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Nortel MPLS Plans Could Streamline ISP Costs

Nortel Networks Monday unveiled plans to extend multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), from its current existence on data networks to the rest of the Internet, in an effort to streamline costs for ISPs and enable the creation of new, differentiated services like optical Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), bandwidth trading and bandwidth-on-demand.

MPLS simplifies and improves IP packet exchange, and gives network operators the ability to divert and route traffic around link failures, congestion and bottlenecks.

Nortel said its end-to-end approach will drive a new generation of MPLS from the optical backbone through core IP and wireless networks. Traditionally, MPLS has been confined to IP networks, where it has been used for specific functions like traffic engineering. Nortel plans to take MPLS to a new evolution, using it for service provisioning, network evolution and network efficiency.

"Next generation MPLS will fundamentally address the most difficult challenges in the network today," said Anil Khatod, chief marketing and strategy officer, Nortel Networks. "For today's service providers, it is both costly and time consuming to create and provision new services. And end users are unable to get the services and guaranteed 'levels of service' they are willing to pay for. Nortel Networks next generation MPLS will address these issues."

Next generation MPLS is a series of protocols that define how traffic moves through a network. The company said it will incorporate the protocols into software and hardware on a variety of devices, from optical switches and Optical Ethernet, to multiservice switches, core IP/MPLS switch routers and IP service switches.

Nortel said its next generation MPLS will:

  • Reduce capital and operational costs by simplifying the network and network operation
  • Enable creation of differentiated services like optical VPNs, bandwidth trading and bandwidth-on-demand
  • Speed provisioning of those services from months to seconds
  • Enable service providers to deliver service level agreements Preserve capital investment in existing equipment.

MPLS brings important benefits to each type of network, according to Nortel.

The company said that by leveraging MPLS in its OPTera Connect intelligent optical switches, it will provide optical network customers with "massive optical capacity and fully customized service options on-demand, virtually anytime, anywhere." Furthermore, MPLS utilized in its Optical Ethernet solutions can provide scalable, standards-based Virtual Private Ethernet services, simplifying end-user connectivity while providing a simpler and more flexible vehicle for value-added services.

In the realm of wireless networks, Nortel said it will offer service providers a standards-based MPLS evolution plan for 2.5 and 3G rollout, evolving from an ATM core to IP/MPLS and all-optical networks. Nortel said this strategy will call only for incremental investment as opposed to the high capital cost of wholesale platform replacement and service disruption stemming from equipment replacement.

Finally, the company said next generation MPLS will bring new value to existing data networks, with switches that will allow service providers to deploy high-margin data services over a cost-effective MPLS infrastructure.

"MPLS will manifest itself in all areas of our high-performance Internet strategy," Khatod said. "It's not just about making the high-performance Internet better for users. It's also about fundamentally changing the economics for enterprises and service providers, with the goal of increasing their profitability and enabling new, revenue-generating services."

Nortel's plans for MPLS have already won some converts. Cable & Wireless recently completed a trial of Layer 2 services over MPLS on Nortel's Passport 15000 multiservice switch and now plans to deploy it on its existing Passport equipment.

"By deploying MPLS on our existing Nortel Networks Passport equipment, we will be able to deploy new services -- as well as our current, revenue-generating data services -- over a more cost-effective infrastructure," said Jeff Young, vice president of network engineering for Cable & Wireless. "We believe that MPLS is a key technology for building tomorrow's network, while preserving today's investment. Nortel Networks' strategy will enable us to realize our vision of a consolidated global network for delivery of revenue-generating services."

Scott Clavenna, president of PointEast Research, an optical Internet consulting firm, concurred that next generation MPLS will allow for rapid, cost-effective deployment of new services.

"Taking MPLS across data, optical and wireless networks will enable service providers to offer new services quickly and cost-effectively," he said. "Implementing MPLS across all major product categories -- including optical switches, Optical Ethernet, multiservice switches, IP service switches and core MPLS routers -- reflects the breadth and importance of MPLS in next generation networks."