RPR Gurus Set Fall Deadline
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) 802.17 RPR Working Group says that as of the end of September, it won't allow any more significant technical changes in its draft of the RPR technology standard. The move is meant to speed up the process of getting RPR from draft stage to full IEEE approval by Fall 2003, according to Bob Love, vice chairman of the IEEE's 802.17 working group.
RPR is a technology that aims to enable public telephone networks to carry data traffic more efficiently and provide the redundancy common with exiting Sonet technology. It also helps connect Ethernet-based local area networks to the Sonet-dominated public telephone networks.
The technology gives Sonet, designed for handling voice traffic and point-to-point connections, some Ethernet-like characteristics, such as being able to add new network nodes quickly and use bandwidth more efficiently. It also gives Ethernet, designed for moving packet-based data traffic, the Sonet-like characteristics of being able to operate on packet rings and being able to recover from a cut connection within 50 milliseconds.
The RPR Working Group is made up of more than 400 participants from more than 100 companies, according to the Resilient Packet Ring Alliance. Among the members are several startups -- including Corrigent Systems Inc. and Lantern Communications Inc. -- that have bet some or all of their business on RPR's eventual acceptance.
Rather than incorporate new features to the RPR working draft this time around, Love says that, for the sake of schedule, such features will have to wait until a later version of the technology is introduced. "We did not want to be delayed on something that is an extra, but not critical, bell and whistle," says Love.
Considering the history of RPR, this is a noteworthy accomplishment. In late 2001, two main groups -- one led by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), the other by Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) -- were at a standstill on which version of RPR would survive to become the industry standard. In January 2002, however, the two camps submitted a joint proposal, and that became the draft that the RPR Working Group has since been tweaking (see RPR Moves Forward).
The September cutoff for technical changes only applies to new features and not fixes of the current draft, Working Group members say. Likewise, there's no telling what future changes might be introduced before the IEEE has declared RPR an official standard.
After the RPR Working Group's September meeting, and after subsequent Working Group comments on the draft, the technology draft must pass muster with a larger industry group, via a sponsor balloting process, before it is submitted for final approval as a technology standard.
In the meantime, equipment vendors are pushing earlier, proprietary flavors of RPR, the most dominant of which is said to be Cisco Systems’ Spatial Reuse Protocol (SRP)/Dynamic Packet Transport (DPT).
By eliminating many of a network's point-to-point Sonet connections, RPR in theory will reduce the need for adding new next-generation Sonet add/drop multiplexers. But the ring-based RPR may also run afoul of some Ethernet equipment vendors, which would prefer that carriers use a mesh network.
"The real point about RPR is: Why bother?" says Andrew Knott, VP of marketing and customer service at White Rock Networks. "Carriers generally only absorb new technology in large quantities if two things are true: It has to be noticeably cheaper and more manageable than what they're doing today."
RPR proponents, however, note that RPR does simplify networks by incorporating the best characteristics of Sonet and Ethernet. "We think of RPR as a completing, rather than a competing, technology," says Love.
In an upcoming Webinar, Light Reading will discuss RPR technology and equipment in more detail. For more info, visit: http://www.lightreading.com/webinars.
— Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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