VPLS stands for Virtual Private LAN Service, a means of providing Ethernet multi-point to multi-point communications over an IP MPLS network.  This technology allows Local Area Networks to be interconnected and appear as a single Ethernet LAN.  This allows geographically dispersed sites to share a single broadcast domain using pseudowires (see related blog entry).

Advantages of VPLS:

  • Lower latency
  • Fast, secure and homogeneous network
  • Less expensive than private lines
  • Handles legacy protocols, in addition to IP

Disadvantages of VPLS:

  • Customer manages their own network, not the carrier.  Larger organizations are more likely to have these resources
  • Technology is not complicated if you understand Ethernet
  • Challenging to manage with large numbers of MAC addresses, since there is no hierarchy, like IP addresses
  • Not as scalable to large numbers of locations

Forrester Research found that 12% of Enterprise respondents in the USA and Europe are using VPLS to some extent.  27% expect to introduce it during 2010.  IDC expects the market to grow significantly in the Enterprise market, but many of the large carriers are not ready to make the investment to offer this service, preferring to see how acceptance develops.

If your network needs the absolute lowest latency and packet loss, or the use of Global Ethernet is of value, VPLS may be worth investigating further.