Communications Reimagined.

MPLS Versus Carrier Ethernet: What's The Right Choice?

Susana Schwartz
Communications Content Specialist

When it comes to choices for WAN connectivity, it more often than not boils down to two choices: MPLS or carrier Ethernet. With this in mind, many enterprises are wondering which is best for their needs, and how the deployment of one over the other will impact their overall network. Let’s take a look:


MPLS services, which typically refer to Layer-3 IP VPNs, enable connectivity through carrier peer and customer edge routers, where communications take place at the IP network layer, TechTarget contributor Johna Till Johnson wrote. MPLS lines are often leveraged to connect branch offices to the corporate data center, or to other branch locations. Overall, approximately 67 percent of companies leverage MPLS in their WAN in this way, and another 52 percent utilize it as an interconnection for multiple data centers.

67 percent of companies leverage MPLS in their WAN.

MPLS services can offer numerous advantages for WAN connectivity, including the ability to support any-to-any traffic patterns, such as those used by voice and video applications. MPLS also includes inherent Quality of Service support, enabling users to specify limits for the packet loss, jitter and latency for each traffic type.


Ethernet, a Layer-2 protocol enabling routing control, comes with its own benefits for WAN connectivity. TechTarget contributor Paul Kirvan pointed out that not only is Ethernet an increasingly cost-effective option for the WAN, but these services are also incredibly versatile, as they can connect with synchronous optical network and synchronous digital hierarchy WANs.

Ethernet also provides benefits when it comes to speed. While 10 GbE has traditionally been the standard, higher speeds – including 40 or 100 GbE – are now available. In this way, companies that consume considerable bandwidth resources and require low latency can select a higher protocol to ensure speed of service.

Thanks to its low-latency and high-throughput capabilities, Ethernet is typically used to interconnect data center networks. In addition, it is often ideal for supporting disaster recovery needs.

Selecting the best option

Even with these considerations in mind, it can be difficult to choose between MPLS and Ethernet. Both have been viable connectivity options for years, and are not expected to disappear anytime in the near future, even with available alternatives.

TechTarget contributor Tess Parmenter pointed out that each option has distinct differences and advantages when it comes to cost, scalability, routing, management and availability. Depending on the needs of the business, its current network topology and future requirements, either solution can offer the connectivity users are seeking.

Thankfully, with an SD-WAN solution in place, companies don’t have to choose between one or the other. SD-WAN technology enables a business to make the most of all of its available links – be they MPLS service or Ethernet – to provide a seamless, continual connection and top-notch application performance.

With an SD-WAN in place like Talari’s Failsafe SD-WAN, the network is able to make intelligent decisions about the treatment of each data packet. It selects the best possible path according to current network conditions and available links. In this way, enterprises can leverage both MPLS and Ethernet services as part of its WAN, and can leverage each link for certain types of traffic, as a failover backup, or both.

To find out more about how Talari’s Software Defined WAN makes this possible, contact us for a custom demonstration today.

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