By Robert Jacobs, Network Architect Director
During the recent presidential inauguration, heavy demand was placed on the PS LIGHTWAVE IP network. Customers were streaming video and audio and data from tablets, phones, laptops, desktops and IPTV devices across our market. January 20, 2017 was also the best day ever. It was proof that our engineering and our concepts worked. We delivered twice the amount of traffic over a three-hour period. There were no network issues and no problems for our customers. The Switched Layer 2 network routed all traffic beautifully.
Switched Layer 2: How it Works
Today’s modern Layer 2 switched network architecture, sometimes referred to as metro Ethernet or an Internet Protocol (IP) network, combines Carrier Ethernet and switches in ringed configurations, offering greater throughput, lower latency and less maintenance than a legacy network design. In an IP network, the bigger the pipe, the greater the capacity. Traffic chooses its own routing path, which reduces delays.
Switched Layer 2 versus MPLS
Multiple-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS), another popular network topology, is more expensive and complex, and lacks the rapid scalability of Metro Ethernet, which offers bursting. In both network designs, network traffic is delivered as packets of information. MPLS delivers traffic along specific routes based on the label assigned to each packet. The service provider determines the routing specifications, so the information packets travel in a controlled manner from router to router which may or may not be the shortest and best path.
In a switched network, network packets are routed based on the unique media access control (MAC) destination address of each packet. MAC addresses are then mapped to a network circuit ID tag or switch, which means no router hops and faster throughput. PS LIGHTWAVE is not limited to the 4,096 tag IDs in our network defined in the Ethernet protocols. One of our equipment vendors, Ciena, offers a virtual switch solution, which means we can create switches within switches to accommodate multiple service tags and layers for the foreseeable future as we continue to grow.
MPLS prioritizes traffic, so mission-critical applications can be defined and provided a guaranteed Quality of Service (QoS) versus other network traffic, this is great if you have limited bandwidth and have multiple types of services that must be delivered. If the MPLS circuit fills up, the non-flagged traffic will have packet loss and have higher latency across an MPLS network. MPLS systems operate best when connecting thousands of facilities across the U.S., while Metro Ethernet connects hundreds of facilities together within a market including point-to-point networks and data center to data center connections that require high throughput, bandwidth on demand, and low latency.
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