What is an
MPLS network,
and why does
it matter today?

Author: Rose de Fremery

MPLS network technology has been around for such a long time that some may not understand how a business would use it today in the modern era of digital transformation. Here's a brief primer on MPLS, how it has evolved, how it functions within a hybrid network and the benefits of MPLS as the foundation of today’s enterprise network and cornerstone of a Network as a Service solution.

What is MPLS and why does it matter today?

Multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) is a data forwarding technology that helps improve network performance by controlling the overall flow of network traffic. MPLS prioritizes packets associated with specific business applications, like video and voice, that depend on reliable network performance to work properly. With multiprotocol label switching, organizations can ensure their mission-critical services will run smoothly—even in hybrid network environments spanning multiple locations.

How MPLS has evolved over time

Although multiprotocol label switching has been around for over 20 years, it's just as important today as it was before the rise of digital transformation and the hybrid workplace.

Organizations originally used MPLS to join branch offices or data centers to a private corporate network. Multiprotocol label switching allowed these businesses to prevent network congestion and reduce latency, improving the user experience for employees working in branch offices and enhancing collaboration across multiple locations.

These MPLS services helped businesses prioritize mission-critical network traffic, so they could enjoy optimal productivity. The MPLS network offerings also typically come with robust service level agreements (SLA) that define in advance the latency levels and uptime that are guaranteed. As a result, businesses could guarantee strong network performance across all of their locations and scale needed bandwidth in a way that would have been impossible using traditional internet access.

Due to its broad adoption, MPLS is also deployed globally. Coverage is available to most countries where it is needed. This global scale is another reason for broad adoption and ease of scaling to meet business or government requirements. It can also directly connect with public Internet networks and wireless providers globally, making it flexible and scalable to support nearly any deployment.

Today, companies that require secure and reliable enterprise-grade connectivity for critical workloads and dynamic applications still appreciate the benefits of MPLS in the enterprise network. MPLS gives them a high standard of network performance, at scale, as their businesses continue to grow. In fact, MPLS has advanced in recent years and can now be considered an underpinning and foundation for hybrid networks.

How MPLS functions within hybrid networks

MPLS is critical to both software-defined wide-area networking (SD WAN) and hybrid networking. Many businesses still rely on MPLS as their core network infrastructure for joining multiple locations or data centers across large distances. With a secure, reliable MPLS network backbone in place, businesses can then layer SD WAN on top along with Internet services to achieve optimal network efficiency and flexibility at an attractive price point. Specific application traffic can then be routed over the optimal service. These technologies complement each other, enabling companies to maximize the value of their existing MPLS investment as they continue to scale for growth. 

The benefits of MPLS in the enterprise network

Businesses can't compromise on security or network performance, and MPLS delivers both. Now, they can deploy a mix of MPLS network connectivity and public Internet flexibility to meet specific requirements—for example, using MPLS for real-time video and voice collaboration or to support critical application while deploying public Internet to manage lower priority, asynchronous traffic like email or even incorporate 5G wireless connectivity into a hybrid network environment. These complementary technologies give today's businesses the best of both worlds, delivering secure reliability where they need it most.

Learn more about Verizon’s MPLS virtual private network solution and how it can benefit the modern organization.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.