Light Reading

PBT Sidelined at BT

Ray Le Maistre
5/29/2008
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It's the news that the Provider Backbone Transport (PBT) camp had feared: BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) is sidelining its former carrier Ethernet favorite and will focus its data services strategy on Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS).

According to a source with knowledge of BT's plans, PBT (or Provider Backbone Bridge – Traffic Engineering, as it's known in the standards world) doesn't have what it takes to meet BT's customers' requirements, so the carrier has decided to build its Ethernet services strategy around MPLS instead. (See A Guide to PBT/PBB-TE, PBT in the Spotlight, and PBT/PBB-TE Guide: Vendor Talk.)

Light Reading's source notes that PBT is not being kicked out of BT or consigned to the waste basket. "BT will carry on looking at what PBT can do. This isn't a 'No' to PBT."

But the source says BT's customers want "multipoint connectivity, and that's what MPLS does better. PBT has an edge in some point-to-point scenarios," and will still be used for some services such as data center connectivity, but "customers want a multipoint technology for content distribution and corporate VPNs, so BT is going with MPLS."

And that includes using MPLS for the mobile backhaul services BT has been selling to the U.K.'s wireless carriers. Previously, PBT had been stipulated as the underlying transport technology for at least one of the major multiyear deals. (See BT Sells PBT-Based Backhaul Service.)

BT's verdict will come as a particular blow to Nortel Networks Ltd. , BT's main PBT ally and (planned) supplier of PBT-enabled Ethernet switches. Nortel, while trying to excite the carrier community at large about the merits of using PBT in point-to-point service scenarios, has also been pushing heavily the multipoint capabilities of PLSB (Provider Link State Bridging), an enhancement to PBT that provides control plane and multicasting capabilities. (See Nortel Preps New PBT Switch.)

BT confirmed to Light Reading in an emailed statement that MPLS best meets its immediate needs, but that PBT is still in play. "Next Generation Ethernet is at the heart of BT’s 21CN architecture and is a key service platform in its own right. BT remains interested in what PBT can deliver for the future and continue to actively access [sic] the role PBT may have in BT’s 21CN architecture."

News that PBT, which had previously underpinned the British carrier's next-generation network (NGN) Ethernet strategy, had fallen out of favor had leaked late last week, following a few months of seeming indecision at the carrier. (See BT's PBT D-Day and BT Still Coy on Ethernet.)

That indecision was clear at the recent Ethernet Expo event in London, where Light Reading learned of a new Ethernet ITT (invitation to tender) issued by BT that was more heavily weighted towards MPLS. Previously, BT had made presentations showing PBT deployed throughout its NGN, the now industry-famous 21CN. (See BT Reconsiders PBT Plans, BT Touts 21CN Progress, New Service, and PBT Stars at Ethernet Expo .)

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Pete Baldwin
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Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:39:58 PM
re: PBT Sidelined at BT
I know the story says BT isn't throwing out PBT, but it's tempting to see it that way...

What do you folks think? How much trouble is this for the PBT cause?
gigeguy
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gigeguy,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:39:57 PM
re: PBT Sidelined at BT
Hey, you can tell by my user name that I'm all about Ethernet, but this is just another nail in the PBT coffin, at least for now. I can't imagine any carrier using it until it has an active control plane, which is just getting under way in the IETF (GELS), and point-to-multipoint capabilities.

HorsySauce
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HorsySauce,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:39:57 PM
re: PBT Sidelined at BT
Interesting article for sure. Thanks.

The information over here is that BT lowered the standards the second time in the bid so MPLS would succeed after all. New guy in charge get to change new rules I guess.

And the service being rolled out has no traffic engineering enabled. Apples to pomegranites

Morrale: If one doesn't win the first time trough, just play again, with different players, different rules...

Makes all these guys look rather bafoons...

Bert
grunt
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grunt,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:39:57 PM
re: PBT Sidelined at BT
This smells like death. I have often been surprised at how few smaller carriers and other in the industry were aware of PBT. Its interst always felt narrow considering the press it got(gets). Without a big carrier to legitimize it - I think its in a dire position.

I'm Glad I'm not at a PBT focused startup right now...
grunt
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grunt,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:39:57 PM
re: PBT Sidelined at BT
This smells like death. I have often been surprised at how few smaller carriers and other in the industry were aware of PBT. Its interst always felt narrow considering the press it got(gets). Without a big carrier to legitimize it - I think its in a dire position.

I'm Glad I'm not at a PBT focused startup right now...
OldPOTS
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OldPOTS,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:39:57 PM
re: PBT Sidelined at BT
If you want to be an Universal protocol, you have to support a wide range of features to meet at least most users requirements. Or at least partner with other protocols to add more features.

PBT appears to be a stripped down protocol that must not limit the features of co-existing protocols. It does have a useful, very limited application, but it must co-exist efficiently without limiting a wide range of features. So BT will probably wait until they get a network with users established and then determine the usefulness of PBT. I wouldn't bet on it being impimented.

OP
-0
50%
50%
-0,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:39:56 PM
re: PBT Sidelined at BT
Without any doubts MPLS is VERY complex technology (if by 'MPLS' you take the whole suit of data and control protocols developed to date and not just bare idea of forwarding with labels). But at the same time it solves REAL needs of carriers.

PBT's claim (at least implied one) always was that MPLS is not just complex, it is overengineered and the same set of problems can be solved easier.

May be. But you can't compare an idea (PBT) with full blown existing implementation (MPLS protocol suite).

PBT has to mature so that comparison MPLS vs PBT becomes comparison of apples to apples. What current announcement does is it puts PBT off fast track into path of 'normal paced' development. No doubt, PBT supporters must have stamina, perseverance and stubbornness if you want to push and pull it along to the point when real comparison can be drawn by potential customers.
And the problem now is that it is not a given fact that PBT as a full suite will be really as simple as PBT bare idea.

I don't think it is death to PBT. I think PBT is a great thing in some situations, metro Ethernet for example. But it is a huge blow. Funny enough this blow just returns things to their logical order they should always had been...
opticaljunkie
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opticaljunkie,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:39:56 PM
re: PBT Sidelined at BT
I wonder if MetroNext is going to change anything for PBT at BT, and when it'll be released.
CRC_Check
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CRC_Check,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:39:56 PM
re: PBT Sidelined at BT
Tedium (Pronounced TDM) still rules at NT.

MetroNext
MPE NextTune
20K
TerrorbitInterceptor
8600
OpteraPacketCore
BLUE
Nebraska

All very fine ideas but sadly managed by lesser execs and beancounters. Oh! The Horror ..and the wasted opportunity.

-C
light-headed
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50%
light-headed,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:39:55 PM
re: PBT Sidelined at BT
PBT,

Step up and join your new friends:

Lattiscell/ATM/LANE

CR-LDP

and

RPR.

Please NT tell us what the next hot technology is so we know what not to bother implementing.
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