MPLS in three steps

ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode)/IP (Internet Protocol) switch start-up Equipe Communications Corp. has a three-stage plan for migrating Layer 2 ATM cores to Multi-protocol Label Switching.

The company doesn't envision real-time traffic running over Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS) Label Switched Paths (LSP) for several years, however.

The first phase of Equipe's strategy is to buy one of their E3200 switches and scale the current ATM core beyond 25G bit/sec, which is the capacity - or limit - of Lucent's current core ATM offering, the GX 550. (Equipe says with Automatic Protection Switching turned on, the GX 550 actually only delivers 12.5G bit/sec). The E3200 scales to 320G bit/sec.

The second phase would be to migrate non-real time traffic to MPLS LSPs. Constant bit rate and variable bit rate traffic stays in ATM permanent virtual circuits, while unspecified bit rate traffic is mapped onto the MPLS LSPs.

In phase three, real-time traffic is migrated to the MPLS core. Equipe does not envision this phase for four or five more years, however, due to service providers' reliance on ATM for revenue-generating services; the immaturity of MPLS; and the resultant hesitancy among service providers to deploy MPLS.

Equipe plans to keep ATM and MPLS signaling, control planes, and traffic separate and distinct to minimize any service disruption or complexity.

The Equipe E3200 switch, meanwhile, will ship in an ATM-only iteration in the first quarter of 2002, with OC-192. A 10G bit/sec MPLS Interworking processor is expected to ship in the second quarter of 2002.

At Supercomm 2002 next June, Equipe plans to demonstrate MPLS interoperability with Juniper routers. The demo, according to Equipe, will show MPLS LSP establishment between an E3200 and a Juniper M160 with traffic passing over the link, and quality-of-service guarantees maintained. Equipe would not say, however, if this demo link would be carrying real-time, constant bit rate voice or video traffic.

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