Level 3, XO Rethink MSPPs
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