Ethernet equipment

Nokia Siemens Clings to Juniper

Nokia Networks says it can't afford to focus all of its packet transport efforts on controversial carrier Ethernet technology Provider Backbone Transport (PBT) for fear of alienating many of its carrier customers, and still regards its relationship with MPLS stalwart Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) as strategically important.

PBT, or PBB-TE (Provider Backbone Bridge -- Traffic Engineering) as it's known in its standards process at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) , is one of the telecom sector's hottest topics at the moment, and has created a tension between its supporters and those who favor a Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS)-based network strategy. (See AlcaLu's Alwan: PBT Will Lose Its Shine , PBT Cost Claims Questioned, PBT vs MPLS: Round VII, Vendors Clash Over PBT, and MPLS: Metro a No-Go?)

It's also set to be a major topic of debate at the upcoming Ethernet Expo: Europe 2008 event in London.

The arguments for and against PBT are detailed and complex: To get the full lowdown on the technology and how the vendor community is shaping up, see our new, free reports, A Guide to PBT/PBB-TE and PBT/PBB-TE Guide: Vendor Talk.

Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) was one of the first major vendors, along with Nortel Networks Ltd. , to back the Layer 2 connection-oriented Ethernet technology, and found itself quickly chosen by PBT's main operator supporter, BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), as a supplier. (See NSN Touts PBT and Nortel, Siemens Win PBT Deals at BT.)

NSN has also been involved in PBT-related trials at Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT). (See Deutsche Telekom Flirts With PBT.)

But the firm isn't abandoning its long-standing MPLS relationship with Juniper, as it wants to offer operators a complete package.

In a recent interview with Light Reading, Bernd Schumacher, head of IP Transport at NSN, said that while NSN's theoretical and live network studies had shown that a PBB-TE Layer 2 deployment could save an operator capital and operational expense, the company couldn't just back one approach to next-generation Ethernet networks.

"If we polarize, we would alienate a lot of the market. We are not religious [about PBB-TE] -– we are open to explore" other approaches, stated Schumacher.

"There are many different carriers and many different views," he said, before adding that Juniper is still an important partner, "and we're very committed to that partnership." (See Siemens Jumps for Juniper.)

But he hinted that NSN sees an opportunity for PBT to find its way into multiple carrier networks. "At the end of the day, cost-efficient networks will require Layer 1, 2, and 3 technologies, but there is an optimization approach where Layer 2 can play a stronger role. There are many combinations," but for each network there is "an optimum mix of Layer 1-to-3 technologies, "an approach we call multi-layer optimization, or MLO."

That means, for the Layer 3 part of the equation, "Juniper is an important partner for us." And, he adds, "all serious customers have all [network technologies] on trial. It's not a strict either/or situation."

But Juniper isn't the only contributor to NSN's Layer 3 carrier offerings, as the vendor brought in some expertise with its recent purchase of Atrica. "That acquisition has brought MPLS know-how on board," notes Schumacher. (See Nokia Siemens to Acquire Atrica and NSN Completes Atrica Buy.)

So does that mean NSN will be developing its own range of MPLS routers? "R&D spending will follow carrier demand and market trends," is all Schumacher will say on that point.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to Ethernet Expo: Europe 2008, the premier event covering the hot topic of carrier Ethernet network technologies and services in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). To be staged in London, April 14-16, admission is free for attendees meeting our prequalification criteria. For more information, or to register, click here.

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