IETF Slams ITU Standards Vote

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The IETF has criticised the ITU’s decision to development of its own MPLS management standard for WANs

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has chastised the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for going its own way on standards for the telecoms networks used by service provicers and large enterprises.

Large network operators use multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), a standard the IETF developed in the 1990s, as a protocol-agnostic way of carrying data through virtual paths between network nodes. It uses data encapsulation and labels to allow packets to be passed across various types of transport media, using any protocol.

Bell-heads versus Netheads

MPLS is used to create virtual private networks and can be used to deliver different levels of quality of service for different types of data.It emerged from the data networking world, and now the telecoms operators’ international group, the ITU, on Friday, has agreed to move ahead with the development of its own technology to manage it.

The ITU’s Operations Administration and Maintenance (OAM) standard has appeared independent of the IETF’s MPLS standard, and the ITU’s Standardisation Sector (ITU-T) Study Group 15 has now formalised the move with a recommendation to use the ITU Y.1731 standard for OAM.

Operators such as Alcatel-Lucent, China Mobile, Huawei and Telecom Italia had made unsuccessful efforts to get Y.1731 included in the discussions around the MPLS Transport Protocol (MPLS-TP) standard. Y.1731 has already been implemented in some equipment and has been deployed by China Mobile.

For its part, backers of MPLS-TP such as Cisco and Ericsson have said the MPLS-TP is superior and is backward compatible with MPLS.

The IETF said the ITU’s move will lead to the creation of products that can’t interoperate.

“The Internet we know today could not have come about without open, interoperable, global standards,” said IETF chair Russ Housley in a statement. “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.”

Parallel development

The IETF said it is continuing to gather transport requirements and work to extend IETF MPLS forwarding, OAM, survivability, network management and control plane protocols through its own standards process.

The ITU argued that its decision will give network operators a selection of different OAM tools to choose from to meet their own specific transport network needs.

It said the OAM tools in the ITU-T standard are based on technology from carrier-grade Ethernet services and legacy transport networks, making it easier for operators to upgrade.

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