Extreme has been involved in metro networks for some time, of course, with its BlackDiamond line of switches. Lately, though, the company seems to be getting more aggressive, hoping to secure a foothold in the future of carrier Ethernet.
Extreme's ideas center around carriers using Layer 2 MPLS, rather than IP routing, to scale Ethernet in the metro. Extreme was pushing the concept particularly hard at last month's Supercomm, targeting the reignited obsession with the triple-play of voice, video, and data services running on one network.
"Carriers are really interested in how triple-play is going to work on the Ethernet network. They were going to do that on the ATM network, and that didn't work," says Craig Easley, director of service provider marketing for Extreme.
Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), for one, agrees that Layer 2 is appropriate for metro networks. It's when networks extend to multiple cities -- say, joining Dallas to Los Angeles -- that IP routing needs to come into play, says Mike Capuano, senior product manager with Juniper.
The Layer 2 approach will work "especially if it's a multipoint-to-multipoint Ethernet offering to connect offices together, and especially if there are ITU or IEEE enhancements that come out for monitoring an Ethernet network," Capuano says.
Extreme's latest contribution is a proprietary traffic management scheme for the BlackDiamond line of switches. The idea is to help carriers cope with the broadening number of services coming to the edge.
The new features enable a switch to steal bandwidth from unused services, so that a voice call could use the bandwidth originally allocated for a video service that's dormant, for example. Previously, carriers had to reserve bandwidth for each service, and if the service went unused, so did the bandwidth.
The ability to split and share bandwidth could be important, because providers prefer selling to "mom-and-pop" businesses that need connections of 10 Mbit/s or less, which can be conjoined on Gigabit Ethernet pipes. By contrast, bigger businesses go for a full 1 Gbit/s and use up the entire pipe, creating less margin for the provider. "A lot of the big metro Ethernet providers discourage their guys from selling to [large] businesses," Easley says.
To help push its case in metro Ethernet, Extreme has been increasingly vocal at standards bodies and industry forums. Extreme is hoping this work will help it stand out next to competitors including Atrica Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY), Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), and Riverstone Networks Inc. (OTC: RSTN.PK), among others.
Standards work is particularly important, given that most of these companies have introduced proprietary technologies for metro Ethernet, some of which are just beginning to settle in as standards. Proprietary technologies from Cisco and Nortel, for example, helped kick off discussions that led to the IEEE 802.17 standard for Resilient Packet Ring Technology. Companies other than Cisco can't afford to get left out of the process. "Extreme's not going to be able to sell something very effectively without standards," says Erik Suppiger, an analyst with Pacific Growth Equities Inc.
To that end, Extreme is backing tag stacking, also called Q-in-Q, through the IEEE, as part of the 802.1ad standard for provider bridging. Tag stacking creates a two-layer hierarchy of VLAN tags, making larger networks possible by grouping VLAN destinations in a hub-and-spoke fashion.
Extreme has also turned its proprietary Ethernet Active Protection System (EAPS) into IETF Request for Comment 3619, although this document is only "informational," Easley says. "We're not pushing to make it be a standard. We published it to make it open, so partners like Ericsson and Siemens can implement it."
Version 2 of EAPS came out this summer, and it shortens the restoration time to less than 50 milliseconds, the gold standard commanded by service providers. EAPS has been around for some time, as have some other proprietary Ethernet-ring schemes. Atrica had claimed to have accomplished 50ms restoration with its Atrica Resilient Ethernet Access (AREA) in 2002; separately, Riverstone developed Rapid Ring Spanning Tree Protocol (RRSTP), another fast protection scheme for Ethernet rings, in 2001 (see Metro Ethernet).
— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading
For more on this topic, check out:
- The coming Light Reading Live! events:
— 10-Gbit/s Ethernet Components: Ready for Prime Time
— Carrier-Class Ethernet: US Roadshow
— Carrier-Class Ethernet: China Roadshow
— Triple-Play 2004 Conference
- The coming Light Reading Webinars:
— MPLS-based Ethernet Equipment for Service Provider Networks
— 10-Gig Ethernet Switches
- The Heavy Reading report:
— Ethernet Over IP/MPLS Service Delivery Platforms: A Heavy Reading Competitive Analysis
For further education, visit the archives of related Light Reading Webinars: