• United States
by Steve Taylor and Joanie Wexler

MPLS in the enterprise: Any takers?

Feb 19, 20042 mins

* Will MPLS UNI progress pick up at World Congress?

At press time, the MPLS World Congress had just gotten underway in Paris, France. It will be interesting to see if any progress is made toward putting the Multi-protocol Label Switching User-to-Network Interface to work. The event is expected to focus on how to extend MPLS from core service provider backbones into access networks, enterprise networks, and between service provider networks (inter-domain networks).

We’re curious about this because in June of last year, we discussed the first release of the MPLS and Frame Relay Alliance’s “MPLS Permanent Virtual Circuit (PVC) UNI” implementation agreement.  In that newsletter, we opined that an MPLS UNI could finally end what are often religious battles among frame relay, ATM and IP-based interfaces, because MPLS incorporates support for all of these technologies in a single interface.

Now, nearly eight months later, we haven’t seen much progress with the UNI.  In fact, this was a point of discussion at a panel session at last month’s ComNet show in Washington, D.C., led by Steve and consultant Jim Metzler of Ashton, Metzler & Associates, concerning WAN trends for 2004. 

MPLS UNI developments were among the top 10 trends that the session leaders advised attendees to watch.  Using the MPLS UNI would make it straightforward to bridge the WAN capabilities of MPLS-based transport networks with local and campus networks.

Four CPE providers and three service providers then gave presentations at the session, but the MPLS UNI never came up.  So Steve asked the presenters to make a statement – positive or negative – about the MPLS UNI other than the usual “we’re tracking it and will offer it when we see sufficient demand.”

There was no rush to respond.  This was disappointing, because MPLS is in the unique position to offer consistent quality-of-service (QoS) markings for converged networks.  The UNI is designed to be compatible with the network infrastructure.  Without it, we’re back to mapping marked IP type-of-service and Differentiated Services bits into MPLS QoS.  And we’re hoping that the mapping “fits” from network to network.

It’s time for the industry – service providers, equipment providers, and users – to get serious about this spec.  We finally have a chance to start deploying networks that work consistently from domain to domain.

What do you think?  Would you buy an MPLS UNI service if offered?  Let us hear from you.