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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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beowulf888 12/5/2012 | 12:57:26 AM
re: Sprint Spurns MPLS for Global VPNs Tony Li in msg 197 wrote:
"In any case, there is pretty clear consensus in the IP community that they don't like ATM. Some have deployed it out of necessity, but none of them are enamored with it and even those who have deployed it would be happy with a simpler alternative."

Yes. ATM networks are definitely labor intensive!

--Beo
beowulf888 12/5/2012 | 12:57:26 AM
re: Sprint Spurns MPLS for Global VPNs dreamer101 wrote (msg 195):
>The question is do SP need to sell IP with
>QOS in order to survive??

Yes, but it will be the layer 2 infrastructure that provides the QoS. ATM QoS isn't really compatible with IP QoS. But MPLS is. So for that reason and that reason only, I do think that MPLS has future in IPoMPLS networks or IPoMPLSoATM networks. Just my guess.

>IP with best effort and connectionless had
>been proven as a disaster as far as business
>model is concerned. All the ISPs are not
>making money.

Well, I don't know where you get those factoids that ISPs aren't making or can't make money. MFS, UUnet, CERFnet, were definitely all profitable before they got bought up by the telcos. It may very well be that selling IP is not profitable if you have to support a bloated telco infrastructure.

--Beo
beowulf888 12/5/2012 | 12:57:25 AM
re: Sprint Spurns MPLS for Global VPNs teng101 wrote in msg 198:
"You will need absolute security, QoS, then it will be based on the price and easy management for making the choice. Do whatever you think is right, but end of day, customer will tell you who is right."

Bingo! In the big switch and router markets the number of ATM ports sold are a relatively small percentage of total ports sold (I don't have the current numbers). But ATM has not acheived any overall market dominance.
sgan201 12/5/2012 | 12:57:25 AM
re: Sprint Spurns MPLS for Global VPNs Hi beowulf,
Please explain why ATM QOS is not compatible with IP QOS. And, MPLS is more compatible with IP QOS than ATM.
In either case, you can mapped DiffServe into ATM VCC or MPLS LSP (L-LSP mode). The only extra useless mode in MPLS is E-LSP which is not usable in the real world.

Please qualify your statement..
sgan201 12/5/2012 | 12:57:24 AM
re: Sprint Spurns MPLS for Global VPNs Hi Beoulf888,
You are wrong in saying number of ATM ports sold is small.
Based on Infornetics Q3/2002 reports.
Total number of ATM ports sold in MS core switch is 20K..

Total number of ports sold by core router in the same quarter is 15K..

On the edge, it is 157K for ATM versus 142K for IP..

To be proper, you should say it is 50-50 now..

Mark Seery 12/5/2012 | 12:57:24 AM
re: Sprint Spurns MPLS for Global VPNs >> In the big switch and router markets the number of ATM ports sold are a relatively small percentage of total ports sold (I don't have the current numbers). But ATM has not acheived any overall market dominance. <<

That is **roughly** analagous to saying that OC-192 POS ports are a relatively small percentatge of ports sold and therefore core routers have not achieved any overall market dominance.

ATM switches are at the core of important, profitable networks. IP core routers are at the core of important, disruptive networks. Two different markets, and I think they should be viewed that way, at least over the next 2-5 years.

-mark
Mark Seery 12/5/2012 | 12:57:23 AM
re: Sprint Spurns MPLS for Global VPNs >> The only extra useless mode in MPLS is E-LSP which is not usable in the real world. <<

While a realize this is a commonly held belief, (especially with vendors of technology that can not support this mode), it would seem to me that E-LSP is much closer to the IP diffserv model than L-LSP is. I realize that some people believe that E-LSP is not practical for TE purposes, but then I would suggest such people take a look at how TE is actually being used by some SPs at the core of IP networks.

-mark
Mark Seery 12/5/2012 | 12:57:23 AM
re: Sprint Spurns MPLS for Global VPNs >> It may very well be that selling IP is not profitable if you have to support a bloated telco infrastructure. <<

it may well be that, in a highly competitive market, a single entity can not be all things to all people, and that this is another example of structural separation that may make sense. I personally think it is more of a value chain focus issue.

-mark

beowulf888 12/5/2012 | 12:57:23 AM
re: Sprint Spurns MPLS for Global VPNs second try, I left something out...

dreamer101 wrote (msg 195):
>The question is do SP need to sell IP with
>QOS in order to survive??

remove:
Yes, but it will be the layer 2 infrastructure that provides the QoS.

replace with:
Yes, but L2 and L3 will need to work together to provide the QoS.

ATM QoS isn't really compatible with IP QoS. But MPLS is. So for that reason and that reason only, I do think that MPLS has future in IPoMPLS networks or IPoMPLSoATM networks. Just my guess.

>IP with best effort and connectionless had
>been proven as a disaster as far as business
>model is concerned. All the ISPs are not
>making money.

Well, I don't know where you get those factoids that ISPs aren't making or can't make money. MFS, UUnet, CERFnet, were definitely all profitable before they got bought up by the telcos. It may very well be that selling IP is not profitable if you have to support a bloated telco infrastructure.

--Beo
jamesbond 12/5/2012 | 12:57:22 AM
re: Sprint Spurns MPLS for Global VPNs Well, I don't know where you get those factoids that ISPs aren't making or can't make money. MFS, UUnet, CERFnet, were definitely all profitable before they got bought up by the telcos
-----------------------------------------

I don't think we should use 1997-1999 data as
a basis for saying they were profitable. I doubt
that they would be profitable in a **normal**
market like todays.
<<   <   Page 2 / 31   >   >>
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