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Managing Editor

SLAs not necessarily guaranteed with MPLS

Jun 02, 20032 mins
Cellular NetworksMPLS

The potential benefits of MPLS VPNs are customer-specific, and the highly touted benefit of end-to-end quality-of-service may be just a myth if your service traverses more than one network.

Inter-service provider service-level agreement (SLA) guarantees may be a sticking point — just as they are with other technologies — because of a lack of willingness on the part of service providers to offer them.

“Low latency is interpreted differently by different providers,” says Bruce Davie, a Cisco Fellow in the company’s IOS Technologies Division. “But the differences aren’t such that it can’t be done. One of the key reasons (enterprises are asking for MPLS) is the potential for inter-provider SLAs.”

The lack of inter-provider SLA assurance is one reason Coca-Cola Enterprises chose to manage its MPLS VPN service itself rather than opting for a fully managed service. The bottler owns, configures and manages it own routers, as well as the interconnection between AT&T and BT through two 10G bit/sec-capable Cisco 12000 series Internet routers in its data center, says John Ridley, senior enterprise network architect.

“That’s where we marry the two networks,” Ridley says. “We do it; they don’t do it. There’s no carrier gateway involved.”

Nonetheless, the bottler did negotiate some “favorable” SLAs with the two carriers based on latency, Ridley says, so he does not foresee inter-service provider SLAs to be an issue.

“You’d have to be in Los Angeles and talking to a server in Brussels for that to be an issue,” he says. “We just aren’t set up that way.”

Managing Editor

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 28 years, 23 at Network World. He covers enterprise networking infrastructure, including routers and switches. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy and at

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