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Optical/IP

Sprint Spurns MPLS for Global VPNs

Sprint Corp. (NYSE: FON) doesn’t believe in MPLS, no matter what language the engineering manuals are written in.

The carrier is not only shunning the labeling protocol in its American network, but also on its growing international backbone. Sprint has quietly been expanding its IP VPN service offering in Europe and several locations in Asia for more than a year now, and it plans to make several announcements about its progress early next year.

At a time when carrier after carrier is coming out beating the MPLS drum, choosing not to use the protocol is a bold move. MPLS is considered by many to be a unifying technology with the ability to tie together separate data and ATM voice networks on the telecommunications backbone. Instead of following the herd, Sprint has elected to run its IP VPNs over a straight IP network, using a stateless protocol called L2TPv3 (which stands for Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol, version 3).

Sprint’s decision not to join the MPLS party has many industry observers scratching their heads and wondering if the move will cost the carrier customers.

"From what we’ve seen with MPLS, it’s definitely a checklist item." says Erin Dunne, an analyst with the Vertical Systems Group. However, she continues, "Sprint comes in and can usually explain their way out of it."

The checklist could pose more of a problem for Sprint now, as it attempts to gain market share in the IP VPN market outside the states. "MPLS has been adopted more readily in Europe than in the U.S.," says Infonetics Research Inc. analyst Richard Webb. "[Sprint] is going against the grain."

"I think it’s going to be more challenging," admits Barry Tishgart, Sprint’s director of data product management, talking of gaining market share in the European market. "Everything that we’ve found suggests that [the notion that MPLS is the only technology worth having] is stronger in Europe."

He insists, however, these preconceived ideas will not pose a problem to Sprint’s service offering. "We have not had a single door shut on us because of this issue," he says.

Sprint also isn't alone in believing that MPLS may not be all it's cracked up to be, particularly when it's used in very large scale carrier networks. Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE) is leading a study in Germany, called the KING Project, which is investigating alternatives to the protocol (see MPLS: King for a Day?).

If customers absolutely insist, Sprint says it will offer them MPLS -- from the edge of its network. The core of the Sprint network, however, will remain MPLS-free, according to Peter Lothberg, an independent technology consultant working for Sprint. "There is no network that can offer MPLS in the core at Sprint," he says, "but we can offer MPLS over the IP network."

But why not just go all the way and bring it into the core? The main issue is keeping it simple, according to Kathy Walker, senior vice president of network services in Sprint's Global Markets Group. "We think building off of our native IP network is the way to go," she says. "We want to go with simplicity." The idea, she says, is to "extend globally and make it look just like it looks domestically."

And domestically, the company has decided that MPLS just isn’t worth the bother.

Sprint has long professed its skepticism to using the protocol, insisting that rather than simplifying the network, it actually makes it more complex. Using L2TPv3 over a straight IP network, the company says it can offer all of the features available with MPLS, and then some. Among other things, Sprint says its IP VPN service allows for secure remote access, extranet capabilities, and data encryption -- none of which, it claims, are possible with MPLS.

"From the customer side, you can’t tell the difference, except that our performance is better," says Lothberg.

Since it is a new technology, MPLS is constantly changing and does have its disadvantages, says Geoff Bennett, director of Light Reading's Training Division. However, he says, a lot of the problems have begun to be rectified. "It also seems to be the direction the industry is moving in," he observes.

— Eugénie Larson, Reporter, Light Reading
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humphrn 12/5/2012 | 3:26:26 AM
re: Sprint Spurns MPLS for Global VPNs Can someone please explain the advantages and disadvantages of one Vs the other ? Also are there any white papers on the subject ?
humphrn 12/5/2012 | 3:26:26 AM
re: Sprint Spurns MPLS for Global VPNs Why do you think this ?
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 3:26:26 AM
re: Sprint Spurns MPLS for Global VPNs
Did you notice this topic was done 2 years ago?

Is there not some way you can move these questions and comments to someplace more relevant?

seven
humphrn 12/5/2012 | 3:08:57 AM
re: Sprint Spurns MPLS for Global VPNs So how come everyone else is using, quite happily MPLS...A majority of carriers....lots of companies with great engineers all technically savy and they are ALL wrong. Yea get your head of the sand like Sprint had to do and grow up.

teng100 12/5/2012 | 12:57:33 AM
re: Sprint Spurns MPLS for Global VPNs "Hi Teng100,
Cell tax is not a problem even at high speed..
POS and MPLS over POS has a packet queuing problem that limit trunk utlization to below 40%. That is a 60% tax which is higher than ATM cell tax.
It is just that in OC-48 and above, you do not need ATM cell to control jitter..
"

I do not know what is your conclusion????
I guess using ATM throughout will be the best
choice in the end
teng100 12/5/2012 | 12:57:32 AM
re: Sprint Spurns MPLS for Global VPNs "Security
========

It is possible to build closed IP/MPLS networks. This is mostly an operations/architecture issue more than a technology issue""

It will require lots of boundary defense/filtering work to protect such network if you want to connect to current internet at the same time, which is complicated. You will need a powerful L2 secured layer in the core to be long term viable.
sgan201 12/5/2012 | 12:57:30 AM
re: Sprint Spurns MPLS for Global VPNs Hi Teng100,
My point is that even at high speed, ATM with cell tax is more bandwidth efficient than MPLS or IP over POS. Previously, it was not possible because of lack of ATM interface at OC-48c and OC-192c speed.

If majority of your traffic is in cell mode from the access side, it is more efficient to run it at cell mode at the backbone also...

Mark Seery 12/5/2012 | 12:57:28 AM
re: Sprint Spurns MPLS for Global VPNs Teng100,

As Vint Cerf has been known to say: the great thing about the Internet is that every one is connected. The bad thing about the Internet is that every one is connected.

Seems to me all technologies struggle to deal with this issue. In a public network where we all have access to everything else, how is this problem solved by using SVCs? A SVC-based DoS attack is as easily conceivable as a packet-based SVC attack. As for protecting the internals of a network, that the addresses are exposed to day is largely an ISP cultural issue, not a technical issue. You have to change the culture, not the technology.

-mark
teng100 12/5/2012 | 12:57:27 AM
re: Sprint Spurns MPLS for Global VPNs dreamer101:
Hi Teng100,
"""My point is that even at high speed, ATM with cell tax is more bandwidth efficient than MPLS or IP over POS. Previously, it was not possible because of lack of ATM interface at OC-48c and OC-192c speed.

If majority of your traffic is in cell mode from the access side, it is more efficient to run it at cell mode at the backbone also...""""

Great points, ATM can do high speed
fundamentally cheaper & more robust
than IP packet switching, due to the
underterministic queuing, security
complication and jittering characteristic
in packet switching.

Thanks
Mark Seery 12/5/2012 | 12:57:27 AM
re: Sprint Spurns MPLS for Global VPNs [slight error in original post - sorry all]

Teng100,

As Vint Cerf has been known to say: the great thing about the Internet is that every one is connected. The bad thing about the Internet is that every one is connected.

Seems to me all technologies struggle to deal with this issue. In a public network where we all have access to everything else, how is this problem solved by using SVCs? A SVC-based DoS attack is as easily conceivable as a packet-based attack. As for protecting the internals of a network, that the addresses are exposed to day is largely an ISP cultural issue, not a technical issue. You have to change the culture, not the technology.

If you think that a layer 2 or a multi layer for that matter approach is the only solution, then this can be achieved with MPLS, in theory, over time as implementations mature.

-mark
Page 1 / 31   >   >>
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