Cisco enhances MPLS software for Layer 2

Cisco Systems Inc. recently announced an addition to its Multi-protocol Label Switching software designed to provide a specific amount of bandwidth to any type of Layer 2 traffic destined for an IP core.

The software - called IOS MPLS Bandwidth-Assured Layer 2 Services - combines the company's Any Transport over MPLS (AToM) code with MPLS traffic engineering and quality of service (QoS). This lets service providers offer managed intranets, private voice-over-IP networks, intranet multimedia, networked commerce, 3G wireless and voice trunking services to their Layer 2 access subscriber base, Cisco says.

The software also improves MPLS Layer 2 functions to facilitate network convergence, and includes MPLS Fast Reroute for AToM circuits for enhanced resiliency, Cisco says. QoS prioritization is delivered via IP Differentiated Services bits, while MPLS traffic engineering is designed to better utilize bandwidth by steering traffic onto distinct network paths.

Together these technologies emulate the traditional Layer 2 ATM/frame relay infrastructure and let these services migrate to an IP/MPLS network, Cisco says.

Initial reviews positive

One analyst viewed Cisco's Bandwidth-Assured Layer 2 Service rollout positively.

"Cisco's solution delivers frame relay committed information rate or ATM constant bit rate type of services on IP/MPLS backbones, which is a step in the right direction for the industry," says Rolf Schonhowd, senior analyst at Current Analysis Inc., in a report on the new software. "(It) solves the customer need to guarantee the QoS whatever access technology is used through interworking."

Cisco did not identify a customer that uses the feature now, Schonhowd notes. Although the Bandwidth-Assured Layer 2 services software helps differentiate Cisco routers from those of Avic, Juniper, Laurel and Redback, Cisco continues to charge a premium for its products, he says.

Bandwidth-Assured Layer 2 Services is shipping now in Cisco IOS Software Releases 12.0(24)S, 12.0(25)S and 12.0(26)S. The company says 200 service providers worldwide have implemented its MPLS code since 1999, with half of those having done so only in the past year.

Cisco also unveiled a line card for its Catalyst 4500 switches that the company says lets service providers build lower-cost, fiber-based metropolitan Ethernet networks.

The Catalyst 4500-series 48-port 100Base-BX10-D Bi-Directional Fast Ethernet line card operates over one strand of fiber, providing savings in fiber, cable management and other installation costs, as well as long-term operating expenses, Cisco says. The line card also supports the IEEE 802.3ah standard for Ethernet point-to-point and point-to-multipoint connectivity in first-mile access applications.

The Bi-Directional Fast Ethernet line card costs US$20,000 and is expected to be available in January.

Cisco also announced three security enhancements to its Catalyst 4500 Ethernet switch: Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) Snooping; Dynamic ARP Inspection; and IP Source Guard. These features help prevent subscribers from masquerading as the network's DHCP server, router gateway and other users, Cisco says.

DHCP snooping prevents malicious and misconfigured home routers from taking over a service provider network's DHCP service. IP source guard ties users to their allocated IP address, and dynamic ARP inspection stops subscribers from becoming the router gateway.

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