MPLS Deployment: An Assessment
MPLS technology is widely deployed globally in service provider and private networks due to its proven reliability, efficiency, and security. It offers a configuration-controlled method for a service provider to share its physical infrastructure resources securely among many different customers’ VPNs—either with separation only, or with separation and encryption.
Originally evolving to replace leased lines, Frame Relay and ATM circuits, MPLS architecture is particularly well-suited to hauling traffic efficiently over a pre-determined path between a branch office and an aggregation site, typically either a hub site (in a hub-and-spoke network), or a data center.
However, MPLS architecture struggles with the dexterity and agility required by traffic flowing to a frequently-changing variety of “off-network” (that is, off the MPLS VPN) destinations such as cloud-based or SaaS sites, or branch-to-branch traffic. As cloud-based, Internet-based and SaaS destinations become increasingly common, the efficiency and security of MPLS must be weighed up carefully against its rigidity and inflexibility.
MPLS is also an expensive service, and often requires significant lead time to plan, procure, and install. In some lesser-populated geographies, MPLS service may not be available at all. There is additionally the need for businesses to add bandwidth as they grow, and the limited, strictly governed-as-procured SLA of a “thin-pipe” MPLS link stymies a growing business’s dexterity to expand quickly and cost-effectively, requiring either a new physical link or a renegotiated and re-priced SLA.
MPLS service also does not provide the deployment agility demanded by mobile (e.g. traveling kiosk in the back of a truck), or temporary sites (e.g. a conference booth, or a construction site).