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Enginyeria i Arquitectura La Salle is developing different studies about Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) Architecture. The main goal is to find out backbone improvements and to compare MPLS with other switching technologies like ATM or Frame Relay. We use simulation tools (Opnet) to achieve this goal without great investment in new MPLS equipment.

Our research is focused on the next points:

Deployments of basic scenarios to study MPLS features and get a better understanding of this architecture to troubleshoot problems when we deploy complex scenarios.

Migration to MPLS. Study of the different MPLS deployment schemes.

QoS in MPLS.

Traffic Engineering in MPLS.

Resilience and path protection. Study of the different failure/recovery

solutions on a MPLS network. VPN in MPLS: Layer 2 and Layer 3 VPNs.

MPLS Label Stack. Hierarchy, LSP tunnels.

Label Distribution Protocols: MPLS-BGP, MPLS-RSVP-TUNNELS, MPLS-

LDP, MPLS-CR-LDP. Multicast in MPLS

ATM & Frame Relay internetworking

Generalized MPLS (GMPLS)

Security in MPLS

Operations and Management (OAM) of MPLS

1.1. Abstract

Multi-Protocol Label Switching is a new technology that solves some Internet backbone’s problems, (i.e. scalability) using its applications as Traffic Engineering, Virtual Private Network, Failure Recovery. This paper provides an overview of MPLS technology doing some simulations with OPNET Modeler. These simulations give a better understanding and a comparison between MPLS and other routing technologies such as RIP and OSPF.



The MPLS technology was introduced due to the need of a scalable backbone protocol that could supply quality of service. It provides better scalability than ATM and a reliable QoS scheme unlike IP. MPLS is a tag switching technology that evolved from other tag switching technologies like “TAG switching” of Cisco and “ARIS” of IBM. In January of 2001 the IETF released the internet standard RFC 3031 which defines the Multiprotocol Label Switching Architecture.

The mean objective of MPLS was to provide the best issues of layer 2 and layer 3 OSI’s model. Layer 2 provides faster switching than layer 3, but layer 3 offers more flexibility than layer 2. This objective was overrun when appears the multi-layer switch. However MPLS offers other so interesting applications in Traffic Engineering or VPN. Another fact is that MPLS can be implemented over any Layer 2 technology and supports any Layer 3 technology.

Today almost all important manufacturers (Juniper, Cisco, RiverStone…) and software developers (Data Connection, Altera Solutions…) are working in MPLS.

  • 1.3. Overview of MPLS Architecture

In the MPLS paradigm, packets are forwarded based on short labels. The traditional IP header analysis is not performed at each hop of the packet. Each packet is assigned to a “flow” only once when it enters in the network. MPLS label switching utilizes the Layer 3 routing information while carrying out the switching at Layer 2. MPLS provides high- speed routing based on parameters such as QoS and application requirements.

MPLS can be divided logically and functionally into two components to provide the label switching functionality: MPLS Forwarding or Label Switching and Label Distribution.

  • - MPLS Forwarding/Label Switching The primary component of MPLS is the Forwarding/Label Switching function. This is an advanced form of packet forwarding which replaces the conventional longest address match forwarding with more efficient label-swapping algorithm. The IP header analysis is performed once at the Ingress of the Label Switched Path (LSP) in order to classify the packets. The packets that are forwarded via the same next hop are grouped into a “Forwarding Equivalence Class” (FEC) based on one or more parameters such as:

    • 1. Address prefix

    • 2. Host Address

    • 3. Host Address and Quality of Service (QoS)

The FEC, which the packet belongs to, is encoded as a short fixed length value known as a “label”. When the packet is forwarded to its next hop, the label is sent along with it. During subsequent hops, there is no further analysis of the packet’s network layer header. Rather, the label is used as an index into a table,

which specifies the next hop, and a new label. The old label is replaced with this new label, and the packet is forwarded to its next hop.

