Cisco denies its trying to muscle in on Juniper's Infranet turf. Rather, Cisco says new Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) features stem from carriers' concerns about preserving a service as it traverses other providers' Internet Protocol (IP) networks (see Cisco Boasts MPLS Interconnect Tech). Here's the tally of what Cisco is offering:
- Inter-Autonomous System (AS) multicast VPN
- Inter-AS traffic engineering
- Interprovider MPLS VPN over IP
- MPLS VPN inter-AS/carrier supporting carrier (CSC) load balancing
- Interprovider network management services
All of these technology moves, which are being backed by standards that Cisco is supporting, aim to help service providers provide interoperable IP-based services such as IP-VPNs. In general, they'll help service providers build more MPLS networks that can seamlessly cross disparate service provider networks -- which has been a major industry challenge.
To look at one of Cisco's new technology features -- AS -- shows how it may end up competing with Juniper's Infranet Initiative.
An AS is one routing universe, in a sense. Each AS represents a network or group of networks under one administrative entity. To send traffic across the Internet, it's often necessary to cross into some other provider's AS, and providers set up peering agreements to make this possible.
Cisco's new features emerged because carriers are seeing a need to control traffic as it crosses AS boundaries, says Azhar Sayeed, senior manager for Cisco's IOS Technologies Group.
"There are lots of providers that have these private peering arrangements with respect to exchanging VPN traffic or exchanging MPLS traffic," Sayeed says. Most of these arrangements cover basic connectivity, but service providers would like to extend the concept to include traffic engineering, he says.
But that sounds a lot like the mission of the Infranet Initiative, which is developing means to preserve quality of service (QOS) and security across multiple networks. The goal is to make the networks smart enough to assign the proper levels of protection by looking at what service is being used and in what context, and to pass this information on as traffic crosses network boundaries.
Members of the Infranet Initiative Council (IIC) say the group's role is to get some ideas started, then submit them to standards bodies such as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) or International Telecommunication Union, Standardization Sector (ITU-T) (see Juniper's Infranet Takes Baby Steps).
Cisco has decried the plan, saying the issues should be discussed in the standards bodies from the get-go. Cisco recently sent some representatives to an IIC meeting to voice this point of view (see Cisco Heckles Infranet Initiative).
Keeping with the standards mantra, Sayeed notes that many of the features announced today follow IETF drafts that Cisco has filed, giving them some grounding in the standards arena. He says he doesn't know if Cisco's offerings overlap the Infranet Initiative, as Cisco has not been participating in that organization.
Representatives of the IIC couldn't be reached for comment before deadline. A Juniper spokeswoman remarks that much of Cisco's announcement covers features already available in Juniper routers, citing the company's Virtual Private LAN Service offerings and associated wins with carriers such as Time Warner Telecom Inc. (Nasdaq: TWTC). (See Time Warner Deploys VPLS With Juniper.)
All in all, these technology moves paint a picture of competing standards elements heating up in the routing world.
For example, Juniper's VPLS version is at odds with others' due to some technical points, as was noted during the recent MPLS World Congress ’05 (see Juniper: The VPLS Odd-Ball?).
— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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