MPLS - Layer 2 VPNs

MPLS Layer 2 VPNs are a technology used to extend Layer 2 networks (like Ethernet, Frame Relay, or ATM) over an MPLS backbone. This technology is widely used by service providers to offer VPN services to customers who want to connect geographically dispersed locations with the same Layer 2 network. Here's an overview:

Key Concepts

  1. MPLS Backbone: The core of an MPLS Layer 2 VPN is an MPLS network operated by a service provider. MPLS is a protocol for speeding up and shaping network traffic flows.

  2. Virtual Private Network (VPN): MPLS Layer 2 VPNs provide a virtual private network service, meaning each customer's traffic is isolated from others, even though it may traverse the same physical network.

  3. Layer 2 Extension: The technology extends Layer 2 traffic (Ethernet, Frame Relay, ATM) over an MPLS network, allowing customers to connect different sites with Layer 2 connectivity.

Types of MPLS Layer 2 VPNs

  1. Point-to-Point (Pseudowire): The most basic form, also known as Virtual Private Wire Service (VPWS). It connects two locations in a point-to-point fashion, emulating a physical leased line using MPLS.

  2. Virtual Private LAN Service (VPLS): This is more complex and allows for multipoint connectivity, effectively emulating a traditional LAN across the MPLS network. VPLS makes it possible for multiple sites to connect as if they are on the same LAN.

  3. Hierarchical VPLS (H-VPLS): An extension of VPLS, H-VPLS simplifies the management and scalability of large VPLS deployments by introducing a hierarchy into the VPLS architecture.

Operational Mechanism

  • Label Switching: MPLS operates by prefixing packets with an MPLS header containing one or more labels. These labels are used to make forwarding decisions in the network.

  • Encapsulation: Layer 2 frames from the customer's network are encapsulated and transported over the MPLS network. At the receiving end, the frames are decapsulated and delivered to the appropriate Layer 2 network.

  • Traffic Isolation: MPLS uses Label Switched Paths (LSPs) and unique labels to keep different customers' traffic segregated, ensuring privacy and security.


  • Flexibility and Scalability: Allows businesses to connect multiple sites with different Layer 2 protocols over a single MPLS network.
  • Quality of Service (QoS): Supports sophisticated QoS capabilities, ensuring prioritization of critical business traffic.
  • Reduced Complexity: Simplifies the network by providing WAN connectivity without the need to manage complex Routing architectures.
  • Bandwidth Efficiency: MPLS can optimize bandwidth utilization and provide more efficient network traffic flow management.

Use Cases

  • Business Connectivity: Connecting branch offices or data centers with a consistent Layer 2 network.
  • Service Provider Networks: Offering Layer 2 connectivity services to customers without the need for dedicated leased lines.
  • Disaster Recovery: Facilitating replication and backup services by connecting data centers with high-bandwidth, reliable links.


  • Provider Dependence: The customer relies on the service provider's MPLS network for connectivity.
  • Cost: Can be more expensive than traditional internet-based VPNs, especially for small businesses.
  • Complexity in Deployment: Requires a good understanding of both MPLS and Layer 2 networking concepts for effective implementation.

MPLS Layer 2 VPNs are a powerful solution for businesses looking to connect multiple sites with the same Layer 2 network over a geographically dispersed area, offering benefits in terms of flexibility, scalability, and QoS, while requiring careful consideration of cost and reliance on the service provider's infrastructure.