Nortel Preps New PBT Switch
Nortel is taking its carrier Ethernet campaign to the next level with the development of a new switch, codenamed MetroNext, that will be optimized for Provider Backbone Transport (PBT) and include support for multicast services such as IPTV.
Though not yet publicly announced, Nortel has confirmed that the MetroNext platform is in development, but it's keeping some of the finer technical and timing details quiet as it looks to stay at the forefront of PBT developments. (See PBT Gathers Support and PBT Means What?)
Phillipe Morin, president of Nortel's Metro Ethernet Networks division, says Nortel is putting a lot of resources into carrier Ethernet R&D and is looking to build on its initial Tier 1 success at BT, along with some engagements with smaller operators.
BT has already deployed Nortel's PBT-enabled Ethernet switches in Italy, where it serves enterprise customers, while deployment as part of BT's 21CN next-generation network project will be further down the line. Now the vendor is hell-bent on signing up other major incumbents that will give PBT the credibility it needs to become a viable alternative to Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS). (See BT Goes Live With PBT, Vendors Clash Over PBT, and MPLS: Metro a No-Go?)
So what's Nortel's plan? Morin says Nortel is looking to develop new hardware platforms, service capabilities, and management functions.
"The MetroNext product is part of the overall product enhancement process -- it's part of the focus to make PBT more deployable," said Morin when asked about the new product development during a recent telephone interview with Light Reading.
"We're continuing to invest and not waiting for the competition to catch up," he added.
That investment includes adding multicast capabilities to the new Ethernet platform. PBT can currently enable the provision of point-to-point connections, but the vendor is keen to enable multipoint capabilities so that it can pitch PBT into the IPTV infrastructure market.
"We're going to introduce [multicast] functionality and strengthen the network management," stated Morin.
And the network management needs strengthening. PBT's lack of a control plane, along with the fact that PBT is not yet a standardized technology (and unlikely to be so much before 2009), is regarded by many as one of the technology's biggest handicaps.
Morin says Nortel's current aim is to: integrate as many of the operations, administration and management (OA&M) functions, such as remote management capabilities, into the company's Ethernet switches; enhance Nortel's own Metro Ethernet Manager element management software; and team up with specialist software firms, such as Soapstone Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SOAP), that can deliver control plane capabilities and interface with existing carrier OSS systems. (See Avici Amped Up for Soapstone Launch, Soapstone Intros PNC for PBT, and PBT Parties On.)
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