Aria Tunes Into PBT

Startup adds PBT support to its network planning and management suite in response to demand from vendors and a Tier 1 carrier

November 20, 2007

4 Min Read
Aria Tunes Into PBT

A small British startup has jumped aboard one of the carrier Ethernet sector's hottest bandwagons -- providing network management for Provider Backbone Transport (PBT).

Aria Networks Ltd. , which specializes in network planning and service fulfillment tools for multiple technologies, has developed a module for its intelligent Virtual Network Topologies (iVNT) product suite specifically to help carriers "plan, activate and operate their Provider Backbone Bridging, Traffic Engineering (PBB-TE) based Ethernet transport networks." (See Aria Offers PBT OSS.)

PBB-TE (Provider Backbone Bridging - Traffic Engineering), or 802.1 Qay, is the name given to PBT in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) standards process. PBT is the controversial new flavor of Ethernet that's being championed mainly by BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) and Nortel Networks Ltd. . (See Nortel Lands More PBT Action and BT Goes Live With PBT.)

Aria's CEO, Tony Fallows, says he had planned to release the PBB-TE module next quarter, "but there has been very strong interest" from one Tier 1 carrier, one reseller, and two equipment vendors in PBT capabilities, including demand from Japan. Fallows wouldn't say if the Tier 1 carrier is BT.

"I was skeptical until recently about whether this was going to be a real market," but specific demand has emerged in the past few months, though Fallows says it's still early days and he doesn't expect any significant revenues from the PBB-TE module in the short-term.

By adding PBT capabilities to its software platform, Aria is addressing one of PBT's main bugbears. One of the biggest criticisms leveled against PBT -- a pre-standards technology designed to create deterministic Ethernet tunnels for point-to-point data transport -- is that it lacks a control plane and has to be manually planned, provisioned, and activated.

This, say many PBT doubters, creates a management headache for carriers, kills the PBT camp's cost efficiency claims, and negates any perceived advantages that PBT might have over Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS). (See MPLS: Metro a No-Go?)

Chippenham-based Aria, a privately funded firm of 20 staff, isn't the only vendor trying to address PBT's management shortcomings: Gridpoint Systems Inc. and Soapstone Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SOAP) are also targeting this key niche area. (See Avici Amped Up for Soapstone Launch, Gridpoint Plans PBT, and Gridpoint Joins Ethernet Ecosystem.)

In addition, Nortel, the vendor with, arguably, the most riding on PBT's market traction with major carriers, is working hard to develop a PBT control plane as part of its ongoing MetroNext carrier Ethernet development. (See Nortel Preps New PBT Switch.)

Aria, which counts Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) among its named partners, already had network and service management modules for IP, VPNs, optical paths, and Transport MPLS (T-MPLS), so it claims it can now provide a full set of planning and activation tools that addresses carriers' "multi-technology NGN planning needs." The company says it currently has five customers for its iVNT platform.

The management of carrier Ethernet technologies, including PBT, is just one of the topics to be discussed at next week's The Future of Carrier Ethernet: Eastern Europe 2007 event in Warsaw, Poland. Among the companies participating in the one-day event are Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR), one of PBT's most outspoken supporters, and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), one of the router companies that, while not the most vociferous critic of PBT, believes MPLS-based networks offer a better all-round -- and already deployed -- alternative to the new Ethernet option.

Service provider and enterprise user staff can attend the event, and hear both sides of the PBT argument, for free. For more details and to register, click on this link.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to The Future of Carrier Ethernet: Eastern Europe 2007, a conference focused on the evolution of Ethernet as the technology of choice for enabling next-gen services in telecom networks. To be staged in Warsaw, Poland, November 27, admission is free for attendees meeting our prequalification criteria. For more information, or to register, click here.

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