Who Knew? Big Carriers Like RPR

Despite its checkered past, there is new proof that Resilient Packet Ring technology, which provides a efficient and highly reliable mechanism for deploying Ethernet services in a fiber ring, is catching on with service providers (see RPR: RIP? and RPR: Deadlock Ahead?).

“I remember saying RPR was dead last year,” says Michael Howard, a principal analyst at Infonetics Research Inc. “But surprisingly carriers are very interested in it."

Indeed, big carriers are starting to roll out services based on the technology, and many more say they plan to use it in their networks next year.

Earlier this week, AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) announced it would be deploying RPR-enabled gear from Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) to offer its AT&T Ultravailable Managed OptEring Services (see AT&T Expands Ethernet). This service leverages RPR technology to transport data, packet video, and voice-over-ring topologies. It will enable business customers with multiple locations in a metropolitan area or campus environment to interconnect sites as a private or virtual local area network.

According to a recent Infonetics report called "Service Provider Networks: Access, Routing, Switching, and Optical, US/Canada 2002," 13 percent of the North American carriers surveyed say they now use a pre-standard version of RPR. About 25 percent say that they are willing to use a pre-standard version of RPR in their networks, and 19% percent say they plan to use the standard version when it’s available next year.

“We’ve seen a lot of interest from our customers who want services that only RPR can deliver,” says Andrea Chiaffitelli, a services director at AT&T. “Nothing else is available that can provide the same level of protection switching necessary for carrying critical assets.”

The AT&T announcement is important on two fronts. For one, this is one of the largest RPR deployments to date. AT&T is deploying Nortel's Optera Metro 3500 switches in up to 70 metro area networks in 38 states throughout the country. The service is currently running in a controlled trial in New York City, with other rollouts soon to follow. AT&T already provides optical Ethernet services to businesses on private, dedicated infrastructures.

Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) have been shipping pre-standard versions of RPR on their gear for over a year now. Nortel has deployments at KDDI Corp. in Japan as well as Bell Canada (NYSE/Toronto: BCE) and Bell West in Canada. But this is one of the largest deployments out there, says Jim Dondero, director of optical Ethernet solutions for Nortel.

The second important aspect of this announcement is that AT&T will be using a version of the technology that is as close to the upcoming standard as possible. Up to this point, RPR deployments have involved only proprietary versions of the technology. Even the AT&T implementation is not truly standards-based, since the standard will not be finalized until next year. But Nortel is using specifications from the latest Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) 802.17 draft, which has already been submitted for review and voting by the working group (see RPR Alliance Reaches Working Ballot). The content of the draft is not expected to change significantly between now and the third quarter of 2003, when it will likely be finalized by the IEEE (see RPR Gurus Set Fall Deadline).

Many in the industry are looking at AT&T’s announcement as a big step forward for RPR.

“I take the AT&T announcement as a huge endorsement of RPR, and this endorsement has occurred well in advance of the Standard's approval,” says Robert Love, president of the Resilient Packet Ring Alliance. “It shows that once the carriers are comfortable that the technology will be standardized, they are not that reluctant to begin their rollout.”

In particular, it seems carriers are more comfortable deploying the Sonet-based version of RPR than the version that runs Ethernet over fiber (see Resilient Packet Ring Technology). In the Ethernet-over-Sonet model, carriers use Sonet for transport, and they use RPR to more efficiently utilize fiber, using a special protocol called spatial reuse. RPR proponents argue that this is more cost-effective than pure Sonet implementations. RPR also provides sub-50 millisecond restoration, making its protection comparable to Sonet's.

“Carriers that like rings and already have rings can conveniently ride RPR over existing Sonet/SDH rings,” explains Howard. “They are not choosing the RPR-over-fiber version, rather the layer 2 RPR over layer 1 Sonet/SDH.”

Indeed, AT&T is deploying the Sonet version of the technology. AT&T's Chiaffitelli says that it fit the requirements of AT&T’s network more closely than the purely Ethernet version of the technology.

“We’re targeting customers that might already have Sonet rings, or they are using DWDM,” she says. “Ethernet over RPR offers a way to complement those services.”

— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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e=hf 12/4/2012 | 9:09:57 PM
re: Who Knew? Big Carriers Like RPR What is up with Luminous?

They never seem to be mentioned in association with RPR anymore.
Ringed? 12/4/2012 | 9:09:55 PM
re: Who Knew? Big Carriers Like RPR e=hf,

It's one thing to be a member of the RPR alliance and quite another to be a RPR "peer" with Nortel and Cisco.

Luminous has three main problems: They are a startup; they are too expensive to deploy and they lack the robustness of a carrier class Sonet transport system. ItGăÍs that simple.

If you look at the Optera 3500 you will see that it isn't the most efficient system to support large amounts of Ethernet ala RPR. But what you will see is a carrier class Sonet transport mux with very good RPR capabilities.

Cisco is sort of alone on the other end of the spectrum. Cisco supports RPR off their UBR CMTS series for cable MSO's as well as their GSR series core router. Cisco implements RPR in a proprietary fashion which makes interoperability impossible. Not to mention that Cisco bought (at the time) the main RPR chipset manufacturer.

