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 Wednesday, 02 March 2011

ITU’s recent announcement on an OAM standard for MPLS in transport networks has seen considerable interest, but not always for the right reasons with claims 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.


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