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Heavy Reading Spotlights MSPP Split

Report divides metro MSPP products into two classes, explores which provides the best migration path

September 3, 2003

6 Min Read
Heavy Reading Spotlights MSPP Split

A huge survey published today casts a bright light on the complicated multiservice provioning platform (MSPP) market, revealing distinctions that will help service providers determine how products perform in carrier networks.

The survey results are published in a report titled "Multiservice Provisioning Platforms: Empowering the Metro Edge," by Heavy Reading, the market research division of Light Reading.

The report analyzes product data gathered over the course of four months via a 105-question survey of telecom equipment manufacturers in North America, Asia, and Europe. Twenty-eight companies responded to the survey, providing detailed product information about 61 MSPPs.

A primary finding is that the entire MSPP market, while supporting a common goal to help carriers unify legacy and IP services under a common edge platform, in fact can be divided into two distinct categories:

  • Transport-based MSPPs: descendants of Sonet/SDH add/drop multiplexers, or ADMs, which have been upgraded with higher-layer data capabilities, typically Ethernet switching; and

  • Data-based MSPPs: data switches (usually Ethernet-based) that have been extended down the network stack by adding some underlying transport functions, such as DWDM, CWDM, Sonet/SDH, and so forth.

Transport-based MSPPs dominate the market today: 20 of the vendors surveyed manufacture transport-based products; nine make data-based products.

The differences between transport- and data-based MSPPs amount to much more than semantics, as Heavy Reading demonstrates. Its analysis is that the genus of the product critically affects how it performs circuit-based functions and data functions.

Transport-based products can handle traditional circuits natively, but employ framing processes to handle data traffic. Conversely, data-based devices require the use of circuit emulation techniques to deal with traditional services.

While both types of MSPP are capable of supporting transport and data functions, vendors of transport-based MSPPs (including Cisco Systems Inc.) claim that their products offer tighter integration of Layers 1 and 2 than do the data-based products. These vendors argue that this difference makes their wares a better fit with today's service provider infrastructures, which tend to be dominated by circuit-based, or TDM-Sonet/SDH, technology.

However, vendors of some of the latest data-based devices heatedly refute this claim, pointing to their own extensive support for a raft of Sonet features. What's more, these outfits are looking to diassociate themselves from data-based companies that sell "metro Ethernet switches" with limited Layer 1 integration.Three of the data-based MSPP companies surveyed by Heavy Reading -- Corrigent Systems Inc., Native Networks Ltd., and PacketLight Networks -- say they use advanced packet switching architectures (rather than modified Ethernet switches) to accomplish transport and data functions equally well, the report notes.

These companies say the way to make sense of these data-based products is to divide them into two sub-categories:

  • Layer-2/3 metro Ethernet switches, upgraded with some features for service in metro networks; and

  • Packet switches, which use new architectures designed from the ground up to play a multiservice role.

The first category, the metro Ethernet-based products, includes the Riverstone Networks Inc. RS 3000 and 8000 products, the Atrica Inc. A-2100 and 8000, and the Luminous Networks Inc. PacketWave Series. (It also overlaps with metro Ethernet switches from companies like Extreme Networks Inc. and Foundry Networks Inc., despite the fact that those companies do not consider themselves to be in the MSPP market.)

Vendors forming the second category, including Corrigent and PacketLight, want to separate themselves from the "metro Ethernet switch" data-based companies, saying that they offer a far higher degree of support for Sonet and other circuit switching capabilities -- a fact born out by the exhaustive table accompanying the Heavy Reading report.

“Calling our product 'data-based' because it is based on a packet switch is like saying a Corvette is a speed boat because it’s made out of fiberglass,” says David J. Berman, Senior Director of Product Strategy and Product Management at PacketLight.

Ethernet switch-based products are best suited to service on carrier networks deploying native Ethernet services, says Heavy Reading. The report warns that it could be years before vendors selling such products find a significant market for their wares.

The report counsels that, based on past experience of market evolution for new technologies, it will be some time before Ethernet achieves dominance on the public network. It took about seven years from its first mainstream deployment for Ethernet to become the dominant force on enterprise networks, by which time it accounted for about 85 percent of all installed nodes. That's a record, Heavy Reading points out. Most technologies take a minimum of eight years. Ethernet started to be deployed as a vehicle for wide-area services in 2000 -- and, judging from these networking precedents, the research company expects it will be 2007 before Ethernet accounts for the majority of sales in any part of carrier networks.

Deployment numbers in the report tend to back up Heavy Reading’s belief that it will be some time before these data-based MSPP products take off. Luminous, for example, has only 25 of its products on service provider networks, according to the report.

Interviews with service providers lend further support. Alternative metro transport provider Looking Glass Networks Inc., for example, does not see MSPPs moving to packetized architectures in the near term. "There's no real benefit to doing that, as long as ATM- and TDM-based traffic needs to be handled in networks as well. I see vendors beefing up backplanes with higher-speed traces and more parallel buses," Steve Plote, director of technology at Looking Glass, tells Heavy Reading.

The public MSPP vendors analyzed in the report are Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), ECI Telecom Ltd. (Nasdaq/NM: ECIL), Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERICD), Fujitsu Network Communications Inc. (OTC: FJTSY), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), Marconi Corp. plc (OTC: MONIY), Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), Riverstone Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RSTNE), Siemens (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE), Sycamore Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SCMR), and Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA). 16 privately held companies also are covered in detail: Anda Networks Inc., Appian Communications Inc., Atrica Inc., Axerra Networks Inc., Coriolis Networks Inc., Corrigent Systems Inc., Internet Photonics Inc., Luminous Networks Inc., Mahi Networks Inc., Native Networks Ltd., PacketLight Networks, Photonic Bridges Inc., RAD Data Communications Ltd., Tejas Networks India Ltd., Turin Networks Inc., and White Rock Networks Inc.

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Multiservice Provisioning Platforms: Empowering the Metro Edge is available here. The report costs $3,450, and includes an enterprise license covering every employee in the purchaser’s company.

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