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MSFOffersNGNSealofAp

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来源: 作者: 2019-03-13 12:45:35

The Multi Service Forumhasunveiledanambitious plan to help take some of the pain out of next-generation network (NGN) deployments. The Forum wants IP equipment providers to put their technology through a certification process that, it hopes, will provide a seal of approval that carriers will trust and request from their suppliers. (See MSF to Certify NGN Gear.)

The scheme could be useful for operators and vendors alike, but its success will likely be determined by recognition and buy-in from a broad body of carriers and vendors, and not just MultiService Forum (MSF) members.

First, though, let's look at what the MSF is doing, and why.

Global tests to find the best

Until now, the Forum has focused on setting up extensive GMI (Global MSF Interoperability) service and technology tests using the live networks of its major Tier 1 carrier members, including ATT Inc. (NYSE: T - message board), BT Group plc (NYSE: BT - message board; London: BTA), NTT Communications Corp. (NYSE: NTT - message board), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ - message board), and Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD - message board). (See Verizon Wraps Up Interop Tests, Tier 1 SPs Trial IMS, Carriers Line Up for IMS Test, and MSF Claims IP Demo Success.)

Those global tests, which take place every two years, include a broad range of service scenarios based on what the MSF calls Implementation Agreements (IAs). Once those IAs are validated during the tests, they are pulled together to form NGN Guidelines that aim to "provide a coherent framework for the practical implementation of large scale NGNs." The MSF has just unveiled Release 3 of its NGN Guidelines, based on the 2006 GMI. (See MSF Releases NGN Guidelines.)

Now, though, the Forum wants to go a step further by enabling equipment providers to submit their technology for a lab-test-based certification process that will show their products meet specified technical levels that carriers can rely on when building an NGN. The MSF has appointed test house Iometrix Inc. , best known for its work with the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) , as its certification partner.

The RTCP problem

The certification process is starting with a set of pilot tests, involving unidentified MSF members, that will focus on implementations of RTCP (RTP Control Protocol) in residential gateways, access and trunking gateways, media servers, session border controllers, and SIP devices. RTCP provides performance measurement information about RTP (Real-time Transport Protocol) flows, which carry audio and video packets over IP networks.

Variability in RTCP reporting has been identified as a major concern by the MSF's carrier members, BT in particular.

Iometrix will verify the technical components of RTCP in the equipment tested, and measure the accuracy of the reported network statistics generated by the network elements and SIP end points.

"The consequences ofa poor implementation of RTCP can be very damaging in an NGN rollout," stated Bob Mandeville, president of Iometrix, in a media briefing about the scheme. "The statistics RTCP generates are very important."

Chris Gallon, head of systems engineering at Fujitsu Telecommunications Europe Ltd. and a member of the MSF board, notes that RTCP helps to produce vital statistics on jitter and delay, providing real-time analysis of network performance and feeding information into other operational and business systems, such as billing engines.

"We need to be able to trust the RTCP statistics, so we can figure out what's going wrong and why," said Gallon. "If the statistics generated are wrong, it can waste a lot of time and money." The certificates the MSF will award will help carriers to know that the measurements from certified equipment can be trusted and be used to underpin measurement and troubleshooting strategies, he added.

Mandeville noted that, once the pilot phase, which begins in September, is complete and Iometrix and the MSF have developed a complete test process, the first group of certified vendors will be announced in the first quarter of 2008. Then, vendors will be able to register to have their gear tested on a first-come, first-served basis. The cost of each test, which Mandeville claims will "be reasonable," must be met by the vendor, which must be a member of the MSF.

That will limit the field somewhat, as the MSF currently has only about 35 vendor members, though that list does include many of the industry's big names, such as Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU - message board), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO - message board), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC - message board), Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702 - message board; London: FUJ), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Nokia Siemens Networks , Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT - message board), and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063 - message board; Hong Kong: 0763).

Quality counts

So is this certification scheme worthwhile? And is RTCP a worthy place to start?

Heavy Reading senior analyst Joe McGarvey thinks so. "RTP and RTCP certification seems like a fairly intelligent way to get this process started," says the analyst. "Quality is still a big concern for carriers that are moving subscriber services to IP and any effort to improve performance or at least make it easier to track down performance issues is a worthwhile effort."

The scheme maybe limited in what it can achieve initially, though. McGarvey notes that while many of the products being tested in the pilot phase are mature, so ensuring strong participation in the initial certification cycle, "I'm a little concerned that it might be difficult to find a substantial number of SIP endpoints and other CPE products to include in the first round of testing. Product manufacturers looking to receive certification must be MSF members, and it's not clear that the certification process is incentive enough for a smaller company to join the Forum."

Annual MSF membership for companies with revenues of less than $50 million costs $7,500.

Then there's the challenge of wider uptake, says the analyst. "The success of the certification program will be determined, ultimately, by the degree that it is embraced by the overall vendor and, more importantly, carrier community."

MSF president Roger Ward, whose day job is in the CTO's office at BT, said he hopes the process will help boost the MSF's membership ranks, but stressed that's not the aim of the scheme. He also noted that the MSF's carriers are the ones most likely to benefit, as they can get involved in deciding what is included in the certification process. He said it "should be useful to all carriers," but added, "the carriers that put things in will get something out. The ones that stand by the side and just watch may not get as much out of it."

So will BT get something out of this? Ward notes that "it's no accident" that the pilot tests are focused on RTCP -- "BT wishes there was less variability" -- but didn't go as far as to say that BT will demand to see an MSF certificate before purchase orders are signed in the future. He added, though, that "if the pilot scheme is successful, I'm sure it's something that will be looked at in future BT procurement processes."

Fujitsu's Gallon, meanwhile, is confident that MSF certification will turn up as a preference or requirement in carrier RFPs.

And Ward isn't concerned that having just one test firm involved in the certification will be a problem. Asked whether the MSF plans to appoint another test house to help speed up the process and add an element of competition in the process (Iometrix will have a monopoly, after all), Ward replied: "No -- it's not a question of speeding up or doing it cheaper, but rather partnering with a trusted lab to develop and implement a program that is of real benefit to the industry. This takes time and effort, and for the time being at least the MSF is very happy with the relationship with Iometrix as chosen partner."

So what will be the focus of other, future MSF certification programs? Ward says the MSF will be looking at Propositions 2 and 3 in the coming months, while Gallon notes there is "strong interest in other areas, such as SIP interfaces" between equipment in users' homes and the carrier network, "so there may be a push in this area."

The MSF also plans to set up a permanent NGN test bed, with an as yet unannounced partner, so that interoperability and service test scenarios aren't limited to the GMI events. "Two weeks in five carrier labs has its limitations, so we're creating a permanent test bed," said Ward.

Ward noted that the Forum is also preparing for GMI 2008, which will be adding IPTV and Web 2.0 services into the test mix. The outcome of that two-week "Test Fest" will be Release 4 of the NGN Guidelines.

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