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Luca Martini Leaves Level 3

Light Reading has confirmed that Luca Martini, an engineer best known for his role in important routing standards work, has left his job as senior architect at Level 3 Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: LVLT). Sources say the Italian-born, Colorado-living Martini is joining the Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) team.

Neither Martini nor a Level 3 spokesperson returned phone calls or email, but Martini's voicemail at Level 3 indicates that he has left the company.

As of Friday afternoon, Cisco denied that Martini is an employee. While he may not be officially on the payroll just yet, friends close to Martini say that’s where he is headed.

Martini supposedly accepted the role at Cisco so that he can focus more on his standards work. While at Level 3, Martini worked on a number of Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standards dealing mostly with Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS). He is best known for “Draft Martini," an Internet draft he authored that has become the basis of the Pseudo Wire Emulation Edge to Edge (PWE3) work in the IETF. This work is focussed on enabling an MPLS core network to transport a range of point to point and switched VPN services such as private lines, ATM, Ethernet and Frame Relay. Level 3 has implemented the technology in its IP backbone, proving that the concept actually works.

During a Light Reading interview earlier this year, Martini lamented about not having enough time to work on standards.

“Everybody is very busy,” he said referring to his colleagues at other service providers. “We all have less staff, and people have less time to pay attention to these things. Hopefully, that will improve in the future.”

For years, Cisco has recruited some of the best and brightest minds in the networking industry to help it develop technology and work within the standards community to lobby for its interests. Often it’s given these individuals titles like Cisco Fellow, Distinguished Engineer, or Technical Leader.

These individuals have contributed a great deal to the IETF and to the industry in general. A long list of industry notables fall into these ranks. Fred Baker, the former chairman of the IETF, is a Cisco Fellow, as is MPLS guru Bruce Davie; VOIP expert David Oran; and IPv6 maven Steve Deering. George Swallow, who was one of the original developers of MPLS, is a Distinguished Engineer at Cisco. Yakov Rekhter, who helped develop the routing protocol Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), was once a Cisco Fellow. He’s now a Distinguished Engineer at Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) (see Dr. Yakov Rekhter).

For these reasons, Martini's move to Cisco would likely raise eyebrows, because his standards work has been influential and his move from a service provider to an equipment vendor could raise questions about his employer's agenda.

IETF opponents complain that Cisco has too much control over emerging standards. Unlike other standards bodies, the IETF is an organization made up of individuals. In theory, specific companies are not represented by specific engineers. The idea is that these very engineers will put corporate loyalty and politics aside to develop standards that promote the best technical approach to serve the greater good of the industry.

It’s a nice concept in theory. But the reality is quite different, say critics. They say that Cisco, with all its resources, is able to flood the standards process with dozens of engineers and therefore garner more votes and support for particular technologies.

What’s more, Cisco also has the resources to employ engineers to do nothing else but work on standards documents. As a result, most of the standards that come out of the IETF are closely aligned with technology developed and used by Cisco.

“Cisco controls the IETF,” says one IETF member, who works at a startup, but didn’t want his named used. “In general, you have to pick your battles very carefully. You don’t want to go against Cisco, because you won’t win.”

Indeed, this is a problem companies like Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) have faced for several years. In Juniper’s case, it had developed a Draft Martini competitor.

The document known as “Draft Kompella”, named after its author Kireeti Kompella, used BGP as the primary signaling protocol for Layer 2 MPLS VPNs, allowing VPN connections to be deployed in a meshed configuration (see Juniper/Cisco Duke It Out Over MPLS). Early in the process, Cisco sided with Martini. Eventually, this became the method adopted by most vendors. While technical differences certainly played a role in the overwhelming adoption of Draft Martini, Cisco’s support for it has been an important endorsement.

In fairness to Cisco, its dominance in the IETF makes some sense and may actually serve an important purpose in the industry. The reality is that Cisco has the largest installed base of IP routers and switches in the world. An argument can be made that protecting Cisco’s interests often means protecting customers’ interests.

— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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Lband 12/4/2012 | 11:21:15 PM
re: Luca Martini Leaves Level 3 Cisco's attempts to dominate standards development is nothing new. Ms. Reardon has documented their attempts to control the IEEE 802.17 working group, which they chair, in past articles. See RPR Deadlock Ahead

http://www.lightreading.com/do...

In that case Cisco compromised but only after a protracted battle with some large opponents, Nortel and Alcatel.
change_is_good 12/4/2012 | 11:21:13 PM
re: Luca Martini Leaves Level 3 eom...
BobbyMax 12/4/2012 | 11:21:12 PM
re: Luca Martini Leaves Level 3 Mr.Martini's departure has no impact on Level 3 or any other company. As I recall it is IETF's practice to make sure that multiple people from the same company do not participate. If Cisco or any other company tried to have multiple votes, they would expelled as a voting member of IETF.

The rules of the IETF only allow one name to be used
billy_fold 12/4/2012 | 11:21:12 PM
re: Luca Martini Leaves Level 3 change_is_good, you wouldn't happen to be Cisco employee, would you?

-billy
hyperunner 12/4/2012 | 11:21:10 PM
re: Luca Martini Leaves Level 3 Bobby,

You said:
As I recall it is IETF's practice to make sure that multiple people from the same company do not participate.

Which IETF do you mean?

It must be the Inuendo, Exaggeration and Troublemaking Foundation, of which you are clearly a founder member.