Label usually have a local significance and are used to identify FECs based on the type of the underlying network. For instance in ATM networks, the Virtual Path Identifier (VPI) and Virtual Channel Identifier (VCI) are used like the label. Similarly, in Frame Relay networks, the Data Link Control Identifier (DLCI) is used so.

In the Ethernet and FDDI networks, the labels are short headers placed between the data link headers and the network layer PDUs. The MPLS Forwarding in the its LSRs must be placed in a independent firmware/hardware to obtain performance advantage during forwarding.

  • - Label distribution The distribution of labels in MPLS is accomplished in one or more possible ways:


Extending routing protocols such as Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) to


support label distribution Using the Resource ReSerVation Protocol (RSVP) signaling mechanism


to distribute labels mapped to the RSVP flows Using the Label Distribution Protocol (LDP) as defined by the IETF

1.4. Benefits of MPLS

  • - Multiprotocol Support FEC classifications can be based on the network layer protocols and their associated routing protocol information. Though the initial effort in the MPLS standardization has been focused on IPv4 and IPv6, the MPLS working group aims to extend network support to layer protocols such as IPX, AppleTalk, DECnet and CLNP.

  • - Link Layer Independence MPLS is intended to work with any type of link layer medium such as ATM, Frame Relay, Packet-over-SONET, Ethernet, Token Ring and FDDI. However, the labels for FEC classification in each of these cases would be link layer specific.

  • - Increased Performance MPLS enables higher performance due to simplified packet forwarding and switching decisions. MPLS based routers can implement forwarding capabilities using hardware techniques.

  • - Explicit Routes One of the important features of MPLS is its support for explicit routes. An explicit route is a route that has not been set-up by dynamic IP hop-by-hop routing; rather an ingress/egress node has specified all or some of the nodes of that route. Though this is very similar to IP source routing, the benefit of MPLS is that there is no overhead of header processing for each packet. In addition,

explicit routes also provide some of the functionality needed for Traffic Engineering, QoS/constraint routing etc.

  • - Traffic Engineering Traffic engineering is the process of choosing the paths in order to balance the load using several links, routers, and switches in the network. Performance objectives of traffic engineering can be classified as:

    • 1. Traffic oriented, enabled to enhance the QoS of traffic streams

    • 2. Resource oriented, which optimizes resource utilization

Nowadays traffic engineering in IP over ATM networks is typically done by manually configuring the path of each PVC. The nature of MPLS can be exploited for achieving effective Traffic Engineering. The explicit routed label switched paths (each of these mapped to a particular traffic trunk) can be easily created through manual administrative or automatic action. Some of the inherent advantages of MPLS for TE are:

  • 1. The explicit routed LSPs can be associated with one of the many traffic trunk attributes available in MPLS for supporting different type of traffic

  • 2. The basic operations such as establishing, activating, deactivating, modifying the attributes and rerouting a traffic trunk can be carried out on an explicitly routed LSP

  • 3. Streams from any ingress node to any egress node can be individually identified. This provides a straightforward mechanism to measure the traffic flow between each ingress-egress node pair and hence meets the accounting requirement of traffic engineering.

1.5. Introduction


OPNET Modeler





After a theoretical study based on RFCs and white papers to get a technology global vision, the next step was to learn how to work with OPNET’s MPLS model following OPNET model documentation and making a practice for our students (around 60 pupils). This practice was based on the Case Study ‘Simulation-based Analysis of MPLS Traffic Engineering’ which provides a great overview of Traffic Engineering. The next section analyzes the scenarios tested.

  • 1.5.1. Traffic Engineering with dynamic LSPs

Traffic engineering can be made with static or dynamic Label Switched Paths (LSPs). The goal for this scenario is to practice Traffic Engineering using dynamic LSPs.

