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Ethernet equipment

PBT Gathers Support

Provider Backbone Transport (PBT), the disruptive new flavor of carrier Ethernet that is prompting major carriers to re-evaluate their transport infrastructure strategies, is gathering support in the vendor community, according to a new Light Reading Insider report.

Nortel Networks Ltd. has been the PBT flag-bearer, working closely with BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) to evaluate the technology, which boasts familiar, Sonet/SDH-like provisioning and management for point-to-point connections. That makes it easier and cheaper to run than MPLS-based networks, say its supporters. (See BT Likes Nortel's New Ethernet Flavor, BT Rethinks 21CN Core Strategy, Nortel's PBT Debuts in China, Poll: Opex Gives PBT an Edge, and Nortel on PBT: Today BT, Tomorrow the World!.)

Now the technology is being deployed in carrier networks and is gaining support among a broader group of vendors, according to testimony in the report, PBT & the Future of Carrier Ethernet Services. (See PBT's Ethernet Appeal.)

  • Siemens Communications Group , having landed part of the BT deal, is probably PBT's most visible member of the PBT supporters' club after Nortel. As the report's author, Simon Sherrington, notes: "Siemens is a strong backer of the emerging trend of connection-oriented Ethernet, and a vocal advocate for its advantages over other connection-oriented packet technologies, such as MPLS." (See Siemens Wins BT Deal.)

  • Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR) is also a supporter, though it doesn't yet have a finished product to market. Sherrington notes that Extreme "recently evaluated its Ethernet equipment in order to respond to an RFP from a Tier 1 operator. As a result of that process, it knows that its existing technology can be enabled for PBT with relative ease." The vendor is now planning to set up interoperability tests of PBT-enabled technology this year, and is set to discuss in greater depth its views on PBT in a Webinar, Ethernet's Core Question: The Case for PBT on January 24.

  • World Wide Packets Inc. "has been swift to embrace and market the idea of PBT," notes Sherrington, and is working on modifications to its LightningEdge product line to support PBT deployments.
Then there's a pack of vendors that are adopting a "wait and see" strategy to the technology, including Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY), and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , which says it is helping the push the standards process along. (See Cisco Tracks PBT Standards Process.)

And if they, or any other vendor, decides it needs to get into the PBT market quickly, Tpack A/S , a supplier of subsystems for MPLS and Ethernet networks, has already developed products it can supply to equipment manufacturers, and, reports Sherrington, "has had a lot of interest from customers (i.e., vendors) wanting PBT functionality."

One vendor that definitely isn't wearing an "I Love PBT" badge, though, is Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU). Instead it is heavily promoting a directly competitive technology, a stripped-down version of MPLS called Transport MPLS (T-MPLS), and, ironically, even used its keynote speech slot at last September's Carrier Ethernet World Forum event in Madrid to promote the technology.

Sherrington notes that it's still too early to tell whether PBT "will completely revolutionize transport networking," though it is "fair to say that many carriers are evaluating it. Many vendors seem to be quietly preparing themselves in case a groundswell of demand emerges." Other vendors to have voiced support for PBT include Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and BCE Inc. (Bell Canada) (NYSE/Toronto: BCE).

And while the debate continues to rage about whether PBT can make some serious inroads into multiple carrier networks, Sherrington has a word of warning for those that doubt the technology's allure: "PBT critics must keep their eyes on the ball. This technology has some momentum now, and it could surprise detractors if they simply write it off."

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading


The report, PBT & the Future of Carrier Ethernet Services, is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Light Reading Insider, priced at $1,350. Individual reports are available for $900. For more information, or to subscribe, please visit: www.lightreading.com/insider.


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gigeguy 12/5/2012 | 3:16:07 PM
re: PBT Gathers Support I dare LR (or anyone else for that matter) to find two vendors that can interoperate with PBT. You won't, because there's no standard for vendors to implement against. The bottom line is, you buy what is being called "PBT" now, and you're locked into that one vendor for a very long time.
chook0 12/5/2012 | 3:16:05 PM
re: PBT Gathers Support As the previous poster pointed out, interoperability on the forwarding plane is not hard to achieve.

But PBT's goodness is supposed to be in its managability and amenability to SDH-like provisioning without SDH-like stranding of bandwidth. (i.e. it has arbitrary granularity.)

I expect it will be a freezing day in Bangalore before you can provision one vendor's equipment with another vendor's provisioning system. No doubt if PBT becomes successful 3rd part provisioning tools will spring up to address this issue, but I expect it will never be fully plug and play.

This did not stop SDH/SONET from being successful....

--chook
dask 12/5/2012 | 3:16:05 PM
re: PBT Gathers Support If you can forward based on topmost MAC DA and VID then you can interoperate right now!!!
Dredgie 12/5/2012 | 3:16:04 PM
re: PBT Gathers Support I thought I read somewhere that GĒ˙signaling planeGĒÖ would be some meta-element (like a management system) anyway GĒō regardless of whether there was a single vendor or not.
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