Cisco Systems this week introduced a new generation of service provider gear that uses the company's Tag Switching technology to combine the benefits of IP and ATM. Tag Switching is Cisco's implementation of the Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) standard being developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force, which is being embraced by several WAN vendors.
"You're starting to see light at the end of the tunnel for the enterprise buyer," said Frank Dzubeck, president of US consultancy Communications Network Architects.
MPLS will help make possible service provider options such as virtual private networks (VPNs), voice-over IP, and end-to-end quality of service, according to Dzubeck.
Cisco's products were demonstrated last week at the SuperComm show in the US. They include a WAN core switch that uses Tag Switching for IP switching over an ATM fabric, scalable WAN edge switches with a range of interfaces and high port density, and an optical core switch with Synchronous Optical Network (SONet) and ATM capabilities.
The BPX 8650 IP and ATM switch is available now for service provider core networks. Carriers can also upgrade existing BPX 8600 series switches to support Tag Switching.
The MGX 8800 and BPX 8680 are designed for service provider points of presence and central offices and can link customers to the network through VPN, extranet, frame relay, and other services. They are set to ship by the end of the year. The TGX 8750 optical core switch also interoperates with Tag Switching and is scheduled to ship next year.
Analysts and users expressed optimism that MPLS will open the door to high-quality services across multiple carrier networks, but they cautioned that it is still in its infancy.
"You can't say MPLS will enable new services until it can reach to the edge of the network, where customers connect," said Tom Nolle, president of consultancy CIMI. But Nolle said this deployment could happen before the fourth quarter.