Dynamic LSPs can be set up using CR-LDP or RSVP. They can use bandwidth reservation to support traffic constraints. They differ in RSVP. RSVP sends periodic refresh messages to maintain the LSPs whereas CR-LDP doesn’t. To find the path that LSPs will use routing protocols are used. There are two options, use IGP (Interior Gateway Protocol) or CSPF (Constrained Short Path First). If a LSPs is setup using IGP you cannot do traffic engineering with dynamic LSP because constraints aren’t take into account.

The figure 1 is the simulated scenario. There are several conversations and the MPLS deployment was carried out using “Configure LSPs from Traffic Conversation Pairs…”. A dynamic LSP is created for every conversation pair, these LSPs are created from the ingress LER to the egress LER without any strict node between. In this way Traffic Engineering cannot be implemented because, if CSPF is used, the only effect is that the LSP cannot tear up. If the LSP cannot be tear up the traffic is forwarded using IP forwarding. So the traffic is forwarded in the same path that uses the dynamic LSP (that’s because there are no strict nodes between the ingress LER and Egress LER) so congestions and delays will happen.

The figure 1 is the simulated scenario. There are several conversations and the MPLS deployment was

Figura 1:

Figure 1: Network topology with dynamic LSPs

However if there isn’t congestion the forwarding paradigm using MPLS is better than the standard IP forwarding that’s shown in figure 2.

The figure 1 is the simulated scenario. There are several conversations and the MPLS deployment was

Figura 2:

Figure 2: MPLS forwarding is faster than IP forwarding

Figure 3 shows a LSP configured with a traffic trunk profiles that discards the traffic out of the profile. The traffic delay is better than without MPLS (but the reason is the discarding of the packets) so it isn’t an advantage.

Figure 3 shows a LSP configured with a traffic trunk profiles that discards the traffic out

Figura 3:

Figure 3: IP background Traffic Delay

The conclusion is that if you want to do traffic engineering you must configure some strict node and you can use OPNET simulator to view the effects of this new configuration previously to deploy in your production network.

  • 1.5.2. Failure Recovery

The goal for this scenario is to demonstrate that MPLS failure recovery is very effective. This scenario will compare two protocols, RIP and MPLS, and its failure recovery response. The traffic was modeled in a event mode to obtain more accurate results. Failures were configured “randomly”, in fact failures are configured in the middle of the RIP update timer. In figure 4 it’s shown the network topology without LSPs and in figure 5 the results of simulation. In figure 5 there are a few seconds (about 15 seconds) where no traffic is forwarded to destination, and traffic is forwarded through secondary route although the primary route is recovery until the secondary route fails.

Figura 4: Figure 4: Failure recovery topology Figura 5: Figure 5: RIP failure recovery In figure

Figura 4:

Figure 4: Failure recovery topology

Figura 4: Figure 4: Failure recovery topology Figura 5: Figure 5: RIP failure recovery In figure

Figura 5:

Figure 5: RIP failure recovery

In figure 6 is shown that recovery is done in a few millisecond and when the primary path is recovered preempt and the traffic is routed again through the primary path. When the secondary path fails, the traffic doesn’t realize it. All of this is accomplish configuring a backup LSP through the secondary route, this type of protection is known as end-to-end protection. In OPNET 8.0 this is the only LSP protection scheme available.

Figura 6: Figure 6: MPLS failure recovery The traffic configured was UDP because if TCP is

Figura 6:

Figure 6: MPLS failure recovery

The traffic configured was UDP because if TCP is used TCP acknowledges can be drop and traffic flow would be affected. The other effect arises when the secondary route fails. This affects the primary route because the acknowledges were routed through the secondary path. If TCP traffic is used it’s recommended to meet protection in both directions.

1.6. Conclusion

These studies shown that MPLS can offer multiples items that help to increase the performance of a network like Traffic Engineering and Failure recovery. In further studies we will compare the differences between signaling LSPs through RSVP and CR-LDP, new schemes using L-LSPs or E-LSPs and new protections schemes provided in OPNET 9.0.