Level 3, XO Rethink MSPPs

The multiservice provisioning platform (MSPP) could be headed for another round of changes, as carriers reportedly want better options for the coexistence of Sonet/SDH networks and Ethernet services.

and are among the carriers pinging vendors about a new equipment type, one that would be patterned after an MSPP but with the ability to pack traffic onto Ethernet lines, too -- as opposed to the classic MSPP design, which is Sonet-minded.

RFPs are out from those two carriers, and many more are making similar requests, according to multiple sources. Neither carrier returned calls for comment.

Details are vague and vary from carrier to carrier, but they seem to agree that the ascent of Ethernet in carrier networks has led to some awkwardness at the Ethernet/Sonet junction.

"The Ethernet suppliers are not really well situated in their products to take Sonet handoff, and the MSPPs aren't very good at aggregating Ethernet circuits," says one equipment-vendor exec requesting anonymity. To the latter point, the vendor notes that MSPPs aren't built to handle some newer Ethernet necessities such as the scaling of VLANs.

"They're not looking to router vendors to solve it, and they're not getting what they need from Sonet vendors," the source says.

Carriers across the board are singing variations on this theme, other vendors say.

"There's a hole in the network that a next-generation MSPP needs to be developed to fill," says Chuck Gershman, CEO of chip vendor Bay Microsystems Inc. "We have seen that same hole in multiple carriers that have very similar proposals out." Bay, a network processor vendor, gets into this game via the acquisition of Parama Networks Inc. (Parama Sells for a Song).

Being a network processor vendor, Bay naturally sees the problem as a question of packet processing.

"It's still the interweaving of Ethernet and Sonet together. [Carriers] want to go beyond simply mapping Ethernet onto Sonet," Gershman says. "They want to provide some intelligent processing to their packets before mapping."

In some cases, the problem could be solved by putting a metro Ethernet box next to the MSPP. Reportedly, carriers are saying they would prefer a new system that's a hybrid of the two.

Level 3 is reported to have an RFP out for a new breed of MSPP/Ethernet box. And XO may have more than just a new box in mind -- one source says the carrier has released an RFP for a separate Ethernet network that would connect to the Sonet network. Titled "Metro Ethernet Access Architecture," the RFP describes a network that could be considered an intermediary between Ethernet access and Sonet backhaul, the source tells Light Reading.

Vendors say carrier Ethernet buildouts are becoming more common in general, as carriers want to boost Ethernet services but don't want to abandon the Sonet/SDH core.

"A lot of carriers that have a Sonet network are putting in an additional network of Ethernet, whether it's RPR or Layer 2 Ethernet," says Frank Petkovich, director of marketing at Luminous Networks Inc. The surge in Ethernet access networks, in particular, is helping Luminous with a half-dozen deals that are supposedly in the works (see Luminous Lands More Loot).

Separately, though, some carriers are making a more radical shift towards Ethernet. Analysts, including Stan Hubbard of Heavy Reading, have reported that at least one carrier is considering removing MSPPs from the network, replacing them with metro Ethernet gear (see Ethernet Stalks the MSPP).

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:03:03 AM
re: Level 3, XO Rethink MSPPs Michael Howard alluded to an idea like this in a conversation we were having a few weeks ago, suggesting something like an "ESPP" (Ethernet version of MSPP) might be in order.

The idea is definitely out there... but what do folks think of it? Will we see a wave of ESPPs (or some similar acronym) next year?
caggio 12/5/2012 | 3:03:02 AM
re: Level 3, XO Rethink MSPPs http://www.transwitch.com/prod...

TranSwitch Corp. Seems to be well positioned for this new trend. Envoy-XE bridges the Ethernet World with the Sonet World and it does it well. For more info see the link above.

OSXman 12/5/2012 | 3:03:01 AM
re: Level 3, XO Rethink MSPPs What are the strengths of this device and how would you compare it to others on the market?
jmunn 12/5/2012 | 3:03:01 AM
re: Level 3, XO Rethink MSPPs This is more of a chassis architecture problem than a chip problem.

Datacom equipment has no need for complex timing distribution support and TDM based SONET equipment has no capability for chassis based packet switching.

You end up needing both backplanes in the box since CE is expensive within a box and it is tough to do packet switching on a TDM system. This would raise the cost of the basic chassis and hurt TDM only deployment costs.
jmunn 12/5/2012 | 3:02:54 AM
re: Level 3, XO Rethink MSPPs It's a nice L2 processor and Traffic Manager.
The SPI3 interface ties nicely into the current generation EoS framers but not the next gen SPI4.2 framers but an FPGA in between could easily convert from SPI3 to SPI4.2. It can tie directly to the TXC EoS framers even though they don't have direct SPI3 interfaces.

Capacity wise it compares well against the Infineon L2 over SONET 3-chip solution. The TXC would use less power and less space and be significantly cheaper and I think much easier to configure.

It is a little weaker than the Raza/RMI Orion high end integrated L2 and EoS chip but the TXC
chip could be used in a lot more different designs since it is not EoS specific.

The Ethernet switch makers don't see a big enough market to build the Ethernet/L2 to SPI chips. They keep thinking about it but never came through.

This is a much easier sell than a network processor but it will not have the flexibility of a NP design either.

If you need L2 policing, processing and TM to a SPI3 interface it is a nice solution especially since it includes the MACs.
caggio 12/5/2012 | 3:02:48 AM
re: Level 3, XO Rethink MSPPs I agree that the Orion is a nicely integrated solution but, isn't that going to limit the OEM's flexibility in architecting their boxes to a Sonet centric X-Connect or Pizza Box Only? Do you see a real value in integrating the LAYER-2 functionality with the Mapper and Framer?

I would really appreciate if you could shed some light on integration / not-integration advantages and disadvantages of solutions like ORION.

fiberous 12/5/2012 | 3:01:52 AM
re: Level 3, XO Rethink MSPPs It is quite a surprise how VCs and the LR views

Ethernet was designed for LAN. Adapting it for
WAN has never been easy. However, it makes the
best infrastructure for data back haul when the
edge service is being adapted to data (VOIP,
MPEG, etc...)But that does not mean RPR or MPLS
is the solution.

Folks who did not get certified dont get this.
They are in a pipe dream that Ethernet (the one
technology they know least off) will lead them
to the golden pot at the end of the rainbow.

Frank's statement "A lot of carriers that have a Sonet network are putting in an additional network of Ethernet, whether it's RPR or Layer 2 Ethernet," is a good indication of the problem.

Ethernet has evolved from 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps by
figuring out the physical layer. Adaptation has
never been its forte. Folks who participated in
10 Gig Ethernet know well the heated debates
and the eventual emergence of the scape goat
called the WAN phy.

Frank needs to know which end data enters.
The fact is that the service provider data
enter into either a T1 or DS3. I am not sure
what Luminous and the rest of the skeptics have
in this space.

I feel the MEF has done a great job of getting
to a significant point. Folks who are not
certified have serious problems in figuring out
which end to manage - SONET or EThernet.
Frank' statment reflects that kind of confusion.

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