MPLS vs VPLS Explained

A buyer’s guide to the difference between MPLS and VPLS technologies

Both MPLS and VPLS provide enterprises with high-quality connectivity between dispersed remote locations. But to make an informed decision about which is right for you, it’s important to understand the key differences between them.

MPLS vs. VPLS in simple terms

While MPLS (or IPVPN) and VPLS share the same underlying technology, they are intended for very different applications and offer their own respective advantages. MPLS offers increased flexibility and scalability through the use of virtual private networks that automatically segregate traffic to optimise performance, while VPLS is ideal for organisations that want their in-house teams to enjoy complete control over their routing by combining LAN and WAN in a way that optimises security and enables effortless disaster recovery.

What is MPLS?

Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) is a mechanism that encapsulates and transports customer data across a service provider backbone network in a segregated and high-performance manner. MPLS assigns labels in order to uniquely identify different types of traffic, including - for example - traffic belonging to different customers.

This labelling system bypasses the need to fully scan packets; MPLS thereby heightens efficiency and speeds up the flow of network traffic. Labelling also enables network administrators to establish Quality of Service characteristics, with which they can prioritise applications and allocate bandwidth accordingly.

What is IPVPN?

Often when people refer to MPLS they're really referring to a Layer 3 Internet Protocol Virtual Private Network (IPVPN). MPLS is a transport mechanism, which you can run multiple services over the top of - one such is service is IPVPN operating at Layer 3.

IPVPN is used by many service providers to provide full managed Wide Area Networks (WANs) for enterprise customers. Typically, these will have fully managed routers on customer premise and often don’t have the capability to carry multiple services down one circuit.

What is VPLS?

Virtual Private LAN Service (VPLS) is a multipoint Layer 2 service that combines the capabilities and flexibility of a Local Area Network (LAN) and implements it over a WAN.

Combining Layer 2 Ethernet with MPLS label-switched paths, VPLS creates a simulated 'pseudo-LAN' environment. With VPLS, network administrators can easily control their own routing independently of the service provider, even across geographically remote sites.

MPLS and VPLS: Which is right for you?

Both MPLS/IPVPN and VPLS have particular strengths and weaknesses that have made them particularly suitable for different types of network, organisation, and business problem.

However, VPLS does have some differentiators that add value to enterprise IT departments.

VPLS gives you complete control of your routing, and can carry your VLANs. The service provider does not have to be involved in the routing - it’s completely in the hands of the enterprise to make changes as and when they require them.

VPLS gives you complete control of your routing, and can carry your VLANs. The service provider does not have to be involved in the routing - it’s completely in the hands of the enterprise to make changes as and when they require them.

IPVPN is typically a managed service, meaning that the routing control is controlled by the service provider. This means that all changes have to go through them - this could therefore cause you delays according to the lead time.

Security wise, VPLS gives you the security of LAN over WAN; unlike MPLS, VPLS does not share Layer 3 routing tables with your service provider.

Security wise, VPLS gives you the security of LAN over WAN; unlike MPLS, VPLS does not share Layer 3 routing tables with your service provider.

With VPLS, we offer a number of DR services that facilitate recovery of servers in a DR location with the same IP addresses – due to having an underlying Layer 2 technology.

With VPLS, we offer a number of DR services that facilitate recovery of servers in a DR location with the same IP addresses – due to having an underlying Layer 2 technology.

Technical Features Comparison

Take a look at our table below to see further technical comparisons between MPLS and VPLS.

MPLS
  • Point to multipoint Connectivity
    Carry IP packets
    Carry non IP traffic IPX, UDUD, CDP, LLDP, RSTP etc
    The customer can carry their own VLANs within the service
    Service has multicast support (IGMP Snooping)
    IP subnets extendable over multiple geographical sites, Layer 2 adjacency for VMware
    Ability to run any interior gateway protocol between customer sites, including OSPF or EXGAP.
    Ability for customer to take complete control of their own Layer 3 environment
Advanced
  • Point to multipoint Connectivity
    Carry IP packets
    Carry non IP traffic IPX, UDUD, CDP, LLDP, RSTP etc
    The customer can carry their own VLANs within the service
    Service has multicast support (IGMP Snooping)
    IP subnets extendable over multiple geographical sites, Layer 2 adjacency for VMware
    Ability to run any interior gateway protocol between customer sites, including OSPF or EXGAP.
    Ability for customer to take complete control of their own Layer 3 environment

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