Sketch - MPLS-TP: Jump too Early or Wait too Late?



MPLS-TP: Jump too Early or Wait too Late?


Mark Lum, Co-Founder and Market Lead, Layer123

Scene 1: Prologue for Convergence

The “soap opera” of MPLS for Packet Transport has received record viewing figures within the industry over the past 5+ years.  The story and plot lines are well-known by now, along with the principal expert characters and a cast of supporting actors, minor stand-ins and extras, plus assorted standardisation bodies and corporate players in their assigned roles.

It has made for fascinating viewing: everyone has their favourite hero and villain – and pages of pre-show speculation and post-show commentary have been written by the critics.  More recently, the ITU-IETF debate has made it onto the front page headlines via the PR agencies (never a good sign, in this sketch-writer’s view).


More worringly, the leading protagonists seem to have now stopped talking to each other...


Even though the final dénouement has yet to be played out, the paying audience is getting restless and looking at the programme: “the debate today sounds like the debate 3 years ago.. didn’t we hear this part before?” they talk amongst themselves - and wonder if this play will ever end happily.



Scene 2: Overture « le Choix »


But what does the big MPLS-TP debate really mean for service providers who have a business to run, with production networks to operate and develop for future needs?  Where can MPLS-TP fit in?  For what applications - and most importantly, when can it fit in?


Delegates at P-OTN Paris this week were treated to a detailed exposition from leading carrier network strategists, standardisation leaders and primary market suppliers.  It made for a fascinating and illuminating session, which I cannot possibly cover here in detail.

The dilemma of technology adoption is common enough… when is the best time for a user to adopt any particular new technology?  Version 1.0 may be unformed, unreliable, expensive, non-standardised and even proprietary – yet waiting for the rough edges to be smoothed off, the wrinkles to be ironed out, and the standards to be debugged and polished may cause the user a different set of problems.


Actually, there is no best time.. the user must decide on the pros and cons and make their choice!  Sometimes (speak it softly) the choice must be made on terms other than technology...

A choice perfectly illustrated by France Telecom-Orange and Telecom Italia who talked at length from a senior position about how they each see the value and application of MPLS-TP in their respective transport networks, and what their strategy is, in this vocally-important area.



Scene 3: « À la maison de l'Homme Français »


Narrator: "Opening with Pierre Combescure’s keynote, a key theme..."  >> More


The audience can see that standards are still evolving and perhaps it is best to wait... FT-Orange exits the stage (left), with an aristocratic air of deploying only fully standardised technology.



Scene 4: « Zut alors! Les Italiens sont Arrivés »


Narrator: "Telecom Italia’s over-arching strategy is..."  >> More


The audience can see that networks are under pressure and perhaps action is best... Telecom Italia exits the stage (right), with a purposeful air and espresso in hand - there is no time to waste!



Scene 5: Finale “Horses for Courses” or “Everything Finds its Place”


Whilst MPLS-TP undoubtedly has many application and use cases, many say it will take time for MPLS-TP standards to be completed, interop-tested and debugged.  Based on historical episodes, it seems a fair expectation to the audience.


We may hear cries of “Shame on you!” (to those operators around the world who deploy pre-standard MPLS-TP), but it seems there is a real risk that TP will not arrive in time to be useful in key applications, depending on operators' particular network programs.  In the principal case of backhaul transport, operators are already using Y.1731 OAM (aka “Ethernet OAM”) to manage end-to-end QoS, and are creating service and operational processes based on that widely-supported toolkit which has been established for a few years already.


Both carriers here – and for sure there are many like both of them around the world – seem comfortable with their choice and view the still-evolving situation with equanimity and composure.

Telecom Italia seems perfectly happy to have selected no fewer than four suppliers meeting its new PTN requirements and aims to begin deployment later this year, looking to stop purchasing SDH equipment shortly after.  It undoubtedly expects to see on-going MPLS-TP updates to keep up with standards developments and evolving requirements ..situation normal, we might say.

France Telecom-Orange, perhaps with the famous “Gallic shrug”, will carry on rolling out its IP/MPLS aggregation, and is evaluating the use of Y.1731 OAM for backhaul transport.  It will surely look to use new MPLS-TP technology once it has become available in a fully-standardised fashion – and when the carrier determines an advantageous application ..situation normal, we might say.

Jump too Early or Wait too Late?  It’s your choice!


« to be continued... »



(any errors and/or omissions are the author’s, please also refer to speakers’ original presentations)