Nortel spreads MPLS across product line

Nortel Networks Corp. said Monday it will implement Multi-protocol Label Switching as a common signaling protocol across its entire optical, wireless and core IP product line.

Implementing MPLS and Generalized MPLS (GMPLS), standards that help steer traffic through IP networks, will reduce operating costs for service providers and facilitate delivery of new, differentiated services, such as optical VPNs and bandwidth on-demand, Nortel says.

“Our view is that we can extend the benefits of MPLS across multiple domains,” such as optical, wireless and voice, as well as data, says Marco Pagani, Nortel vice-president of carrier data networking.

MPLS engineers traffic by “labeling” IP flows and then enabling switches and routers to steer those flows through the network by swapping labels. These “label switched paths” can be used to deliver quality-of-service (QoS) guarantees, define and enforce service-level agreements, and establish private user groups for VPNs.

MPLS can reduce equipment and service provisioning costs, Nortel claims, through its insertion as a hardware or software upgrade into existing equipment. Nortel will add MPLS hardware and software to its line of optical switches, optical Ethernet devices, multiservice switches, core IP/MPLS switch routers, and IP service switches throughout this year.

MPLS is already functional on Nortel’s Passport multiservice ATM switches, and it resides on the company’s Succession packet telephony portfolio, although it is inactive, Pagani says.

As service providers migrate their core infrastructures from ATM to IP, MPLS will be vital for enabling QoS in that core for packet voice and 2.5G and 3G wireless data, Pagani says. It will also be useful in aggregating and adapting multiple services, such as ATM, frame relay and TDM, into IP, he says.

In an IP service and subscriber management switch, such as Nortel’s Shasta 5000 Broadband Service Node, MPLS can be used to help deliver personalized services such as security and QoS. GMPLS will be used as control plane logic in optical infrastructures for dynamically turning up new wavelengths on demand and for coordinating interaction between optical and electrical switches and routers, Pagani says.

For instance, GMPLS will be used by Nortel’s upcoming OPTera Packet Core to provide IP QoS and wire-speed switching of aggregated traffic across the core network. OPTera Packet Core is slated for general availability in early 2002, Pagani says.