Marconi last week became the latest multiservice core switch vendor to embrace Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS).
Actually, the vendor has been supporting it for while. What Marconi did last week was put a stake in the ground to deliver it across the range of its multiservice switches within a specific time period. Nortel Networks Corp. announced a similar, but more encompassing, strategy a year ago.
Within nine months, all of Marconi's five currently available switch routers will support 10/100M bit/sec as well as Gigabit Ethernet cards for delivering Ethernet services to carrier customers, the company says. Some of these devices already support 10/100M bit/sec Ethernet.
In addition, Marconi's BXR 48000 core switch router, which is in field trials now, will support MPLS switching via OC-3 and OC-192 channelized packet-over-SONET interfaces. Marconi is also developing an OC-192c ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) interface as well, even though competitors such as Lucent and Nortel say there is no market for OC-192 ATM, or that it is too technologically challenging to support ATM segmentation and reassembly at 10G bit/sec.
Marconi's 2.5G bit/sec switch routers, the ASX 200BX and TNX 210, and its 10G bit/sec ASX 1000 and TNX 1100 all support customer-facing interfaces such as time-division multiplexer circuit emulation, frame relay and ATM. Within six months, they will support Gigabit Ethernet ports as well, Murray says.
Marconi's 40G bit/sec ASX 4000 MPLS gateway will support 10/100M bit/sec Ethernet ports this summer and Gigabit Ethernet ports within nine months, Murray says. Currently, it serves as a gateway to MPLS core networks by taking in ATM traffic and mapping it to MPLS label-switched paths, the MPLS equivalent of virtual circuits.
Like other Layer 2 core and edge vendors, Marconi is attempting to enable a graceful, nondisruptive migration to IP/MPLS for its frame relay and ATM customers. Lucent's strategy is to provide "fluid signaling" between its legacy ATM switches and its new MPLS core switch. Fluid signaling, according to Lucent, maps bidirectional ATM permanent virtual circuits into two unidirectional MPLS label-switched paths and vice versa.
Cisco, meanwhile, plans to introduce "core transparency" if and when it ever ships its next-generation core, the MGX 8950. The ATM switch's Route Processor Module includes MPLS Label Switch Controller (LSC) capabilities, which transforms it into an ATM Label Switch Router (LSR) for MPLS cores.
As an LSR, it will control its ATM switch using a Virtual Switch Interface (VSI). VSI is an interface that allows a cross-connect to be established within the switch.
This cross-connect handles virtual circuit setup and teardown, discovers switch configuration, and monitors port and virtual circuit statistics. VSI is also the key for enabling the transition from ATM's Private Network-to-Network Interface signaling to MPLS.
Service providers can use VSI to gradually "groom" services from PNNI to the 8950's LSC, and then use the LSC exclusively when they become familiar with MPLS.
In the multiservice switching market, Alcatel, Lucent and Nortel combined sell more than half the equipment, with Cisco coming in fourth, according to The Yankee Group. As of early 2001, Marconi ranked fifth, Yankee says.