Optical/IP Networks

MPLS Edge Onslaught

CHICAGO -- It's Day 1 here at Supercomm, and the show already has its theme: Ethernet and MPLS.

Last week, Light Reading announced that MPLS in the access network was already becoming a theme, with equipment vendors such as Mangrove Systems Inc., Overture Networks Inc., and World Wide Packets Inc. talking about forthcoming MPLS access gear that would enable service providers to roll out a wider range of IP-based services (see MPLS Arrives in Access Nets).

On Monday the list got bigger, with more multiservice boxes designed to meld newer Ethernet or MPLS services with legacy Frame Relay and Sonet/SDH networks. The common theme here is leveraging the installed Sonet base to give service providers more flexibility in offering IP-based services to the customer without drastically altering their core infrastructure.

Here are some of Monday's announcements in this vein:

  • Axerra Networks Inc. today announced that it is shipping the AXN10 multiservice access device, which comes with four T1/E1 ports, a 10/100-Mbit/s Ethernet port, and a 100-Mbit/s Ethernet uplink port. It uses MPLS and IP technologies such as Virtual Private LAN Service (VPLS), pseudowire signaling, and Circuit Emulation Service over Packet (CESOP).

    Axerra says the AXN10 is designed to let mobile/wireless operators, cable MSOs, and service providers offer emerging Ethernet services plus traditional services such as T1/E1 private line, full-featured TDM voice, and Frame Relay (see Axerra Announces Access Device).

  • Overture today announced the ISG 45 and the ISG 45+, two small access boxes that it hinted at last week (see MPLS Arrives in Access Nets and Overture Intros Ethernet Access Gear). The ISG 45 has two Ethernet ports. The ISG 45+ adds a T1 port, which, using MPLS pseudowire emulation technology, allows Ethernet to be combined with TDM traffic and carried over DS3 circuits.

    According to Overture officials, the big advantage here is that service providers can "Ethernet-enable" legacy Sonet ADM equipment by plugging in the ISG 45+ access device at the customer premises. The service provider can then offer a mixture of voice, TDM, and Ethernet services over DS3 circuits without requiring an upgrade of the Sonet gear.

  • Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA) announced that it is shipping its 8600 series of multiservice access switches, designed to extend MPLS-based networks to the customer premises, which it announced back in September 2003 (see Tellabs Joins MPLS Access Drive and Tellabs Unveils Vivace Sibling).

    The 8620 is a 3.5-Gbit/s IP/MPLS router, and the 8660 is a 42-Gbit/s router. The products are based on some of the technology Tellabs acquired from Vivace Networks, as well as work done in the Tellabs development lab in Finland. They target the deployment of Layer 2 and Layer 3 IP VPNs by service providers.

  • Turin Networks Inc. is adapting its Sonet boxes to handle a wider range of Ethernet features. Today it announced the TraverseEdge 100, a smaller next-generation Sonet box that uses technologies such as GFP (Generic Framing Procedure), LCAS (Link Capacity Adjustment Scheme), and Virtual Concatenation (VCAT) to integrate and aggregate Layer 2 Ethernet traffic from services being rolled out at customer sites, including VPNs.

    The TraverseEdge 100 can combine DS1 or E1, DS3 or E3, Fast Ethernet, and Gigabit Ethernet service interfaces onto dual high-speed Sonet OC3/12/48 or SDH STM1/4/16 ports. Turin says the Sonet version of the TE-100 will be available in the third quarter of this year, with the SDH version available in the fourth quarter.

What's it all mean? It appears that equipment providers are betting that Ethernet and IP VPNs are poised to be deployed en masse by leading service providers. So far, most service providers have been experimenting with such services, but this approach has by no means delivered a giant wave of industry-rescuing revenue – yet.

Will it pay off? Some analysts remain skeptical, pointing out that here at Supercomm, the VOIP noise could supersede IP VPNs and Ethernet as the service du jour.

"Is Ethernet the solution that businesses want?" asks Sam Greenholtz, principal with Telecom Pragmatics Inc., an industry consultancy. "Or do they want VOIP, and they can come back later for Ethernet? I don't think Ethernet is in the position that VOIP is – that is, in the position to take off."

— R. Scott Raynovich, US Editor, Light Reading

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