Équipe: Take the ATM Road to MPLS
In a statement released today, the vendor maintains that its Équipe 3200 (É3200) platform allows carriers to take a stepped approach to giving their ATM networks and their IP ones MPLS capabilities (see Équipe Brings MPLS to Layer 2).
The vendor plans to do this by adding an interface card to its switch that lays the underpinnings needed to start a step-by-step plan for implementing MPLS with all kinds of traffic, not just IP.
Équipe says its gear will let carriers continue to build their ATM cores, using the switch to "cut over non-real time traffic to MPLS tunnels while preserving end-to-end signaling and provisioning," then migrating voice and video traffic to MPLS as well.
The É3200, presently in beta test with unnamed customers, supports ATM only. The new ATM/MPLS platform is slated for release in Q2 2002.
This announcement isn't exactly breaking news, but it puts Équipe at the forefront of a small group of switch vendors that say carriers aren't going to throw away ATM to get better quality of service (QOS) and control capabilities.
"Carriers have realized MPLS isn't just about getting rid of Layer 2," says Jim Lawrence, program director at Stratecast Partners. He says service providers -- and the vendors that seek their business -- realize that the route to MPLS can be accomplished just as easily, and in many cases more practically, by adding features to existing Layer 2 ATM networks, instead of building IP infrastructure at Layer 3 to replace them.
"There are now two approaches to MPLS: from the router down and from ATM up," he says.
Other vendors of ATM gear also are taking a stand behind this approach. Last month, Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) espoused a similar philosophy with the release of its 7670 Routing Switch Platform (see Alcatel ATM Switch Steps Up).
Until recently, it was widely held that IP was a prerequisite for MPLS. ATM switches would be replaced after a brief transition period by optical switches and routers. The process had begun, many claimed, with the Layer 3 software in routers from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc., which provide traffic engineering and some QOS capabilities for IP data networks.
Now, in light of the current economic downturn, plans have changed. Carriers are under a mandate to roll out new IP-based services without changing their present infrastructure. Indeed, sources say carriers plan to run IP and ATM in parallel for as long as possible.
Incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs), for instance, which are widely seen as the only carriers spending money these days on equipment, have made it known they're not interested in throwing out their mainly ATM-centric facilities, even though many have already implemented Layer 3 MPLS via Cisco and Juniper.
Équipe's solution won't be a panacea. While it will eliminate the need for carriers to develop two sets of base software to run MPLS on their networks, there will nevertheless be plenty of work involved in the vendor's suggested strategy of porting traffic in a step-by-step process.
Still, Équipe believes in its vision. "ATM-based carriers today can't take advantage of MPLS's features," says David Boland, senior MPLS product manager at Équipe. "Most MPLS is done as IP-centric, over an IP architecture, which is not attractive to ATM carriers. What they need... is a next-generation ATM switch that allows them to provision packet-based MPLS services all the way to the edge."
— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com
and Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com