Largest MPLS demo on tap at Supercomm

The MPLS Forum on Monday will announce that it is conducting the largest Multi-protocol Label Switching interoperability demo to date at Supercomm 2002 in Atlanta next month.

The demo will bring together 21 equipment vendors that went through two weeks of staging MPLS technology, applications and services. The tests, which ran over an RSVP-TE core, included traffic engineering using explicit routes, Layer 3 BGP/MPLS VPN tunnels and Ethernet over MPLS tunnels.

"The aim is to show that MPLS can be used in a network as a core technology that is ready to support services," says Ananda Sen Gupta, chair of the Interoperability Working Group and vice president of marketing for the MPLS Forum. "You can take this technology, deploy it and generate revenue from it."

In the five years since the MPLS working group was formed in the IETF, MPLS has achieved a lot of interest but little implementation. Some believe the success of the technology rests with the regional Bell operating companies, which, in the U.S. anyway, they say hold the balance of power in the telecommunications industry.

With carrier spending way down and the current shake out and consolidation going on among the interexchange carriers and incumbent local exchange carriers, MPLS will likely take even longer to take hold in service provider networks, observers note.

The participating vendors are Agilent Technologies Inc., Alcatel SA, Avici Systems Inc., Celox Networks Inc., Charlotte's Web Networks, L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co., Extreme Networks Inc., Foundry Networks Inc., Ixia Inc., Juniper Networks Inc., Laurel Networks Inc., Lucent Technologies Inc., Mahi Networks Inc., Marconi Corp. PLC, Nettest, Riverstone Networks Inc., Spirent Communications PLC, Tenor Networks Inc., Intel Corp., Unisphere Networks Inc. and Vivace Networks Inc. Cisco Systems Inc. was invited but chose not to participate, according to the forum. Cisco did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The demo will involve 27 devices - 11 core routers and 16 edge routers. Nine companies will demonstrate RFC 2547bis Layer 3 BGP MPLS VPN setup, while another nine will demonstrate Layer 2 Ethernet over MPLS establishment that's consistent with Draft Martini, Sen Gupta says.

Some of the issues that cropped up during the two-week staging were interoperability of the Label Distribution Protocol and of RSVP-TE signaling. There are two flavors of LDP: downstream on demand and downstream unsolicited.

If a vendor supported one but not the other, interoperability would be hampered with a product that supported only the alternative, Sen Gupta says. If products support both, they will interoperate, he says.

The same occurred with RSVP-TE, specifically with the two ways the explicit route object stores router addresses - loopback or interface address. If a vendor supports one and not the other, interoperability will be hampered with a router that supports only the other type, Sen Gupta says.

The interoperability tests did not address MPLS Layer 3 VPN scale or Layer 2 VPN security capabilities, Sen Gupta says. They may be candidates for future tests. But MPLS successfully segregated VPN traffic when a router was a member of two VPNs, Sen Gupta says.

The interoperability test event was conducted by teams from the University of New Hampshire and NetWorld+Interop's iLabs. The staging facility was NetWorld+Interop's Hot Stage Test Facility in Belmont, Calif.

Testing took place in mid-April. The interoperability test specifications for the event were developed by the MPLS Forum's Interoperability Working Group.

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