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

Alexander.Ntoko at itu.int Alexander.Ntoko at itu.int
Wed Mar 2 13:54:10 SAST 2011

Dear All,

You might have read in the press the recent ITU-T SG 15 decision on MPLS-TP transport networks. 

ITU's recent announcement <http://www.itu.int/net/pressoffice/press_releases/2011/03.aspx>  on an OAM standard for MPLS in transport networks has seen considerable interest, but not always for the right reasons with claims <http://isoc.org/wp/newsletter/?p=3287>  from the Internet Society that it will jeopardize the Internet. 

Experts cast doubt on ISOC's statement: "... ongoing evolution along this path will jeopardize the ... Internet".  

They point to the fact that several interoperability tests have been successfully performed with no reported problems. In addition the solution being proposed by ITU conforms to the MPLS-TP architecture as defined by the IETF. When network equipment uses different protocols, interoperability of the functioning of that protocol, in this case OAM, may well be affected. However, since packets for different protocols are identified by pre-assigned different codepoints, protocols running behind these different codepoints will not interfere with each other. This means that the core functionality - in this case Internet traffic - will not be affected. Therefore various protocols can coexist without causing any confusion in the network. 

It is also important to understand who has contributed to this standard (draft Recommendation ITU-T G.8113.1) and why. The membership of ITU is made up of representatives from over 700 private sector companies (including most major ICT companies) and 192 Member State governments. In general technical work such as that being discussed here is undertaken by the private sector members. This solution was called for by a majority of the ITU membership in SG15 that has grown frustrated with a lack of progress in the development of a standard which is necessary to meet a market demand. Given that there are over 100,000 MPLS Transport Profile nodes already in transport networks, it is essential that the corresponding OAM toolset is standardized. 

As background, in 2006 ITU started work on standards on T-MPLS, which leveraged a sub-set of MPLS that was targeted specifically for application in the transport network. However, in late 2007 the IETF indicated that T-MPLS may be in conflict with IP/MPLS.  The ITU suspended work on T-MPLS and in 2008 agreed to work in cooperation with the IETF on the evolution of MPLS to meet the needs of the transport network. It was anticipated that the five existing Recommendations on T-MPLS would be replaced by mid 2009 with MPLS-TP Recommendations following within a year.

However some of the IETF input (RFCs) required to move forward were not made available and are currently still pending following the unilateral disbanding by the IETF of its group assigned to work with ITU in September 2009. 

ITU has issued a formal request for the necessary codepoints from IETF as these codepoints are currently administered by ICANN/IANA and can only be issued by IETF. 

ITU collaborates and coordinates, in good faith and on the basis of reciprocity, with other relevant organizations in the development of IP networks to ensure maximum benefits to the global community, in accordance with the decisions of the 2010 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference. However, this should not lead to a situation where the ITU fails to deliver on its commitments to its own membership.


Alexander NTOKO 
Head, Corporate Strategy Division 
International Telecommunication Union (ITU) 
Place des Nations 
CH-1211 Geneva 20 
Email: strategy at itu.int 
Web: www.itu.int 
Tel:  +41 22 730 5525 
Fax: +41 22 730 6453 



-----Original Message-----
From: africann-bounces at afrinic.net [mailto:africann-bounces at afrinic.net] On Behalf Of Anne-Rachel Inné
Sent: mardi, 1. mars 2011 15:59
To: africann at afrinic.net
Subject: [AfrICANN-discuss] Internet interoperability in doubt as ITU & IETFsplit over MPLS standards


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 failures.

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 newsletter for telecommunications professionals. Register here for your free trial.
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