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MPLS versus VPLS – confusion still reigns


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Sometime ago we wrote a white paper extolling the virtues of managed MPLS over unmanaged VPLS. As technology inevitably does, things have moved on but what hasn’t is that the market is still causing confusion by associating a technology with a service.

Fundamentally the problem for VPLS is not the technology itself but the way in which it has been defined as an alternative to MPLS. MPLS is typically offered as a managed service network offering. This means that all elements of the service – design, delivery, management and maintenance – are provided by the supplier and not the customer. VPLS is commonly delivered as an unmanaged service, and as with any unmanaged service, the responsibility for the various delivery and support elements lies with customer. The issue arises when customers are not fully aware of these inherent differences, if the management and maintenance implications of choosing an unmanaged VPLS service are not made clear, businesses signing up for a VPLS service may be unable to support the network in the same way a managed provider can. As a result some customers have found prices unexpectedly spiralling when design, delivery and support have been added and even then the management of the network can become problematic.

Of course there are now managed service providers buying a ‘wires only’ VPLS service from the large telecom suppliers and using this as the basis for providing their own managed service – managed VPLS. The underlying technology, MPLS or VPLS, is largely transparent to a customer taking a managed service.

Therefore the question should not be how VPLS and MPLS technologies compare, rather whether a customer wants a managed service or not. Potential customers should decide if they have the in-house capability to design, deploy, monitor and support a network. Do they want to maintain the network in-house or place that responsibility on a trusted technology partner? If the capability is not available in-house, identifying a proven technology partner to deliver and manage the network is critically important.

VPLS has a lot to offer in certain circumstances and businesses are now much better at understanding the utility pricing model as their familiarity with Cloud services grow. This means they’re able to manage their consumption more effectively, and keep within budget.



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