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Multiservice platform suppliers soft-pedal IP abilities

Posted: 08 Feb 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ethernet? internet protocol? multiservice provisioning platforms? mspps? ip?

Some vendors of multiservice provisioning platforms are de-emphasizing the Internet Protocol capabilities of their boxes, saying that customers are more interested in Ethernet or in legacy interfaces such as time-division multiplexing (TDM).

Large multiservice provisioning platforms (MSPPs), colloquially called "god boxes," switch all traffic types natively, often by providing separate switch fabrics for each traffic type. But the Internet Protocol (IP) part of that equation is proving less popular than expected as carriers continue to tighten their belts.

"We've seen a little bit of IP, but most of the people are saying they already have a box that'll do IP," said Jesus Leon, senior vice president of metro switching at Ciena Corp. The IP capabilities of an MSPP are used in spot instances, Leon said. "In some places, they have one customer who needs [IP services], and they don't want to put in a router," he said. "If they have more than one or two [IP] customers, they just put in a router, which is the right thing to do."

With IP demand tepid, Ciena is taking time to rework an IP bridging card for its MetroDirector K2 multiservice platform. The card, which performs the functions of an IP router, was completed but would have been expensive. "I didn't think anybody would buy it at the price," Leon said.

Metro-Optix postponed the IP switch fabric for its CityScape MSPP until early 2003, because service providers' attention is pointed more toward Ethernet-over-Sonet, said Dana Hartgraves, the company's vice president of product marketing.

Ethernet typically is cheaper to implement than IP. And while IP might be better for building expandable networks, Ethernet resembles the private-line connections of voice traffic, making the networking model more comfortable for the older carriers, said David Lively, senior manager of optical strategy for Cisco Systems Inc.

Customers aren't asking

Cisco's ONS 15454 does have IP interfaces, but Cisco reports that most carriers are interested in the box's Sonet and Ethernet capabilities. "Customers aren't really asking for IP integration into that box," Lively said.

What MSPP buyers do want is ATM and TDM services, the legacy protocols that drove voice networks. Metro-Optix's initial customers were happy to use the company's CityScape box as a pure TDM system, using the STS-1 (51Mbps) cross-connect that was the first switching card available for the box, Hartgraves said. She noted that Metro-Optix is preparing another TDM card?for switching of 2,688 virtual tributaries ?which is due for general availability at the end of this month. The company also has an asynchronous transfer mode switch fabric that Hartgraves expects to be shipping this week.

The ATM fabric would come in handy for aggregating DSL traffic, a market Hartgraves believes is promising for MSPPs. Currently, Sonet add-drop multiplexers feed DSL access multiplexer traffic onto Sonet rings by reserving an STS-1 of bandwidth per connection; MSPPs would be more efficient, weaving multiple DSL feeds onto each SONET wavelength.

Ciena's Leon likewise sees DSL aggregation as a potential MSPP market. "To my surprise, we've seen a lot of ATM," he said.

? Craig Matsumoto

EE Times

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