By MEGHAN FULLER
Today's carriers are looking to provide new revenue-generating data services alongside their voice services. However, they are saddled with the traditional "stove pipe" architecture of dedicated networks optimized for each individual service, which leads to the inefficient use of capacity and of course increased capital and operating expenditures. To the rescue is the Multiservice Switching Forum (MSF-Fremont, CA), established in 1998 by founding members Cisco Systems, Telecordia Technologies, and WorldCom to develop open networks that support multiple services on a common network infrastructure.
To that end, the MSF will host two upcoming interoperability tests, which it hopes will promote interoperability and accelerate the commercial availability of next-generation technology.
The Global MSF Interoperability (GMI) event, scheduled to run Nov. 4-15, 2002, will test the MSF Release 1 Architecture Implementation Agreement (IA) using H.248 (the ITU's implementation of MEGACO, or media gateway controller), bearer-independent call control (BICC), and session initiation protocol (SIP) as the main control and signaling protocols.
Interoperability will be tested across three continents, reports Richard Seager, chairman of the MSF technical committee. "We're going to have a lab in the United States, Japan, and England. Each country will support interconnectivity to the other and will be able to run different configurations, both internally and externally across the globe," he adds.
The MSF will be testing five scenario sets, of which four are voice scenarios, including ATM to TDM; IP to TDM; TDM to ATM to TDM; and TDM to IP to TDM. The tests will also include one data scenario, MPLS, which will use RSVP-TE. The MSF will attempt to establish MPLS paths in a multisupplier environment and prove quality of service using three levels of service for virtual private networks.
Prior to the GMI 2002 test, the MSF will host a pre-interoperability event at the University of New Hampshire's InterOperability Lab. The event will run Sept. 9-20 and will be executed in conjunction with implementation agreements in support of H.248 interoperability.
"It will also serve as a preliminary testbed for the interop in which the participants of the GMI 2002 event can show up and almost pre-qualify themselves against test equipment and test scripts that will ensure their implementations are interoperable-to a point," explains Seager.
The MSF is not your typical standards body; it is a consortium of carriers and vendors, including switch manufacturers, software houses, and hardware providers who are tasked with completing their own validation tests (see listing). "There's a difference," says MSF vice president Chris Daniels, "between compliance and certification. The MSF is a self-monitoring activity."
For this reason, the MSF's Release 1 Implementation Guidelines are just that: guidelines. They provide vendors and service providers with realistic expectations based on time and the maturity of the technology.
For the vendors, these guidelines serves as a valuable tool for measuring the degree to which their equipment will be interoperable in a multiservice network environment, says Daniels. "They should be able to read down through [the checklist] and say, 'If I am manufacturing a media gateway, if I want to be in line with where this industry architecture is going, this is the functionality that is realistically available today, and I should make sure that my product is in line with that,'" he explains.
Carriers, on the other hand, can use the guidelines to determine what functions they should be asking for today and what they can reasonably expect in the future, says Daniels. "If I am a service provider and I ask for these requirements, not only can I get something that is real, tangible, that I can do today, but I can also increase my probability dramatically that this equipment is going to have the evolutionary capabilities to get me where I want to be in two, three, five years," he further explains.
Of the MSF's 37 members (at press time), roughly 20% are carriers, yet they are driving the momentum, contends Daniels, who is himself an employee of WorldCom. Other carriers represented include Verizon, British Telecom, NTT, Qwest Communications, and Belgacom.
While GMI 2002 will test such fundamental components as media gateways, controllers, and core switches and routers, the MSF is already thinking about next year, when it hopes to move up the value chain and test feature servers and media servers. In the meantime, though, the forum continues to work on its Release 2 Architecture IA for use with IP core networks.
|Multiservice Switching Forum members|
British Telecommunications plc
Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute
Fujitsu Network Communications
Gallery IP Telephony
National Communications System
Networking Equipment Technologies (net.com)
Next Generation Telephony Solutions (an ECI Telecom company)
University of New Hampshire's InterOperability Lab