MPLS Will Outgun ATM, Says Poll

In five years' time, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) will play a more important role in metro networks than Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM), and Ethernet will be more pervasive than Sonet/SDH, according to this month's Light Reading Research Poll.

The poll asks respondents to forecast the relative importance of different protocols in metro networks in 2007. And the results so far, from just over 150 users, make interesting reading.

Ethernet has a rosy future, according to survey respondents. 37 percent of them say it will be "crucial" in metro networks, and another 36 percent say it will be "very important."

This exceeds support for Sonet/SDH. Only 14 percent say that it will be "crucial" in metro networks in five years' time, while 35 percent say it will be "very important."

As already noted, MPLS gets more support than ATM, the two protocols associated with being able to guarantee quality of service. MPLS will be "very important" by 2007 according to 28 percent of respondents. The comparable figure for ATM is a mere seven percent.

Resilient Packet Ring (RPR) technology gets a resounding "don't know" with votes split evenly across "very important," "important," "fairly unimportant," and "unimportant."

In reality, all of these protocols are likely to coexist in different parts of carrier networks, as Light Reading's recent report on metro technologies explains (see Metro Multiservices Evolution).

Other results of Light Reading's Research Poll show that most respondents (60 percent) think boosting revenue should be the top priority for carriers building metro networks. Just 39 percent believe cutting costs is more important.

The best way to boost revenue in metro networks is to reach new customers, according to 37 percent of respondents. That could mean extending geographic coverage or offering a wider range of services. The next-best ways to generate revenue are to speed up provisioning times (21 percent) or offer higher-bandwidth services (20 percent). The most effective way to cut costs is to use bandwidth more efficiently, according to 45 percent of respondents. Next comes cutting equipment costs (29 percent), followed by cutting maintenance staff requirements (20 percent).

Want more details? Take Light Reading's Research Poll yourself by clicking here. — Peter Heywood, Founding Editor, Light Reading
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xyz 12/4/2012 | 10:21:26 PM
re: MPLS Will Outgun ATM, Says Poll Not really
rjmcmahon 12/4/2012 | 10:38:02 PM
re: MPLS Will Outgun ATM, Says Poll Ultimately the greatest benefit of packet services is that they can be "any to any" rather than "point to point" or "some to some".

Consumers won't pay for any-to-any after the access model fails.

Economomics then will drive a producer to consumer relationship, where some to many becomes the most interesting traffic patterns particularly if the many pay the some for use of their intellectual assets.
giles0 12/4/2012 | 10:38:06 PM
re: MPLS Will Outgun ATM, Says Poll 'There is an old saying: "I have yet to see someone make something more complex and less expensive at the same time."'

I'd say price is related to (at least) 3 factors:

1. complexity
2. volume of production by supplier
3. number of alternative suppliers.

Ethernet switches are (reasonably) complex, but are produced in vast volumes by multiple competing suppliers (largely driven by the ubiquity of Ethernet in Enterprise networking). Hardly surprisingly switch ports are an order of magnitude cheaper than ADM or router ports.

One factor you miss in your analysis is that packet based services have much finer granularity than SONET/TDM. One GigE port can have multiple VLANs, each going to a different destination, and with a different bandwidth allocation on each one (or a combined allocation across the set.) The best you could do on SONET would presumably be a channelised OC-12 or OC-48 with n x STS-1 to each remote location?

Ultimately the greatest benefit of packet services is that they can be "any to any" rather than "point to point" or "some to some". Statistical gain is just an additional benefit that gets thrown in :)

Bumper_car 12/4/2012 | 10:38:14 PM
re: MPLS Will Outgun ATM, Says Poll There is an old saying: "I have yet to see someone make something more complex and less expensive at the same time."

MPLS, like ATM before it is actually going to be competing with SONET/TDM transmission facilities. At present, current technonology SONET Add Drop Multiplexors (ADMs) are selling for less per megabit capacity than are current technology routers from the same company. In reality, the ADM has twice the capacity at that lower price because it must also provide alternate route service protection. Where there are customers, an ADM can be utilized at 100% capacity without degredation of service quality. Where the customers are willing to buy bandwidth services without outage protection, the ADM can be utilized at 200% capacity, without any statistical gain.

In order for packet type services such as Frame Relay and Internet to make enough money to break even, they must have a statistical gain bandwidth factor. The Internet is right at 400 to 1. Frame relay, depending on the service provider, can have any where from 10 to 1 to 40 to 1 statistical gain. These type of statistical gain services are very difficult to do quality voice or interactive video over.

I am afraid that in order for MPLS deployments to be profitable, they will have to implement a statistical gain on the customer bandwidth. To offset the service degredation that occurs with statictical gain, QoS is being added, which makes MPLS even more complex and expensive.

