Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Avici's Soapstone Develops Abstraction Layer Above MPLS, PBT

Avici Systems has formed a new business unit, called Soapstone Networks , that will offer a network control layer solution that sits between IT-hosted services and network/transport. Soapstone will leverage key industry standards such as ITU NGN, SOA, TMF eTOM, and others, along with open application programming interfaces (APIs) between the network and IT/OSS systems. The Soapstone aim is to map the abstract service needs expressed by the business plane into a simple configuration command set that can be applied to any technology or equipment.

Phase One of the Soapstone product rollout will include the availability of a Provider Backbone Transport Controller (PBTC). Instead of MPLS, PBT uses low-cost Ethernet switching and can link the OSS and network with a simple API. In order for PBT to support automated provisioning and fault management and ultimately control operations costs, it requires a reliable and scalable control plane. Soapstone PBTC is a virtual control plane for PBT, but also one that is compatible with other network technologies such as IP.

Soapstone will deliver a transport abstraction layer above both PBT and MPLS, enabling the migration from already-deployed MPLS networks to PBT.

Soapstone also aims to deliver key capabilities for IMS applications by decoupling IMS from the network, a function IMS recognizes in its definition of a Resource-and-Admission Control Function (RACF). The company plans to support the full ITU NGN RACF capability set, making it compatible not only with IMS but also with emerging FMC applications and even session-based wireline applications including voice and video over IP.

Soapstone registers network elements, selects the optimal transport elements, provisions the network, and monitors the actual characteristics for compliance of a service against a desired behavior.

The Soapstone abstraction layer can create a "virtual resource" that also maps to emerging standards for service management from Telemanagement Forum (TMF) and IPsphere. Soapstone controlled virtual resources can also be integrated with SDP-based features and applications that support IPTV, videoconferencing, SaaS, and other services. By providing a simple and technology-neutral interface for applications to use in brokering network resources, Soapstone facilitates the trend toward application-driven networking.