Crunch Time for Signaling Standard

It’s worth remembering that the development of MPLS itself has been characterized by delays and cut-backs in the scope of the standard, largely because Cisco has tried to pull developments its way and other vendors have resisted. As things stand, MPLS is based mainly on Cisco technology for automatically setting up temporary virtual tunnels over backbones so that delay-sensitive traffic like voice can avoid queues.

Cisco itself says it has no more influence over standards than other vendors. “We have one vote like everybody else,” says Larry Lang, vice president of Cisco’s service provider marketing group. With three industry groups now tackling the issue of extending MPLS to cover optical networking, the scene could be set for more disappointments and delays. Today’s meeting of the OIF aims to avoid this threat by finding a way for the groups to work together. ODSI has submitted proposals and the chairman of the IETF’s MPLS working group, George Swallow, is giving a presentation.

Some issues are already settled. “Anything that’s done using the MPLS rightfully belongs to the IETF,” acknowledges OIF president Andrew Greenfield, a Cisco staffer. However, while the IETF only concerns itself with IP issues, the OIF will focus on the optical layer. “The question is: Where’s the dividing line?”

On the other hand, the goals of ODSI and the proposed OIF working group seem to coincide. “I never did get a straight anwer on why it couldn’t be done in the OIF,” says Lang, who dismisses ODSI as a publicity stunt . “The invitation to join the ODSI was greated with a sigh at Cisco,” he says. There's far too many “bore ‘em and ignore ‘em” industry forums, he adds.

What’s the value-add of some other group getting on the bandwagon?” asks Greenfield. The value-add could be that ODSI can work a lot faster than the OIF. “When you’ve got 150 companies trying to reach a consensus,” admits Greenfield, “it just takes time.” ODSI plans to have a draft proposal for a standard ready by next fall.

—Peter Heywood, international editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com

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