MPLS-TP Delays Keep T-MPLS Alive
The industry does seem to be agreeing on MPLS-TP as a means of Carrier Ethernet operations, administration, and maintenance (OAM), so it's not like there's a major standards war brewing. But the MPLS-TP standard remains incomplete. In the meantime, carriers including China Mobile Communications Corp. and NTT Communications Corp. (NYSE: NTT) -- not insubstantial names -- have already deployed T-MPLS, because it was closer to standardization.
So, some vendors already know they'll support both protocols for quite a while. And while they're confident the MPLS-TP standard can be completed soon, any further delays could create the chance for T-MPLS's roots to dig deeper.
"Some people are worried that the IETF is going to take a long time. Meantime, the Ethernet deployments in networks continue to get installed, and there's no OAM [operations, administration, and maintenance] effort that's been standardized," says Eve Griliches, an analyst with ACG Research .
MPLS-TP won industry favor partly because it's compatible with Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), while T-MPLS isn't. MPLS-TP is especially favored among vendors that most strongly preach the packet gospel, such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO).
Even though the T-MPLS standard was near completion, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) halted that effort in 2008, joining forces with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to work on MPLS-TP. (See Transport MPLS Gets a Makeover.)
Now, it's a matter of waiting.
"We believe by the middle of next year, MPLS-TP will be standardized," says Rajesh Rajamani, a product marketing manager at Spirent Communications plc . Other vendors, including Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), are hoping the standard can be sealed late this year.
The path to a single standard is "not as easy as we thought in the beginning, but the reasons are still there," says Alberto Valsecchi, a vice president of marketing with Alcatel-Lucent.
But AlcaLu, with its Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) heritage, might be less stressed out about the process, because it's got less to lose if T-MPLS perseveres. AlcaLu has pledged to support MPLS-TP, but it's got many customers that still want to speak TDM's language of determinism and 50-millisecond restoration.
"These types of concepts are in their minds as things to take into account when building a transport network. Whether we say Cisco or Alcatel-Lucent, they will go for a solution they consider safe for the network," Alberto Valsecchi, a vice president of marketing with Alcatel-Lucent. "There are other people coming from a different background who want an MPLS-based network."
There's been evidence that Asian carriers in the T-MPLS camp are open-minded toward MPLS-TP. Rajamani cites NTT as an example: "They deployed [T-MPLS] because it was the only standard at the time. But even they are moving to MPLS-TP," he says. (See Asia/Pacific Warms to MPLS-TP.)
Other vendors, such as Cisco, talk about MPLS-TP as if it's already vanquished T-MPLS. "We've talked for a long time about the migration of TDM to packet. Architectural decisions are now being truly taken to do that," says Mike Capuano, director of service provider marketing at Cisco.
By the way, Provider Backbone Bridging - Traffic Engineering (PBB-TE) still exists as an option, but it's fallen out of the debate. AlcaLu's take, probably shared by many, is that there's nothing wrong with PBB-TE, but few, if any, carriers are really asking for it.
MPLS-TP will be the subject of its own panel session at Ethernet Expo Americas 2010 at noon on Wednesday, Nov. 3.
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading
Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to Ethernet Expo Americas 2010, Light Reading's eleventh Ethernet event, designed to meet the information needs of service providers and enterprises that are working out what next-generation services and applications to deploy, and what infrastructures will help them do this in the most cost-effective and productive manner. To be staged in New York, Nov. 2 & 3, admission is free for attendees meeting our prequalification criteria. For more information, or to register, click here.