In contrast the Internet Engineering Task Force (the subject of this discussion, please try to keep up), imposes no such "one vendor, one vote" limitation.

In the IETF process, all the major decisions are made on email lists prior to the physical meetings. Indeed, these meetings are an oganisational challenge these days, with so many topics for discussion, and so many attendees (the IETF does not have "members"), an individual contribution presentation might only be allocated 5 minutes. Basically in the IETF, if you're not a member of the inner circle your opinion is generally overlooked. Luca is a member of the inner circle, and I believe he'll be a great contributor to Cisco's strategy to dominate the key parts of the IETF.

Actual standards bodies, like the ITU-T and ETSI, do impose membership and voting limitations such as you describe. And industry fora that are set up to try and make some sense out of the documents that come out of the IETF always have a "one member, one vote" policy.

You also said: "If Cisco or any other company tried to have multiple votes, they would expelled as a voting member of IETF."

LOL. Dude, there is no voting in the IETF. Decisions are made by the clique of folks who edit the documents. If they don't like a given contribution, they "overlook" it. The Area Directors and the IESG members should act as some kind of oversight, but if they had to actually deal with everyone who thinks they've been overlooked on an email thread, they'd never get anything done.

Real standards body processes might not be perfect, but they're a darn sight better than the way the IETF "works".

hR.
sevenbrooks 12/4/2012 | 11:21:09 PM
re: Luca Martini Leaves Level 3
What I have always found curious about this is the then complaint about the lack of open standards in the telecom industry compared to the glory of the IETF.

Its just insanity. To have to know the bugs in Cisco's BGP implementation to be able to build a product instead of working to a standard. Insanity.

As this thinking has hit the Bell Heads, one wonders why they say, "Are you kidding me?"

seven
cc_junk 12/4/2012 | 11:21:09 PM
re: Luca Martini Leaves Level 3 There is no rigorous voting of "members" with regards to working group and RFCs in the large groups I have participated in.

Mailing list members make comments on drafts on the mailing lists, but controlling authors choose which comments/changes to accept. I have even seen a controlling author ignore comments of subordinate authors without any discussion.

Choosing which drafts become working group documents and then moving those to final call and RFC status is controlled by the chair persons. Which drafts are progressed and which are igrnored are clearly based on the dictatorial views of the chairs. Final call comments will only accept more editorial changes rather significant architectural changes [while this makes sense, prior comments in a non final call phase seem more easily ignored than in final call]. "Votes" are arbitrary and not compreshensive or controlled.

There may be many benevolent dictators as chairs that try to not be biased by their opinions or the status of contributors/authors. But the reality is that relationships and status are everything and merit one step down in getting work accepted especially in areas with competing views.
netskeptic 12/4/2012 | 11:21:06 PM
re: Luca Martini Leaves Level 3 Fortunately (some may say unfortunately) we are getting closer to the stage where existing network standards will fly for the next 50 years a-la B-52.

Thanks,

Netskeptic
rjmcmahon 12/4/2012 | 11:21:05 PM
re: Luca Martini Leaves Level 3 How many years and how much effort has been wasted on "Bell Head" things like ATM? These continued attempts to manufacture bandwidth scarcity does not enable our industry nor our society.

The standards of interest have to due with advancing mankind and promoting progress. It requires an honest work ethic and purpose beyond profit, neither of which can be "legislated" nor "democratized."

It is interesting to note, today, American experts on Iraq, testifying in front of Congess, suggested that cultural value systems are bread internally. The corruption occurs when misguided people take the helm. When this happens the corruption must be purged before the organizaion can progress. The experts suggest removal from leadership roles as the purging mecahnism.

Maybe the RBOC leadership thinking seriously about purpose may help them understand the Tammany Hall model and artificial bandwidth scarcity does not advance our society nor does it enable our economy. No economy, no jobs. No jobs and people get angry. This needs to be corrected.

Fixing the access problem, by laying the fiber while honoring structurural separation and common carriage, and purging the fraudband "leadership," is the way forward.
digerato 12/4/2012 | 11:21:05 PM
re: Luca Martini Leaves Level 3 'As this thinking has hit the Bell Heads, one wonders why they say, "Are you kidding me?"'

The IETF might not be a democracy, but it is like democracy in that it is far from perfect, but a lot better than the alternatives. Specifically, it is far better than the "Bellhead" ITU standardization process, where standards are set ahead of implementation.

A classic example is the ITU T.38 standard for real-time fax over IP. It was designed and standardized without a any significant implementation or testing in real networks. Then, when the implementations start to get tested in the real world, it was discovered that even really, really small amounts of packet loss would result in an unacceptable fax call failure rate due to the way T.38 was designed. As a result, vendors were forced to deviate from the standard to get something that worked.

And don't get me started on all the different vendor variations in Bellhead "standards" like T1 and E1. You can blame Cisco for BGP bugs, but don't pretend that they're somehow unique -- or even the worst offender. Take ISDN T1 PRI -- a Bellhead standard, and therefore free from vendor foibles, right? Wrong. An ISDN PRI signalling stack needs to operate differently for a T1 PRI from a Nortel DMS vs. a T1 PRI from a Lucent 5ESS vs. a T1 PRI from a Lucent 4ESS vs. a T1 PRI from an Ericsson AXE, etc. etc.

Digerato
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