[AfrICANN-discuss] Internet interoperability in doubt as ITU & IETF split over MPLS standards

Anne-Rachel Inné annerachel at gmail.com
Tue Mar 1 16:58:37 SAST 2011


Internet interoperability in doubt as ITU & IETF split over MPLS standards

By Stuart Corner
Tuesday, 01 March 2011 16:04

Business IT - Networking
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The Internet Engineering Taskforce (IETF) and the International
Telecommunication Union (ITU) have decided to go their separate ways
in the development of standards for multiprotocol label switching
(MPLS): a move that the IETF warns could jeopardise the future
interoperability of the Internet.

The IETF has announced plans to continue "to gather transport
requirements and work to extend IETF MPLS forwarding, operations
administration and maintenance (OAM), survivability, network
management, and control plane protocols."

This announcement comes on the heels of a decision taken at the ITU on
25 February to move ahead with parallel technology development for OAM
in MPLS transport networks.

According to IETF, "This step, over time, will affect the flow of
Internet traffic, as separate standards will lead to products that are
not able to interoperate." It described the split between the two
organisations, which have a long history of technical collaboration,
as being "without precedent."

Russ Housley, IETF chair, said; "The Internet we know today could not
have come about without open, interoperable, global standards. I am
surprised and disappointed by the action taken by the ITU.
Collaboration on MPLS transport profile specifications have taken
longer than expected, but the result is quality specifications, and
many vendors are implementing them."

Lynn St Amour, president and CEO of the Internet Society, added: "This
action takes us away from the path of global interoperability. It will
have a detrimental effect on the long term health of the Internet, and
reduce the benefits to all of us as users.

In what it said was "a big step towards leveraging existing MPLS
deployment in transport networks," the ITU said it had agreed first
stage approval of a key new standard that would "give network
operators the tools necessary to manage large scale deployments of
MPLS-based networks."

According to the ITU, "Network operators will now have a choice of OAM
(operations, administration and maintenance) tools to best meet their
specific transport network requirements. These OAM tools in the hands
of network operators will, in particular, allow quick detection of
defects and fault isolation."

It explained: "MPLS is widely embraced in backbone networks as a way
to speed up routers. The OAM tools in the ITU-T standard are based on
technology proven in carrier grade ethernet services and legacy
transport networks, making it easier for operators to upgrade. In
addition to reducing labour costs, network operators will see
significantly reduced capital expenditure (capex) costs given that the
standard allows for more efficient allocation of bandwidth."

However, according to IETF "If both technologies are deployed, it is
likely that there will be confusion; if only one is deployed, the
existence of the alternative is irrelevant. In this instance, there
are believed to be commercial products in development for both
proposals, so confusion appears inevitable."

The IETF blamed the split on "Certain [ITU] members [that] chose to
develop this competing technology in the ITU…instead of just one as
recommended by the [ITU & IETF] Joint Working Team."

MPLS is a networking standard, created by the IETF, that assigns
labels to data packets, which can then operate across multiple
different protocols. Forwarding or switching decisions for MPLS
packets from one network node to another are made on the basis of the
label (ie without requiring equipment to examine the packet's content)
facilitating easy to create end-to-end circuits.

MPLS is commonly used to create virtual private networks (VPNs), and
it can be used to deliver different levels of quality of service (QoS)
for different types of data. It is also gives service providers
flexibility in routing; for example, to avoid broken links or

The IETF defined the MPLS specification, as part of the overall
Internet technology specifications, which include the Internet
Protocol version 4 (IPv4) and Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6).

This article first appeared in ExchangeDaily, iTWire's daily
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