine the performance of high-speed legacy WAN technologies with the flexibility and cost advantages of an Internet- based network.