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MPLS vs Ethernet for WAN Connectivity

A WAN (Wide Area Network) is a communications network that spans geographically dispersed areas such as across cities, states or countries. A business may have a WAN comprised of cloud services, its headquarters and smaller branch offices, so the WAN is used to connect all sites together. The two most popular WAN connectivity options are MPLS ((Multiprotocol Label Switching) and Ethernet. To help subscribers analyze the differences between MPLS and Ethernet, this side-by-side MPLS vs Ethernet comparison provides a quick overview of the pros and cons of each WAN connectivity option.

MPLS vs Ethernet

What is MPLS?

MPLS is a protocol for efficient network traffic flow between multiple locations. MPLS operates similarly on a data switch and router, sitting between layers 2 and layer 3 network. MPLS uses labels for fast packets forwarding and routing within a network. In MPLS network, the MPLS switch (typically Gigabit Ethernet switch and 10GbE switch) transfers data by popping off its label and sending the packet to the next switch label in the sequence. The main benefits of MPLS network service are listed as below.

  • Reliability: MPLS is most widely used way to interconnect data centers with remote offices and branches to other branches since MPLS does require an entire block of IPs.
  • Service: With MPLS, there is a higher service level agreement that include delivery guarantees for speed and class of service (COS), unlike consumer broadband.
  • Labor Cost: MPLS allows businesses to leave WAN routing to the service provider and keep fewer WAN engineers on staff.

What is Ethernet?

Ethernet is a network protocol that controls how data is transmitted over a LAN (Local Area Network), such as those in a room, office, building or campus. As a point-to-point system, an Ethernet network uses Ethernet cables to connect PCs, switches or routers. Most desktop and laptop computers come with integrated an Ethernet card so that it’s easy to connect. Although the functionality of Ethernet is not as high-performing as that of an MPLS network, there are still some merits making it appealing.

  • Affordability: Although the scalability of Ethernet is smaller than that of MPLS, Ethernet is more affordable than MPLS, thus becoming the optimal choice for small and medium sized businesses.
  • Simplicity: Ethernet is best for connecting one data center to another, including using metro Ethernet to connect corporate sites dispersed geographically.
  • Professional Resources: Ethernet gives in-house WAN engineers control and responsibility over routing.
  • Disaster Recovery: Ethernet offers low latency and high output, which is ideal for disaster recovery.
  • Availability: Ethernet exchanges have made Ethernet WAN services available in more locations.

MPLS vs Ethernet for the WAN

Take a closer look at the subtle difference between MPLS vs Ethernet for the WAN connectivity from the chart below.

Parameter MPLS Ethernet
Scalability Scale to over thousands of sites Scale to up to hundreds of sites
Application Interconnect data centers with branch offices and branches to other branches Interconnect data centers
WAN routing Leave WAN routing to the service provider and keep fewer WAN engineers on staff Give WAN engineers control and responsibility over routing
WAN protocol behavior Handle any-to-any connectivity, including voice and video Offer low-latency and high-throughput, which is ideal for disaster recovery.
Quality of service (QoS) QoS options to enable preferential treatment of latency-sensitive traffic like VoIP Network engineers can bypass QoS complexity by hooking switches directly to Ethernet pipes
WAN management Complex Simple
Cost High Low

Summary

When weighing the pros and cons of MPLS vs Ethernet, make sure to examine your business needs and understand the resources available within the network, as well as what options exist in your geographic area. Most ISPs nowadays also offer an ISP-managed MPLS service, so they can manage the equipment, and basically get an Ethernet handoff to a switch, which is the so called “MPLS over Ethernet”. No matter which solution you would prefer, your network selection will influence the quality, reliability, service and cost of your WAN connectivity.

VPLS vs MPLS: What’s the Difference?

The Internet has undergone tremendous changes and broken the barriers from the impossibilities to the possibilities. To seamlessly and securely get access to the Internet or Web is what we’re seeking along the way. VPLS and MPLS are two competing technologies to direct network traffic, letting you have speedy data transfer and communication. What is a VPLS or MPLS network? What’s the difference between VPLS vs MPLS? We’re gonna to elaborate them one by one.

What Is MPLS?

MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) is a type of communication that enables a service provider to provision cost effective and flexible “Virtual Private Networks” across a shared core network infrastructure. MPLS is used to send data and network traffic along the most efficient routes, which may be predetermined and are communicated using labels. Packets are carried on predetermined routes along point-to-point connections through label switch routers (LSRs) until they arrive at their destination. In MPLS network, the MPLS switch (eg. FS S5800-48F4S SFP switch) transfers data by popping off its label and sending the packet to the next switch label in the sequence. MPLS perfectly integrates the performance and traffic management capabilities of Layer 2 switching with the scalability and flexibility of Layer 3 routing.

MPLS Network

What Is VPLS?

VPLS (Virtual Private LAN Service) is a service that uses MPLS and VPN (Virtual Private Networking) to securely and seamlessly connect multiple LANs over the Internet, making them appear as if they were all on the same LAN. VPLS enables a service provider to extend a Layer 2 network across geographically dispersed sites using a shared core network infrastructure. VPLS works by creating a virtualized Ethernet switch at the provider’s edge to link remote sites. VPLS happens at Layer 2, and the carrier builds out the network, but the customer can do their own routing if they wish. This approach is ideal for corporations that have multiple data center footprints and office or remote locations that require low-latency connections between sites.

VPLS Network

VPLS vs MPLS: Factors to Consider When Choosing Them

When deciding over VPLS vs MPLS for connectivity between remote locations, there are multiple factors to consider. We’ll look into them one by one.

Switching Layer

One of the main benefits of VPLS over MPLS are the levels of security offered. As aforementioned, VPLS extend a Layer 2 network across geographically dispersed sites using a shared core network infrastructure. While MPLS perfectly integrates the performance and traffic management capabilities of Layer 2 switching with the scalability and flexibility of Layer 3 routing. VPLS does not share layer 3 routing tables with the service provider, while MPLS may do so, means that VPLS is generally the better solution for highly-sensitive data.

Network Size & Traffic

Generally, MPLS can deliver a wider type of network traffic than VPLS. VPLS is typically used for fewer locations that need very high speeds, very simple networks with high performance and high security. Thus, if you desire to connect entities such as data centers across the long-haul network backbone, VPLS is preferable as an Ethernet-based connection strategy. If a customer had hundreds of locations across the country who needs voice, data and video traffic to be carried to all locations, MPLS might make more sense because it is protocol-agnostic and can handle multiple types of traffic. MPLS may be an even clearer choice where large numbers of branches are involved.

Levels of Scalability

Another key difference between MPLS and VPLS is the inherent level of scalability. Due to the manner in which these two technologies interact with your network, MPLS is considered to be far more scalable. Using a backbone of MPLS for maximum network access and scalability, together with VPLS connections for more sensitive data often represents the best possible compromise, you would make the most of both protocols and substantially increase network efficiency.

Conclusion

Although MPLS and VPLS are different technologies, they are not mutually exclusive. Many businesses deploy both MPLS and VPLS protocols within their network in order to get the best of both worlds. FS provides gigabit ethernet switch and 10gbe switch which support both MPLS and VPLS. All these switches comes with rich L2/L3 business processing ability for core switching networks.