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The ever-increasing pervasiveness of the Internet and corporate intranets in the global marketplace has transformed the way the world does business. This paradigm shift defines new requirements for any business that wants to gain a competitive edge. Network infrastructures must evolve to effectively handle Internet and intranet growth and enable advanced revenue-generating and cost-saving network services.

While Internet traffic and the number of users are growing rapidly, IT budgets are increasing only by modest proportions. Internet service providers (ISPs) and enterprises are challenged to scale the performance of their existing network infrastructures with minimal budgets. Cisco IOS® software delivers scalability to enhance network capacity and performance while protecting your network investments.

MPLS: Evolving Your Network

Cisco IOS MPLS, a new technology from Cisco Systems, is an ideal solution to meet these challenges. MPLS fuses the intelligence of routing with the performance of switching to scale existing networks to meet future growth demands. With this technology, networks can handle more traffic, users, media-rich data, or bandwidth-intensive applications. This approach also means that ISPs and large enterprise networks can enjoy more benefits from the performance of Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) switches, like the Cisco StrataCom® BPX® and the LightStream® 1010, to provide Internet and ATM/frame relay services on the same platform.

A MPLS Internetwork

By "tagging" the first in a flow of data, subsequent packets of related data are expedited to the final destination. Request times and router processing are both minimized. MPLS uses a form of label swapping across packet or cell-based networks that involves three solution elements: MPLS Image


Tag edge routers: Located at the boundaries of a network, edge routers perform network layer services and apply tags to packets. Traffic from multiple sources going to the same destination can share tags, avoiding the label explosion problem of current IP switching implementations. Tag Switching Image


MPLS: The ATM switches or routers within the network can switch tagged packets based on the tags. These network elements can also support full Layer 3 routing or Layer 2 switching in addition to MPLS. Tag
Switching Image


Tag Distribution Protocol (TDP): Coexisting with standard network layer protocols including routing protocols, TDP distributes tag information between devices in a MPLS network. Since TDP decouples tag distribution from the data flows, MPLS can be used over a wide variety of media including ATM links, Packet-over-SONET (POS) links, Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, and others. Tag Switching Image

The tagging algorithms used by the tag edge routers provide great flexibility for network managers. Packets can be tagged for a specific destination or tagged to flow along specified routes for balancing loads on network routes. This traditional Layer 2 service can now be implemented on Layer 3 routers using MPLS. A third tagging alternative takes advantage of MPLS's ability to analyze source, destination, and other Layer 3 information. This fine-grain processing introduces the ability to control quality of service (QoS) for a specific source/destination flow of packets.

Software-Only Upgrade Expands Service Options

A Cisco IOS software upgrade lets you gain many MPLS benefits. MPLS enables enhanced network services such as QoS. Network managers can use QoS as a powerful tool for distinguishing different levels of service among a single user base. By assigning tags to unique services, specialized levels of service can extended from the Internet into an enterprise network, creating a Business Class Internet.

For Service Providers

Today, ISPs struggle to scale existing backbone infrastructures for the future and deliver differentiated network services to save costs and generate new revenue streams. ISPs also want to be able to charge premium rates that many customers will pay for special capabilities or levels of service. ISPs can gain competitive advantages from the cost-saving and revenue-generating features of MPLS. MPLS lets ISPs:

  • Seamlessly deliver IP-based network services over high-performance ATM

  • Offer differentiated network services, such as QoS, and to subsequently develop and offer a price model for services

  • Scale existing network infrastructures to meet future growth requirements

  • Protect existing equipment investments with a Cisco IOS software-only upgrade

MPLS also complements the emerging solutions for accounting and gathering network usage statistics, and it can coexist with security controls for access and resource management. ISPs can deliver true end-to-end services. The software-only upgrade makes MPLS easy to deploy and shortens the time to market for the new services that it is inspiring.

For the Enterprise

Large, enterprise backbones immediately benefit from the increased capacity and traffic management provided by MPLS. Networks can carry more traffic more efficiently, becoming a competitive asset for the organization. Enterprises can also exploit MPLS for their switched router or router backbones to:

  • Provide advanced QoS features that ensure network priority for mission-critical traffic.

  • Seamlessly integrate voice and data networks under one high-speed infrastructure

  • Extend Tag-enabled ISP network services to the enterprise

  • Optimally use costly WAN bandwidth, providing a more cost-effective environment

  • Scale existing enterprise backbone infrastructures to meet future requirements.

Leading the Industry

The worldwide leader in networking for the Internet, Cisco Systems introduces MPLS based on proven industry experience. To maximize the effectiveness of MPLS, Cisco is committed to the standardization of the architecture. MPLS specifications have already been submitted to the IETF for standardization.


MPLS Protocol

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