Window on WANs

Jul 22 2011   9:01AM GMT

Are Metro Ethernet services better than MPLS?

Tessa Parmenter Tessa Parmenter Profile: Tessa Parmenter

Some seem to think so. The question of whether Metro Ethernet services are better than MPLS—as with many choices—comes down to needs and preferences.

Reporter Jessica Scarpati surveyed users who made the switch from MPLS to Metro Ethernet in her recent article: WAN pros find Metro Ethernet services fast, cheap, simple alternative. As much as one can glean from the article title, the results of such a switch were favorable to WAN professionals looking to:

  • Cut costs: MPLS, while cheaper and more flexible than T1 and frame relay, is still costly to roll out to every site. The cost of Metro Ethernet services, hardware and maintenance is significantly less.
  • Get higher capacity: Enterprises can get anywhere from 7-20 times more capacity with Metro Ethernet than with other fiber services.
  • Use less hardware: Multiple routers with frame relay line cards can be replaced with an Ethernet switch.
  • Keep familiar protocols: Metro Ethernet uses the same protocols across a WAN as a LAN.

While any one of these advantages can make a company consider Metro Ethernet, consider the advantages of MPLS:

  • MPLS has QoS capabilities: “This allows delay-sensitive services such as VoIP to be implemented with guaranteed bandwidth between the endpoints.” Chris Partsenidis explains in his MPLS VPN tutorial.
  • MPLS is reliable: If MPLS is configured correctly, you can select routes and heal the network when something goes down to keep the WAN in working order.
  • Encryption is optional: Technical editor Michael Brandenburg cited in his MPLS VPN basics tutorial that each MPLS line is isolated from another and never traverses the public Internet, so encryption between sites is optional.

While this isn’t a complete list of advantages and disadvantages, the Metro Ethernet vs. MPLS debate comes down to what your company needs and what they can get. If you decide that MPLS is still the service for you, make sure you understand the different classes of MPLS services to decide the best MPLS VPN for your WAN.

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