Apologies about the very open ended question, but I am struggling to differentiate between VPLS & L2 VPN's. I'm aware they both run over MPLS, but I can't find any documentation or sites that clearly explain what either are etc.

We've recently implemented a VPLS in the business to interconnect some of our sites. But I overheard one of the other engineers saying that we also have another a L2 VPN running over our MPLS links. And I am unsure, how the 2 interlink thats all as I was under the impression they were the same thing.

I am sorry if it isn't too clear, but I generally don't know the difference, and I just needed a bit of help either with clarifying the two terminologies.

I am moving into my first networking role, and these terms have been mentioned a few times.

  • 2
    Hi Oli, welcome to NE... We try to ask specific questions with specific answers on the site. Can you give more context around how and where you heard the terms used? Technically VPLS is a L2VPN, so the terms overlap; however, L2VPN includes other services such as ATM VCs over MPLS, or Ethernet over MPLS (IETF calls it PWE3, and MEF calls it VPWS). L2VPN isn't really specific to MPLS though... Commented Sep 13, 2013 at 10:01
  • Ok great. Apologies about that, i'm fairly new to these sorts of forums. Thanks for the welcome :)
    – Oli
    Commented Sep 13, 2013 at 10:17

3 Answers 3


L2VPN is generic term for group of technologies out of which one is VPLS, but could be number of other technologies such as emerging EVPN.

For more information read WG charter/mailing lists as L2VPN has lot of active work going on. Also read RFC6624 and RFC4761

  • 2
    Just for completeness, at least on Juniper the "L2VPN" also describes a type of point-2-point L2 connection over MPLS without mac-learning. Commented Sep 13, 2013 at 11:34
  • that is exactly the problem with this question, the terms have insufficient context for us to truly answer the OP's question without plugging in our own meaning of L2VPN Commented Sep 13, 2013 at 11:58
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    @Sebastian juniper l2vpn routing-instance is rfc6624 or so called 'kompella' (BGP signalled). So it's not at all wrong to call it l2vpn, it is l2vpn, it's just not most specific term they could have used (think of it like calling IPv6 IP, it's not wrong, but it's not most specific description). You could also call 'l2vpn' for l2circuit/xconnect mpls and it would be correct, even thought it would be different technology.
    – ytti
    Commented Sep 13, 2013 at 12:12
  • @ytti, in case you aren't familiar with Junos, the keyword is named l2vpn Commented Sep 13, 2013 at 13:42

l2VPN allows different layer 2 encapsulation options like frame relay, ATM, ethernet while mpls only works with Ethernet. l2vpn is a point to point connection while vpls works as a big switch providing a whole view of the path including MAC's as a normal layer 2 switch.


Layer 2 VPNs are broadly classified in to two parts :

  1. Point-to-Point layer 2 VPN
  2. Multipoint-to-Multipoint layer 2 VPN

VPWS comes under point to point and VPLS comes under Multipoint to Multipoint layer 2 VPN.

Thus the answer is VPLS is nothing but Multipoint-to-Multipoint layer 2 VPN.

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