Poll: Is MPLS BS?
A large proportion of the optical networking community takes the view that the development of MPLS (multiprotocol label switching) has lost its way, according to the results of Light Reading’s August research poll: MPLS - Just Kidding?
The poll, which has already been taken by more than 650 people, reflects a widespread belief that development work has been hijacked by the same folk that jumped on the ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) marketing bandwagon several years ago.
In particular, they say, MPLS is being promoted in the same way as ATM was -- as a panacea for simplifying networks and addressing every service provider requirement under the sun. Some network architects feel it’s being pressed into use for applications for which it isn’t well suited, like virtual private networks. (It does, however, make perfect toast.)
The upshot of this "over-egging the pudding" is likely to be over-complicated software -- and that translates into bugs and unacceptable reliability risks for service providers.
In our poll, 36 percent of respondents think that “MPLS is effectively ATM all over again,” and another 32 percent think there’s some truth in the statement. Only 28 percent disagree.
In some respects this isn’t particularly surprising, because the fundamental goal of MPLS is much the same as ATM's -- to enable service providers to consolidate traffic onto common infrastructure and offer predictable service quality .
A considerable proportion of respondents -- 38 percent -- think that “MPLS will end up just like ATM, a big ball of hair." Another 16 percent think there’s some truth in the statement. However, 40 percent flat disagree. (Could they be the folk marketing MPLS routers and switches?)
The split reflects a “religious” separation between two camps in the optical networking industry, according to David Drury, president of the MPLS Forum -- who just happens to have been a big ATM marketing muckamuck himself, at Fore Systems, the ATM switch vendor acquired by Marconi Communications PLC (Nasdaq/London: MONI).
Drury belongs to the camp that believes some services (such as voice and video) have to be provided over some sort of connection, whether it’s physical (as in a telephone line) or logical (as in frame relay, ATM, or now MPLS) in order to guarantee quality.
The other camp comprises "people that think everything can be done with connectionless protocols [like IP],” says Drury. “But no one has shown me how this can guarantee predictable quality services."
This second camp often takes the view that the easiest way to make service quality predictable is to over-provision bandwidth, particularly as optical technologies are driving down the cost of doing this. That’s what’s behind the final question in our poll, whether QoS is only needed at the edge of networks and not in the core. 50 percent of respondents believe this, and 33 percent don't. “In the wide area,” Drury concedes, "over-provisioning the core may well be okay."
To add your egg to the pudding, click here: MPLS - Just Kidding?
— Peter Heywood, Founding Editor, Light Reading