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Ethernet over MPLS Transport
The cost and performance advantages of transporting Ethernet services over MPLS networks.

By: John Shepler

Ethernet started out as a local area network protocol, but is quickly becoming the metropolitan area network protocol of choice. It offers easy interfacing to existing wired and wireless business networks, rapid bandwidth scaling without equipment changes, and a lower cost structure than traditional telecom services. If Ethernet is so great for the LAN and MAN, how about Ethernet for the WAN?

Two Options For Ethernet WAN
Ethernet WAN is enjoying a rising popularity, especially among companies with multiple business sites located across the United States and across international borders. You can get dedicated point to point wired Ethernet connections between any two locations, but a competing methodology that is gaining steam is Ethernet over MPLS.

MPLS as Transport
Why use an MPLS network to transport your Ethernet traffic? The first reason is that MPLS networks are already in place and going where you want to send your traffic. Sure, you can custom engineer a dedicated private line service, but why re-invent the wheel? Ethernet is easily transported over MPLS networks using Pseudowire encapsulation that emulates the wireline it competes with. Which do you think is going to be less expensive? Paying for a custom point to point wireline connection or being one stream of traffic on a large MPLS network?

MPLS Advantage For Long Haul Traffic
The way it tends to work out is that short haul Ethernet links have the cost advantage when implemented as dedicated lines. This is especially true if you are nowhere near an MPLS carrier node. Once you start looking at coast to coast transport or a situation where you want multiple Ethernet LANs connected in a transparent mesh network, MPLS networks gain the advantage. MPLS also has the edge when you want to cross international borders to include foreign sites on your corporate network.

Core Networks Are Already MPLS
Carriers may be muddying the water even further by offering Ethernet line services that actually consist of copper or fiber Ethernet access connections to their MPLS network core, where the long haul Ethernet transport really takes place.

Ethernet Services
There are several types of Ethernet services that are really popular right now. One is E-Line or Ethernet Private Line service. This is a standardized service specified by the MEF (Metro Ethernet Forum). It gives you a Carrier Ethernet connection that bridges two LANs. A variation is EVPL or Ethernet Virtual Private LIne. What EVPL does is let you use a single physical Ethernet port to connect to multiple Ethernet private lines going to out to geographically diverse locations. This is something you could use to replace a star network built on independent wireline connections to those same remote locations.

Ethernet LAN Connectivity
Another popular service is E-LAN or Ethernet LAN service, also called VPLS or Virtual Private LAN Service when implemented on an IP/MPLS network. While Ethernet Line Service replaces dedicated point to point telecom lines, Ethernet LAN is a meshed network service that interconnects multiple locations on an any-to-any basis. With VPLS, you bridge your multiple LANs so that they act as one giant LAN network. That’s true even if you have a hundred or thousand sites in the U.S. and and equal number spread out over the globe.

MPLS For Your Ethernet Connections
What carrier can offer this level of MPLS networking? Actually, there are several to choose from. If one can’t serve all your sites, multiple carriers can share traffic through a E-NNI or Ethernet Network to Network Interface to reach all locations with VPLS or E-Line connections. If you need this type of connectivity, you may be surprised by how affordable it has become recently. Get Ethernet over MPLS service prices now and see how far your network can really reach.

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