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Startups Explore Realm Between Edge And Core

CHICAGO — The no man's land where edge access meets core transport is fertile ground for ideas on how to get data-aware Sonet, Gigabit Ethernet and multiprotocol label-switched (MPLS) traffic flows to work together. Scores of OEMs and startups at Supercomm 2004 this week will be busy seeding this field in an attempt to lower the cost of the edge boxes while enhancing their service capabilities.

To enable this new generation of converged networks and services, equipment vendors are relying on such maturing encapsulation techniques as generic framing procedure (GFP) and virtual concatenation. They are also incorporating newer concepts that stretch MPLS from a core-networking to a metro edge-based technology.

This is hardly a safe haven for startups, but Mangrove Systems, Turin Networks and Mahi Networks are among the young companies combining elements of fiber transport systems and multiservice provisioning platforms for this murky realm between edge and core.

"The maturation of Sonet data encapsulation methods like GFP and virtual concatenation really made a difference," said Jonathan Reeves, founder of Mangrove Systems Inc. Mangrove had been dropping hints in recent months about its interest in GFP over passive optical, in pseudo wire emulation of services over Internet Protocol (IP) flows and in GFP as a road to the long-awaited generalized MPLS (G-MPLS). All of these goals center on a metropolitan redefinition of MPLS, which is commonly seen as a core-related switching standard for IP flows, Reeves said. Mangrove's larger Barracuda and smaller Piranha platforms implement what the company calls MetroMPLS, extending the utility of the switching to access systems based on either Sonet or Ethernet.

This implies the end of segregation between multiservice Layer 2 switching functions and transport functions at Layers 0 and 2, Reeves said. That proposal will find little dissent at Turin Networks Inc. or Mahi Networks Inc., which claim their new expanded systems must span switching and transport to be effective.

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