Marconi opens kimono on MPLS

Marconi Corp. PLC will soon roll out upgrades to its multiservice switch routers to support legacy and Ethernet carrier services over an MPLS core.

In a strategy outlined this week, the company plans to enhance its current multiservice offerings to deliver service quality using Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) technology. The enhancements are expected to emerge over the next nine months.

Within that time, all of the company’s five currently available switch routers will support 10/100Mbps as well as Gigabit Ethernet cards for delivering Ethernet services, the company says. Some of these devices already support 10/100Mbps 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, according to Tom Murray, vice-president of product marketing for Marconi’s Broadband Routing & Switching group. Marconi is developing an OC-192c ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) interface as well, even though competitors like 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 10Gbps.

The total capacity of the BXR 48000 is 480Gbps.

By including MPLS support in its multiservice platforms, Marconi enables its service provider customers to continue offering frame and ATM services while planning an eventual migration to IP (Internet Protocol) without a wholesale swap-out of equipment.

Marconi has been developing and offering MPLS support in its product for some time, but never articulated a cohesive plan, a spokesman said.

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.

Marconi’s 2.5Gbps switch routers, the ASX 200BX and TNX 210, and its 10Gbps ASX 1000 and TNX 1100 all support customer-facing interfaces such as TDM circuit emulation, frame relay and ATM. Within six months, they will support Gigabit Ethernet ports as well, Murray says.

Marconi’s 40Gbps ASX 4000 MPLS gateway will support 10/100Mbps 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.

These Ethernet cards will support IEEE 802.1p and 802.1Q standards that define virtual LANs. The switch software will be able to map these VLANs to MPLS label-switched paths or ATM virtual circuits to support multiple qualities of service over the same Ethernet port, Murray says.

Murray says Marconi can use the ATM switching expertise it gained by purchasing Fore Systems, and the experience gained building switched core networks for UUNet and Cable & Wireless to build MPLS core networks. Service providers need to better manage core IP networks so they use bandwidth more efficiently and keep network core expansions to a minimum, he says.