• United States
by Steve Taylor and Joanie Wexler

MPLS: The Ultimate user-to-network interface?

Jun 24, 20032 mins

* MPLS/Frame Relay Alliance "QoS Support in MPLS Networks" white paper

Over the past few years, Multi-protocol Label Switching has been a hot topic in the service provider community.  For enterprise users, though, they have been struggling with the question of how much they should care about MPLS.  It’s for sure that an MPLS infrastructure provides the foundation for highly reliable services with excellent QoS mechanisms.  However, there has been no widespread commitment to providing “native” MPLS services via an MPLS User-to-Network Interface (UNI).

That’s all about to change, and direct enterprise interaction with MPLS is on the horizon.  One of the first steps is the development of a MPLS UNI.

The MPLS/Frame Relay Alliance has just released a white paper titled “QoS Support in MPLS Networks.”  In addition to providing an excellent description of various QoS methods, the paper discusses the development of the MPLS UNI in order to provide true end-to-end QoS over an MPLS network.

According to the paper, “The present version of [MPLS-UNI] addresses only a PVC (Permanent Virtual Connection) approach which is characterized by SP- [Service Provider] initiated provisioning and CE [Customer Edge Router] passivity. Future work will extend this architecture to MPLS UNI SVCs (Switched Virtual Connections) where CEs [Customer Edge routers] will be able to signal requests for establishment or termination of LSPs [Label Switched Paths].”

The development of this UNI could finally be an answer for the years of battles between frame relay, ATM and IP-based interfaces.  Since MPLS incorporates support for all of these technologies, a single interface can be supported without any of the (minor) technical and (major) religious/philosophical arguments.