MPLS in 2018: Is MPLS Dead?

MPLS is dead. That’s the word on the street (or more likely in the boardroom). But is it true? Has the time of MPLS really been and gone?

Although some are claiming that MPLS is fast becoming a redundant technology, others are claiming that it’s primed for many more years of use. So which is true?

In this article, we’re going take a good look at the state of MPLS and answer these questions.

But, before we get going…

MPLS In 2018


…What Is MPLS?

We gave a thorough overview in our recent article A Beginner’s Guide to MPLS. So make sure you check that out if you want to get into the nitty gritty. For the rest of you, here’s a shorter overview.

Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) is a high-performance telecommunications data-carrying technique used to connect multiple sites and remote workers. Using an MPLS solution, businesses are able to send data quickly and efficiently.

MPLS as we know it was created in 1997 by the Internet Engineering Taskforce, and was first deployed in 1999. Incredibly effective at speeding up networks and shaping network traffic flows, MPLS has become a popular solution for companies looking to enhance their communications networks.

MPLS can be used to deliver anything from IP VPNS to metro Ethernet. The technique creates highly efficient routes by removing the need for routers to perform header analysis. In less technical terms, MPLS labels packets of data so that they can reach their destinations much faster. Really, it’s not too different from putting an address on a letter.


Why Are People Saying MPLS dead?

There’s WAN primary reason people are claiming MPLS is dead. That is an admittedly terrible joke. So I’ll just say it normally.

WAN is the primary reason people are claiming MPLS is dead. Specifically, if you listen to the hype, Software Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WANs) are on the brink of pushing MPLS into permanent extinction.

In short, SD-WAN refers to the use of software to implement and manage a Wide Area Network. This includes virtualising network functions such as routers and firewalls, as well as network centralisation.

SD-WAN sellers often claim that the technology is a replacement for MPLS.

But this is an odd statement. For the simple reason that SD-WAN and MPLS do not do the same thing.

SD-WAN is an overlay technology – or a technology that uses software to create layers of network abstraction that can be used to run several discrete virtualised network layers over the physical layer.

MPLS is an underlay technology – or the network that sits beneath the network infrastructure and provides connectivity.


MPLS Remains the Fastest Data Carrying Technique Available

The reason some believe that SD-WAN is a suitable replacement for MPLS is because, in some situations, it can make it easier to use alternatives to MPLS. For some companies, this can be beneficial.

For example, companies which would benefit from central network control, traffic management and network automation would benefit from adopting SDWAN.  This is because the technology abstracts intelligence into an easy-to-implement virtual overlay, allowing to design, deploy and modify their network quickly and easily from a central location.

However, for companies that run a lot of mission-critical, real-time apps over WAN (including VoIP calls, video conferencing and remote desktop), SD-WAN will often not provide the desired results. This is because SDWAN still uses the public internet to connect your sites. And using the public internet can often lead to packet loss, latency and jitter.

Because it uses a private network, MPLS is still the fastest data carrying technique available. Which means it delivers guaranteed performance and so will be more than able to support all your important bandwidth-hungry apps.


The Benefits of MPLS (Still Applicable In 2018)

Connect Multiple Sites and Remote Workers – MPLS allows you to connect geographically diverse sites and remote workers.

Reduced Network Congestion – MPLS offers sophisticated traffic engineering options. This means traffic can be sent over non-standard paths to improve efficiency.

Improved User Experience – Time-sensitive traffic, such as VoIP, is prioritised. Meaning the most important traffic gets where it needs to be in good time.

Improved Bandwidth Utilisation – Highpriority traffic can borrow capacity from low priority traffic streams where necessary, allowing you to make the most of your connection.

Virtually Zero Downtime – MPLS reduces the amount of manual intervention your network provider has to do, making the possibility of human error bringing down your circuit negligible.

Easy to Migrate and No Management Overheads – With Elite Group, it’s easy to migrate to MPLS. And you won’t have to pay any management overheads!


The Best of Both Worlds

As stated above, SD-WAN isn’t really a competitor to MPLS. So can you combine the two?

Yes, you can. By augmenting your existing MPLS underlay with SD-WAN, you can:

  • Improve Cost Controls – By strategically using inexpensive broadband alongside MPLS, you can reduce costs without forfeiting your connection quality.
  • Provide Superior Reliability and Redundancy – MPLS provides granular performance tracking, bandwidth reservation and real-time path selection features of SD-WAN.
  • Increase Flexibility – By connecting quickly to your MPLS circuit with SD-WAN, you can adjust the balance quickly between MPLS and the public internet.


Elite Group is the leading unified communications provider. We deliver an unrivalled next generation product portfolio to businesses looking to increases efficiency, cut costs and receive a better ROI. To find out more about MPLS, get in touch with one of our advisors today.