MPLS finds its way deeper into access services

Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) has quietly proven to be a hit in big carrier networks. AT&T Corp. and WorldCom Inc. have used the traffic engineering technique to essentially turn their frame relay networks into IP VPN look-alikes, as we've reported in stories about AT&T's IP-Enabled Frame Relay and WorldCom's Business Class IP, recently renamed Private IP Services.

But now MPLS is seeping into smaller carriers, particularly through integrated-access services that avoid the old dichotomy between time-division multiplexing and ATM.

For example, a carrier and premises equipment start-up in Chelmsford, Mass., is employing Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) to find a niche among new local carriers who want to sell voice and data over IP.

Like numerous other vendors, the start-up, called Integral Access Inc., pairs access aggregation gear for service-provider points of presence with a diverse set of integrated-access devices (IAD) for the customer premises.

But the trick for Integral Access is that all its devices support MPLS, which separates forwarding information from IP headers to create multiple virtual private networks - each distinguished by the application's sensitivity to latency or other network performance factors.

Integral's flagship product is the PurePacket Node, a chassis-based multiservice access concentrator for central offices, collocation sites and common wiring closets. The PurePacket Node combines the functions of an IP voice gateway, digital cross-connect and SONET multiplexer.

For the customer premises, Integral offers the PurePacket OUTburst-SB suitable for a site with a single T-1 access line. Using dynamic bandwidth allocation of the voice and data packets, the device can deliver 24 simultaneous voice calls plus up to 500K bit/sec of data over the T-1. It also provides key IP routing capabilities such Network Address Translation (NAT) and acts as a Dynamic Host Control Protocol (DHCP) server.

Integral also offers a smaller IAD called the OUTburst-Vx and a data-only device called the OUTburst-Dx. Those boxes are suitable for DSL and multiple dial-up access lines.

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