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Forum convergence – at last!

Jul 21, 20042 mins

* WAN technology forums finally merge

Even though the focus of this newsletter is typically on voice-data convergence, we can’t let an occurrence last week go by unmentioned. This is the announcement of the planned merger of the ATM Forum with the MPLS and Frame Relay Alliance. And, in our humble opinion, this is a great move that should have been made years ago.

Over the years, we’ve had far too much discussion of whether frame relay, ATM, or, more recently, MPLS, is a “better” Layer 2 protocol. And while these discussions have often been emotionally charged and sometimes entertaining, they really have done little to further the technology. In fact, they have had the primary effect of increasing confusion in the marketplace and actually slowing adoption.

Cooperation among these communities is not new. We’ve had cooperative implementation agreements for interworking between ATM and frame relay for years. Both ATM and frame relay are tightly integrated into MPLS. And the MPLS Forum and Frame Relay Forum already merged a little over a year ago.

Further, the technical differences between the frame relay, ATM, and MPLS are becoming increasingly insignificant as network speeds increase, communications processor speeds increase, and quality-of-service controls are introduced at multiple network layers.

This is a merger that makes sense from all perspectives. It makes sense to avoid duplication of efforts. It makes sense for the member companies so that personnel time – and membership fees – can be consolidated. And it makes sense from the users’ perspective because there will be a more unified approach to Layer 2 networks.

The time for this merger is long overdue, and we applaud the organizations for taking this step. We’ve yet to hear a negative comment, and the only question being asked is, “Why did it take so long?”

In fact, the biggest remaining question is what the name of the newly merged forum will be. If you have great ideas, let us know and we’ll pass them along, using the parlance of Prince, to “The New Forum Formerly Known As The ATM Forum And The MPLS And Frame Relay Alliance” (TNFFKATAFATMAFRA).