MPLS: coming to an enterprise near you?

MPLS: coming to an enterprise near you?

The idea of segregating network traffic within a local area network is widely practiced with virtual LANs, but extending that concept across remote sites may see carrier-domain multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) creep into the enterprise.

IDC Australia's telecommunications research director Landry Fevre said while the idea of converging the LAN and WAN is the way of the future, he doubts whether enterprise MPLS will become mainstream.

"It's a long-term view, because carriers are just starting to get it right," Fevre said. "For enterprises to get it right would require very large [companies]. However, it could resonate in the education sector and large enterprises, like BHP."

In his keynote address at this year's Cisco Networkers conference, titled, Convergence: this time for sure, on Queensland's Gold Coast, Cisco Fellow Bruce Davie asked the question, "will MPLS make it into the enterprise?"

"We see a lot of VLANs in the business market and customers want to extend that to the WAN," Davie said, adding that MPLS will start making its way into the enterprise to facilitate better traffic management and QoS for converged applications.

"MPLS VPNs allow networks to be virtualized [providing] virtual routing tables for different customers; virtualization is like creating an illusion that each user has their own network which requires a way to segregate the traffic," he said. "Typically there is no MPLS in the business network and the customer generally has no idea that MPLS is being used by the service provider. All they see is an abstraction."

IDC's Fevre believes enterprises are likely to need a very large project to justify such a move.

"Sure enterprise products with MPLS built in will be announced, but you still need the skills," he said.

Davie, one of only 10 Fellows at Cisco, also chronicled the road to convergence - an idea first conceived back in the 1960s.

The first packet phone was being used over Ethernet links as far back as 1981, and, in contrast, today's converged networks allow users to enjoy television over the Internet, Davie said.

"The applications are driving convergence," Davie said. "It's all about developing an application with compelling utility. This will drive down requirements to the network."

Since the first Ethernet phone back in 1981, Cisco now claims to have shipped 4.4 million IP phones, which Davie said isn't that many given the market potential. The growth rate, however, has been exponential.

"Video will also have another exponential growth [period]," he said, adding that it is really at the early stages. "That will drive more bandwidth and network capabilities [as] convergence is about being able to access the same services across any device."

Davie said after "just 44 years" convergence is ready for prime time.

Rodney Gedda is attending the conference as a guest of Cisco

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