Luminous is caught in a cross-fire. Nortel has the advantage of being a Sonet transport mux that carriers such as AT&T will trust. While Cisco has the MSO space locked because they make the CMTS and the core router that supports RPR.

yakatori_guy 12/4/2012 | 9:09:54 PM
re: Who Knew? Big Carriers Like RPR It will be interesting to see how much traction RPR/SONET will get in the carriers that own nearly all of the metro facilities and do nearly all of the SONET spending G㢠the ILECs. No way does RPR get any meaningful deployment as shared infrastructure. Look at its chief benefits over traditional SONET:

1) Spatial reuse: Great for IOF, where your topology is meshy (thatGăÍs why you use BLSR there). Little or no opportunity for spatial reuse in access networks, which are mostly logical stars.

2) Stat muxing: Great for access, where links are lightly utilized. Not so great for IOF, where links tend to be highly utilized.

3) Bandwidth reuse: Yes, I can use both working and protect bandwidth G㢠as long as the traffic is best effort. Guaranteed traffic needs to have dedicated resources both ways around an RPR. Great if your service is best effort, no advantage over SONET for guaranteed bandwidth. Guess which service I can charge more for?

So in carrier networks, you never get all of the benefits at once. And the more your services look like (higher revenue and margin) guaranteed bandwidth services, the more SONET BLSR with Ethernet in and out looks pretty darn good.

RPR may make sense for dedicated rings, which tend to have meshy connectivity, and which can support a best effort service model (since carriers typically charge by the port, not by bandwidth, for dedicated rings).

Then you have that OSMINE thing, which tends to choke on any kind of data capability, and, I understand, is required for both shared infrastructure and dedicated rings.

So, of the 25% of carriers who will deploy RPR next year, I wonder how many are ILECsGă¬

Belzebutt 12/4/2012 | 9:09:54 PM
re: Who Knew? Big Carriers Like RPR It's strange that the vendor's name is not mentioned in the AT&T PR:

Does it cost extra money to get your name glorified in there or something? No $ amount either.
Hornman 12/4/2012 | 9:09:52 PM
re: Who Knew? Big Carriers Like RPR Sensitive? I suppose we can all guess who you work for. Yakatori does raise a good point in that the ILEC's will not deploy RPR for several years. RPR does have added value over traditional SONET, but will the ILEC's even notice??? ILEC's are still deploying legacy products and starting to deploy next-gen SONET products...so at that pace it will take them at least 3 or 4 years to even evaluate RPR. I just hope the LECs will be able to fund (through purchases like AT&T's) the vendor's continued RPR development.
Luminous Guy 12/4/2012 | 9:09:50 PM
re: Who Knew? Big Carriers Like RPR Ringed?,

Thanks so much for your insight on who's who in the RPR working group.

How asute of you to notice that Luminous is not in the same "peer" group as Nortel and Cisco.

Nortel's RPR (IPT) = A retrofitted ADM to (still inefficiently) transport data.
Cisco's RPR (DPT)= Routers running yet another protocol to transport data.

Well now that Ringed? has figured this out for us we can all get a good night's sleep. Thanks Ringed?!!!!

-Luminous Guy
btw- Luminous is alive and well.
Our OEM partnership with Scientific Atlanta is going great. Thanks for asking.
digerato 12/4/2012 | 9:09:49 PM
re: Who Knew? Big Carriers Like RPR Hasn't Sprint (a "big carrier", surely) had RPR in its Sprintlink network for years?

rainbowarrior 12/4/2012 | 9:09:47 PM
re: Who Knew? Big Carriers Like RPR
Is there going to be an explanation from Infonetics about how they so widely missed the mark with RPR? They declared it dead and now they say they are quite suprised that, in fact, it's booming.

How many times is this going to happen in our industry? Why aren't analysts held more accountable for their statements? Could we have an explanation of how they could have been SO far off the mark?
JoeBagadonuts 12/4/2012 | 9:09:44 PM
re: Who Knew? Big Carriers Like RPR RPR is not booming. One carrier that does not control the local loops deploying it does not make for a revolution.

Analists don't have to explain anything. Keep revising your numbers, make predictions that don't come true and keep pumping out press release quotes just to see your name in lights.
Luminous Guy 12/4/2012 | 9:09:43 PM
re: Who Knew? Big Carriers Like RPR Wow! It appears that signmeup has already signed onto Nortel's side. FUD factor #10...

I apologize if I struck a nerve with my response to (your co-worker?) Ringed?. I take it as a compliment when the big guys try to FUD Luminous. They must view Luminous as a real threat. Why else would they do it?
Let's get to your points, OK?

Luminous has standards based packet and TDM interfaces. Well, no incompatibity there. (sorry)
The developing RPR standard is a layer TWO protocol. SONET is layer ONE. Why would it be incomaptible?

Selling to a carrier that has been buying Nortel's SONET gear forever-
Well that's a tough one. Ya' got me there. Why would a carrier overbuild their SONET network to carry packets? If I'm that carrier I'd just add the Nortel RPR blade to my ADMs.
But what if the existing ADMs are NOT compatible with the RPR blade? Well, it looks like another overbuild anyway. Does it make sense to overbuild ADMs with more (enhanced with RPR) ADMs? To carry PACKETS??? SONET is still very inefficient for carrying bursty packet data.

MSO successes-
Watch the newswire. The successes will speak for themselves.

In closing, I am not bitter but far from it. I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of competition against the big guys. I enjoy reading your thoughts as well. Thanks for sharing.

-Luminous Guy
FYI- Cisco developed DPT to compete against SONET prior to their purchasing of Cerent (if ya' can't beat 'em......).
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