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Will PBT go away?

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PBT was supposed to be simple.

And it is, according to Fujitsu Network Communications, which today announced that it is now going to push the connection-oriented technology as the “ideal” choice for metro Ethernet transport. (When Fujitsu first unveiled its packet optical platform last year, reportedly winning a place in Verizon’s network not long after, it stressed a focus on MPLS with pseudowires as a more mature technology.)

Wait, I’m sorry -- Fujitsu is saying PBB-TE is the ideal technology, not PBT. Provider Backbone Transport is the name Nortel Networks gave to this technology when the vendor became its initial torchbearer two years ago. When the IEEE began working on a standard for this stuff, they dubbed it PBB-TE for Provider Backbone Bridging - Traffic Engineering.

PBB-TE is a bit of a mouthful, and since most people continued to call it PBT in conversation, I was hoping that popular usage would ultimately trump official appellations the same way we refer to all facial tissues as “Kleenexes” (because when you’re about to sneeze, who has time to say “facial tissue?”).

But equipment vendors are becoming more insistent on this point, and I think if I continue to call it PBT, I’m going to end up getting Punched Between the Teeth. For example, in describing their new support for PBB-TE, Fujitsu called PBT the “pre-standard” version of PBB-TE.

But if the standard isn’t complete yet, isn’t Fujitsu’s version pre-standard, too?

“The PBB-TE standard is scheduled to go to ‘sponsor ballot’ in 1Q09,” Sam Lisle, Fujitsu’s director of market development, told me in an email. “This would be the last step for the standard and aligns with our general availability [of PBB-TE support]. The two major items being worked by the IEEE over the next 9 months are the protection-switching protocol and the management information base (MIB). ‘PBT’ (regardless of vendor) was never a standard and therefore whatever protection-switching capability or MIB that has been available (regardless of vendor) in an existing ‘PBT’ implementation does not match what the eventual standard will become in 1Q09.”

Nortel, which today announced the selection of its metro Ethernet gear by Verizon Telecom for lab-testing (PBT was not involved, though the gear has that capability, leaving room for Nortel to say you never know what Verizon might do over time) said it will “align with the standard,” though it conceded that it’s spent no small amount of time, effort and marketing dollars getting people to ask about “PBT” in particular.

(One side note on that Nortel announcement today. Verizon described it to me this way via email today: “This is an exploration of a new tool for extending the scalability of Ethernet switching in the metro network so that capacities for unique addresses expand enormously. The intent is to apply it only to diversify the metro network. We are committed to VPLS in the Verizon Business backbone network…As customer demand for Verizon's metro switched Ethernet services mushrooms, we are facing capacity issues in our network. The Nortel equipment will be used to augment Ethernet switching capacity in these metro networks.”)

I’ve no doubt folks will continue to call it PBT, because that’s what we’re using to calling it. And vendors will try to train themselves not to say it. And me, I’ll just retain a Petty Bitterness Toward it all.

I think I’m going to need a facial tissue.

E-mail me at

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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