Optical/IP Networks

Ethernet/MPLS Growth Up for Grabs

The growth in Ethernet and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) services has prodded carriers to choose between proprietary and standards-based approaches, according to a report, "Ethernet Over IP/MPLS Service Delivery Platforms," released this week by Heavy Reading, the research arm of Light Reading (see Heavy Reading: Ethernet Gear Analysis).

The 158-page report looks at products targeting Ethernet over MPLS, examining 12 vendors' offerings in granular detail.

The report pegs Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) as the market leader, thanks in part to its inside track with IP customers. Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) and Riverstone Networks Inc. (OTC: RSTN.PK) could present challenges, though, based on products that are better tuned for the use of MPLS.

The distinction is that Cisco bolted MPLS onto its IP platforms, such as the 7600 Series routers. Other vendors, such as TiMetra Networks, which was acquired by Alcatel, built platforms with MPLS in mind from the beginning. As a result, these products have better tracked the standards processes (see Alcatel & TiMetra Seal the Deal).

"This is a good example of game theory as it applies to product development: Both sides have chosen the right approach for their particular situation," writes Geoff Bennett, Chief Technologist of Heavy Reading, in the report. "Cisco has chosen the right approach as the incumbent supplier, and its competitors have chosen the right approach as players in a newly emerging market segment."

As usual, Cisco's advantage comes from being Cisco, using its router dominance as a foot in the door to Ethernet/MPLS projects. Cisco has also shown adaptability, at first disdaining VPLS (Virtual Private LAN Service) but now "catching up fast," the report says. Riverstone shows a "mature and very capable product line" but still faces overhanging financial troubles, the report notes. Still, Heavy Reading credits the company with having a strong MPLS and VPLS focus and a complete product line.

The report divides the network into three categories of equipment: metro core boxes such as the Cisco 7600, service-aggregation systems such as the Alcatel 7450 Ethernet Service Switch, and customer-premises equipment such as the RS 1000 from Riverstone. Cisco, Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), and Riverstone offer all three types of boxes – as does Alcatel, if one includes the OmniSwitch products, which Alcatel did not submit for consideration in this report.

Nortel, while having an end-to-end set of products, stands out for focusing on Layer 2 alone, while most other vendors inject Layer 3 somewhere in the metro network. The company is breaking into the Layer 3 realm with its MPE 9000 line of edge switches, previously called Neptune (see Neptune Arrives). The report notes that Nortel's track record with IP has been spotty, but Bennett calls Neptune a "very positive step for Nortel" and notes that the company has an advantage in its talent to "engineer boxes to carrier-grade requirements."

Other vendors examined in detail by the report include Atrica Inc., Corrigent Systems Inc., Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR), Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY), Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), Laurel Networks Inc., Overture Networks Inc., and Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA).

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Heavy Reading's 158-page report, "Ethernet Over IP/MPLS Service Delivery Platforms: A Heavy Reading Competitive Analysis", by Geoff Bennett, costs $3,795. For more details, please click here.

Archives of Related Light Reading Webinars:

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