Extreme Launches PBT
Having talked aplenty about Provider Backbone Transport (PBT), Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR) today announced that it's adding the capability to its BlackDiamond series of switches. (See Extreme Adds PBT.)
Extreme's support for PBT hasn't exactly been a secret. (See Extreme Joins Ecosystem and Extreme Tests PBT.)
Its competition includes PBT flag-bearer Nortel Networks Ltd. -- which has announced PBT enhancements to its 8600 Metro Ethernet Routing Switch and is preparing a PBT platform called MetroNext -- and Hammerhead Systems Inc. , which is pushing its HSX 6000 aggregation box as a PBT player. (See Nortel Pushes More PBT, Nortel Preps New PBT Switch, and Hammerhead Hooks Up PBT.)
Technically, what Extreme is adding to its switches is a pre-standard version of Provider Backbone Bridging -- Traffic Engineering (PBB-TE), the name assigned to the upcoming Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) standard for what's been commonly called PBT.
Adding PBT, or PBB-TE, is primarily a matter of putting the right software onto an Ethernet box. Extreme is including PBB-TE support for free in release 12.1 of its Extreme XOS software, making it available on the BlackDiamond 12802R, 12804R, and 12808 systems.
Beyond that, though Extreme is trying to show PBT can work in conjunction with a Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) core.
"As we went in to talk to service providers, anything that didn't start with, 'Here's how you take advantage of your existing MPLS core' was a non-starter, and kind of met silence," says Peter Lunk, director of service provider marketing for Extreme.
Hammerhead has followed the same philosophy, offering its system as a gateway between the MPLS and PBT/PBB-TE worlds. (See Hammerhead Unveils PBT Smarts.)
Extreme says it's interested in a similar gateway function, connecting PBT tunnels across a virtual private LAN services (VPLS) core.
For its PBT control plane, Extreme has chosen Soapstone Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SOAP), the Avici Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: AVCI; Frankfurt: BVC7) business unit that's trying to offer such software to work with multple vendors' platforms. "It eases some of the vendor lock-in concerns people have," Lunk says. (See Extreme, Soapstone Demo and Avici Amped Up for Soapstone Launch.)
Extreme gave the world a preview of its work with Soapstone last week, through the companies' joint demonstration at the CeBIT show in Germany. (See Extreme, Soapstone Demo.)
As systems come onto the market, carriers will get to see whether PBB-TE switches can live up to their billing as a lower-cost alternative to routers. Extreme says it's got some numbers to back the argument.
For the VPLS gateway example noted above, Extreme would require a beefed-up switching module called the MSM-6R, which is also being announced today. Plug that $28,000 card into a BlackDiamond 12804R system in a usable configuration, and you get a box costing less than $80,000. "So, it's in the Ethernet switch realm, not up in the router realm," Lunk says.
The Soapstone control-plane software, meanwhile, tends to cost less than 10 percent of the hardware price, "in line with what service providers have seen in Sonet/SDH for the management and provisioning software," Lunk says.
Extreme expects its new PBT offerings to ship by the end of the month. Its work isn't done yet, though; support for the E-LAN and E-Tree topologies is due in the second quarter, probably around the NXTcomm tradeshow in Las Vegas. Hammerhead has announced support for both, and Nortel says it's adding E-Tree to the 8600.
Later, Extreme hopes to offer some features related to service-level agreement (SLA) monitoring. The possibilities would simply combine Soapstone's control plane with counters already included on the BlackDiamond line.
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading
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