Was MPLS Necessary?

One of the objectives of the original “Computer Networks: A Systems Approach” book was to treat networking not as a series of artifacts that are handed down from on high, but rather as a design space to be explored. Jon Postel famously remarked that much of what the IETF was doing in the 1990s was filling in all the gaps in the design space that had been carefully avoided by the original designers of the Internet. MPLS was such a situation: adding a different sort of forwarding mechanism to the quite successful one on which the Internet was built, which probably accounts for much of the controversy that attended its development. So this week we’re looking back at the history of that particular design space exploration, at which we had a ringside seat.

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