If you look at the customer bandwidths that are being purchased for Frame Relay and Internet, you will find that they are for low bandwidth facilities, not high bandwidth. Right now, the high profit margin, high bandwidth customers are opting for TDM based "Private Line" leased circuits that they have the ability to use at 100% capacity anytime that they want. I do not believe that MPLS will be able to support the high bandwidth 100% utilization customers. I believe that MPLS will be consigned to the low bandwidth, commodity level profits, consumer environment, where Ethernet is now invading. MPLS is going to have a very hard time competing economically. It may replace ATM, but that is still only a niche service environment.
broadbandboy 12/4/2012 | 10:38:21 PM
re: MPLS Will Outgun ATM, Says Poll trepanne: "that leaves level 3. they are the test case. they are implementing an IP network of exactly the sort that defenders of ATM say cannot be done, or at least cannot be more efficient."

i don't know if or how the technology works (i would like to learn; i'm more familiar with ATM and straight IP routing). i don't know if they will make money and thrive."


Here are two questions I have regarding "upstart" carriers like Level 3 and others. First, I am not sure that transporting data traffic for other carriers across a router-based IP is necessarily less costly than over a layer-2 network that is already in place. Since these new carriers have sunk a bundle into a high capacity fiber backbone, they need to fill that pipe to try and recoup the investment.

There is a widespread concern in the industy that the falling price of bandwidth is being driven by the "least rational competitor." In this scenario, everyone looses money, and telecom continues to sink further into the hole, until this excess capacity is worked out.

The question of routers vs. switches, ATM vs. MPLS is largely irrelevant in that context.


"i guess we'll see if the RBOCs go for it over the next 12 months or so."

I would not bet on it. And don't be fooled by an occasional press release regarding some use of MPLS in an ILEC network. They have a big investment in ATM/Frame that is not going to go away anytime soon. You can take that to the bank.

But here is how you can tell. If they want to cut over to an all IP backbone, you will see them buying Juniper or Cisco routers, or possibley an MPLS switch like the new one from Lucent.

If they decide to gradually transition traffic to a higher speed (10 Gbps) IP backbone over several years, they will purchase switches that can run both ATM Frame Relay and MPLS. That would benefit vendors like Alcatel, Cisco, Marconi, and start ups like Wavesmith, Equipe, Gotham, etc.

fiber_r_us 12/4/2012 | 10:38:21 PM
re: MPLS Will Outgun ATM, Says Poll Qwest already has a leagacy FR and ATM network. As far as I know, they have not planned or begun migration of these services to MPLS (not that it couldn't be done). I think they are busy with certain government agencies at this point.
broadbandboy 12/4/2012 | 10:38:22 PM
re: MPLS Will Outgun ATM, Says Poll LightSeeking: "Does anyone know whether the announcement from Qwest today regarding the Mellon network uses MPLS or ATM in the backbone? Thanks."

Without knowing any more than reading the press release, I doubt that services including inbound/outbound voice, frame, ATM and private line would be provided over a router-based MPLS backbone due to the difficulty in guaranteeing customer SLA commitments for frame and ATM.

That is just a guess based on past experience, and I could be wrong.

It is worth noting that again, the big money making services are, once again, voice, PL, frame and ATM.

broadbandboy 12/4/2012 | 10:38:22 PM
re: MPLS Will Outgun ATM, Says Poll sntwk: "I remember many years ago a presentation that said european proposal called for 69 byte cell (5+64) and USA proposal called for (5+32). If USA proposal was accepted every 40 byte TCP packet would have been sent as two ATM cells i.e 74
bytes in total, wich represents a overhead of 34 bytes for every 40 bytes of TCP packet."

I'm sorry to say that, as I the story, you have it exactly backwards. The euro-PTTs were pushing for a 32 byte payload to minimize latency for voice. The US, being more data centric, wanted the larger 64 byte payload for greater efficiency in data transport. The committee-style compromise was to add 32+64=96 and divide by two. The result was a 48 byte payload + a small 5 byte header = 53 bytes.

What a stupid way to design a protocol that was supposed to provide the support for all modern communications! This "compromise" resulted in a cell size that was too big for voice, too small for data. It was the worst of both worlds!

The reason UUnet was reluctant to migrate from frame to ATM was that now two cells would be required to carry one ack packet which is the worst case scenario. Talk about wasted bandwidth!

LightSeeking 12/4/2012 | 10:38:22 PM
re: MPLS Will Outgun ATM, Says Poll BBboy,

Thanks - that would have been my guess too. But what I am gathering from some folks on this thread is that, MPLS would handle all services mentioned here including FR and ATM. While I do my own investigation on this, perhaps Fiber-r-us can comment.

LightSeeking 12/4/2012 | 10:38:22 PM
re: MPLS Will Outgun ATM, Says Poll Does anyone know whether the announcement from Qwest today regarding the Mellon network uses MPLS or ATM in the backbone? Thanks.

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