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MPLS (Multi Protocol Label Switching)

MPLS has its roots in Ipsilon's IP Switching, Cisco's Tag Switching, IBM's ARIS technology and a few other proposals to bring the sort of traffic engineering found in connection-oriented Asynchronous Transfer Mode and frame relay networks to connectionless IP networks.

The idea is to steer IP traffic onto a variety of routes instead of the single one discovered by an interior gateway protocol such as Border Gateway Protocol, to avoid congestion or failures, or to enable a particular class of service or guaranteed service level.

MPLS switches and routers affix labels to packets based on their destination, type-of-service parameters, Virtual Private Network membership or other criteria. As a packet traverses a network, other switches and routers build tables associating packets and routes with labels. The MPLS switches and routers - dubbed label switch routers - assign each packet a label that corresponds to a particular path through the network.

All packets with the same label use the same path - a so-called label switched path (LSP). Because labels refer to paths and not endpoints, packets destined for the same endpoint can use a variety of LSPs to get there.

Also see: GMPLS

diagram

Additional resources

MPLS research center
The latest MPLS news and analysis from NetworkWorld.com.

MPLS community
MPLS discussions on NetworkWorld.com.

MPLS-RC
MPLS-VPLS Resource Center.

MPLS - An introduction to multiprotocol label switching
Reguires free online registration.

IETF MPLS working group

DiffServ vs. MPLS
Compares the two approaches.

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