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Test & Measurement

Spirent Gets PBT Thumbs-Up

Spirent Communications plc has stolen a march on some of its fiercest test equipment rivals by becoming the first vendor to be awarded a "PBT Compatible" stamp from Nortel Networks Ltd. . (See Spirent Certified for PBT.)

Officially, Spirent has attained Carrier Ethernet Ecosystem Compatible Product Certification, which confirms that its TestCenter platform is "compatible with Provider Backbone Transport (PBT) technology." The Carrier Ethernet Ecosystem is a pro-PBT initiative led by Nortel that now has more than 20 members, including a number of test equipment firms. (See Nortel Pushes PBT Pact and Nortel Pushes More PBT.)

Unofficially, the certification gives Spirent bragging rights in the PBT test sector, which is growing steadily as more vendors announce support for the controversial Ethernet technology and as support for PBT grows among carriers. (See our recent reports: A Guide to PBT/PBB-TE and PBT/PBB-TE Guide: Vendor Talk.)

While BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) remains PBT's most visible and outspoken carrier supporter, other major operators have shown an interest in the technology, which is set to be a hot topic at the Ethernet Expo: Europe event, which begins today in London. (See PBT in the Spotlight, Crunch Time for PBT, BT to Update on Ethernet Plans , Telefónica Checks Out PBT, NTT Joins PBT Roll Call, and Deutsche Telekom Flirts With PBT.)

Spirent, of course, doesn't have the market to itself. Other test vendors keen to promote themselves as PBT-friendly include Spirent's archrival, Ixia (Nasdaq: XXIA), as well as JDSU (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU) and Calnex Solutions Ltd. (See JDSU Joins PBT Group, Ixia Joins Nortel Ecosystem, PBT Parties On, Ixia Tests PBT, and Calnex Raises £1M.)

PBT testing resembles Ethernet testing, naturally, but with Nortel, which runs the Carrier Ethernet Ecosystem certification process, keen to see products in the market that will work with its version of pre-standards PBT, "there were some proprietary things we had to support," says Tim Jefferson, Spirent's general manager for converged core products.

A standardized variant of PBT is on the way from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) , under the name Provider Backbone Bridging - Traffic Engineering (PBB-TE). Groups like the MEF might be in a position to offer their own certifications once that standard is complete, which should be some time in 2009. In the meantime, PBT has been the focus of projects such as the massive interoperability tests organized by the European Advanced Networking Test Center AG (EANTC) . (See EANTC Preps MEF Demo, Extreme Tests PBT, and Nortel Demos Ethernet Backhaul.)

Still, not everyone is convinced about PBT's worth. Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR), and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) haven't been enthused about the technology, which is seen as a threat to the dominance of MPLS. (See PBT/PBB-TE Guide: Vendor Talk.)

In addition, a recent Light Reading poll shows 24 percent of respondents believe PBT is "already broken and will never fly."

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast 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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