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Cisco’s MPLS management tools

Apr 13, 20042 mins

* Are MPLS service improvements on the horizon?

There hasn’t been much differentiation among the services available from providers with Multi-protocol Label Switching networks yet. One reason is that the operations, administration and maintenance tools long been available for their ATM backbones have been awhile in coming for MPLS.

This has made it difficult for operators using MPLS as a convergence strategy to have tight control over multiple services all sharing the network.  This could soon change, though.

Recently, Cisco stepped up to the plate with an MPLS management architecture embedded directly in its IOS router operating system. The move could bode positively for the availability of premium services on MPLS networks.

Cisco IOS MPLS Embedded Management, a collection of OAM capabilities for MPLS networks, helps service providers guarantee service levels for MPLS-based IP VPN services and for traditional Layer 2 services tunneling through the MPLS backbone.

For example, MPLS ping and traceroute capabilities detect, then isolate, faults on MPLS Label Switch Paths and on frame relay, Ethernet, and ATM flows encapsulated in MPLS. These basic troubleshooting capabilities have not been available for MPLS networks until now, making it hard for service providers to promise much in the way of service-level agreements (SLA) without over-engineering their networks (and likely passing the cost to you).

The Cisco tools also automate a provider’s ability to build primary and back-up tunnels, as well as logical meshes over the physical network. For example, a logical mesh could be built just for VoIP traffic, and all traffic on that mesh could be given top priority, Cisco says.

And traditional Cisco IOS OAM tools for packet accounting (NetFlow) and real-time performance monitoring (Service Assurance Agent) for IP networks are now also “MPLS-aware.”

While as an enterprise, you are an arm’s length away from these infrastructure worries, the capabilities should mean you are more likely to have enhanced service options and better guarantees available to you one day soon.

Also to this end, Cisco has added MPLS-awareness to key network management applications – Info Center VPN Policy Manager and Cisco CNS NetFlow Collection Engine – and integrated them to automate certain troubleshooting processes. Again, this should help network operators improve their mean-time-to-resolution more quickly on a per-customer basis and automate escalations to maintain your SLAs.