Cisco last week rolled out an enhancement to its routing software that's intended to give service providers an alternative to SONET\/SDH for protecting bandwidth.SAN JOSE -\u00a0Cisco\u00a0last week rolled out an enhancement to its routing software that's intended to give service providers an alternative to\u00a0SONET\/SDH\u00a0for protecting bandwidth.Called Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS) Bandwidth Protection, the extension to Cisco's\u00a0IOS\u00a0software uses MPLS Traffic Engineering (MPLS\/TE)\u00a0Fast Reroute\u00a0capabilities, and an application called Tunnel Builder Pro, to increase network bandwidth protection and resiliency. MPLS Bandwidth Protection helps service providers minimize or eliminate nonproductive redundant circuits and offer carrier-class service-level agreements, Cisco says."This gives the customer the ability to much more easily deploy Fast Reroute while preserving the failover of SONET\/SDH," says Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Burton Group. "They no longer have to have links sitting idle waiting for a break to happen."MPLS is designed to provide traffic-engineering capabilities that facilitate network efficiency and reliability, and optimize network resource utilization and traffic performance. Currently, MPLS\/TE computes best available paths.MPLS's Fast Reroute Link and Node protection feature - which is designed to offer protection from link and node failures - doesn't provide networkwide protection by itself, Cisco says.Extensions include the Tunnel Builder Pro application, which computes back-up tunnels for bandwidth protection using an algorithm called Hybrid Optimization. Hybrid Optimization backs up bandwidth irrespective of the number of traffic engineering tunnels in the network, Cisco says.Tunnel Builder Pro, which Cisco developed with Parc Technologies, uses a client-server architecture. The client is an HTML-based Java applet that can run on a standard Web browser, while the server communicates with Cisco routers to configure and monitor them for MPLS\/TE.Another new feature in Fast Reroute Link and Node protection is support for Resource Reservation Protocol Hello packets, which are used as a failure detection mechanism for interfaces other than packet-over-SONET - such as Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet.MPLS Bandwidth Protection already has garnered the interest of one service provider."We have not yet deployed the bandwidth protection capabilities. However, MPLS\/TE with Fast Reroute and offline computation tools such as Tunnel Builder Pro are major components in our current thinking to achieve [quality-of-service]-based traffic optimization across the entire network," says Joe Fusco, director of Private IP Services at Infonet. "We think these technologies would allow for improved ability to manage a multiclass network within statistical QoS targets and aid in resolving performance issues. Infonet is co-authoring an IETF draft that defines the protocol between the routes and such offline computation tools, so this fits in well with our plans."Infonet's hesitancy in implementing MPLS Bandwidth Protection is because of the sensitivity of software upgrades to its network, Fusco says. The service provider recently revised its Cisco IOS software for support of class of service and is cautious about another change at this point.Nonetheless, Infonet says it expects to begin deployment of MPLS Bandwidth Protection next year.Cisco MPLS Bandwidth Protection is available now.