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Better Collaboration Means Big Strides For 5G Transport Network Interoperability Testing


New transport network interoperability tests set the stage for multi-vendor 5G network service and data center deployments across services and use cases. Vendors from 17 companies are cooperating to test state-of-the-art technologies.

5G network services, data center networking evolution, and multi-vendor domain orchestration rely on underlying Layer 2-3 transport networks to operate. These networks use a growing and complex system of protocols and signaling, such as SDN, MPLS-SR, SRv6, EVPN, VxLAN, and clock synchronization. Since these networks are often built by different vendors, ensuring interoperability and maturity is essential for successful deployment.

Throughout March, Spirent teamed with 16 vendors to validate the interoperability and integration of state-of-the-art telecom transport network technologies at the annual MPLS SDN interoperability test event. Over 80 global participants showcasing nearly 100 devices jointly executed extensive tests at the vendor-neutral European Advanced Networking Test Center (EANTC) lab in Berlin. EANTC provides a unique opportunity for vendors to collaborate, identify discrepancies, discuss results, and contribute to standards for the transport network ecosystem. Most important results were revealed live at Upperside's MPLS SD & AI Net World Congress 2023 in Paris in April and have been fully published in EANTC’s 64-page test report.

The annual event represents a prime opportunity to test and troubleshoot interoperability with third-party vendors in a neutral pre-production environment for better quality and acceleration of next-gen network implementations.

Multi-vendor testing advancing quickly

Driven by new network and feature requirements, the packet transport market has seen the continued introduction of MPLS and SDN/Segment Routing innovations. The resulting complexity and need for backward compatibility have expanded the number of test plans aimed at validating the performance and maturity of transport network solutions.

At the EANTC event, vendor engineers collaborated to perform more than 60 interoperability test cases, resulting in more than 1,230 test results. The event showcased the successful implementation and interoperability of these technologies in multi-vendor environments, covering various services and use cases.

Notably, this year’s event featured the first implementation of µSID and SRv6, Flex-Algo and FAPM in OSPF segment routing, and the use of virtualized devices for time synchronization.

The latest innovations tested spanned:

  • EVPN (Ethernet Virtual Private Network) in support of network slicing, fast convergence, load balancing, and multi-path forwarding—all critical for high availability and efficient use of network resources in data centers and 5G networks. The tests focused on IPv6 support for both underlay and overlay and tunnel stitching with VXLAN and were conducted successfully with no packet loss.

  • SRv6 and SR-MPLS (Segment Routing) to provide network performance guarantees and efficient use of network resources. The first implementations of SRv6 and multi-vendor interoperability of micro-segment IDs (µSIDs) were successfully tested. Multi-vendor SR-MPLS tests of network slices confirmed end-to-end slicing in the transport domain is possible for 5G workloads. Failover scenarios with TI-LFA were accomplished in less than 35 milliseconds and 400G ZR tests showed multi-vendor 400G connections able to carry segment routing services.

  • SDN (Software-defined Networking) to separate network control from the data plane and simplify network management. The testing focused on key protocols and use of SRv6 and SR-MPLS as data planes. Multivendor support was demonstrated for standardized OpenConfig models for L2 VPN and L3 VPN provisioning services.

  • Time Synchronization tests focused on 5G and Open RAN requirements, including virtualized devices, ITU Class C and D clock requirements, and Open Fronthaul synchronization. Participants achieved 100 ns precise synchronization regularly, and as low as just 5 ns in some optimal multi-vendor test cases. Enhanced SyncE was tested for the first time. It reduced the time to frequency synchronization lock and extended holdover times. A chain of seven boundary clocks proved that precise synchronization is possible in long chains.

Advancements in these networking technologies have significantly improved the efficiency, flexibility, and scalability of modern networks.

Driving the industry forward

For many years, Spirent has been an important part of the transport network ecosystem, providing essential multi-device emulation required for easy and fast lab testing. At EANTC, our test solutions have been valuable for traffic generation, verifying end-to-end data throughput, and inspecting packet loss, sequencing, latency, and convergence time.

At this year’s event, Spirent worked simultaneously with multiple vendors, executing 91 test cases in the SRv6 and EVPN areas. We participated in many SRv6 mSID control-plane and data-plane end-to-end solution tests across:

  1. Transport plane. SRv6 (µSID), SRv6-TE (µSID), SR-MPLS, VXLAN

  2. Service plane. EVPN over SRv6 (µSID) for VPLS, VPWS dual-home and single-home and EVPN over L3VPN using route-type 5, VXLAN-EVPN using EVPN route type 2 and 5

  3. Network slicing. SRv6 Flex-Algo, SRv6 policy-based routing and µSID locator summarization

  4. Timing and synchronization. Class C and Class D T-BC

Spirent also brought the latest test and validation solutions to the EANTC hot stage for interoperability testing, including Spirent’s A1 400G 16-port appliance, the industry’s high-performance and highest-density QSFP-DD platform.

Spirent’s continued participation is helping to create a truly interoperable ecosystem.

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Boris Henning

Senior Systems Engineer, Spirent

Boris Henning is a Senior Systems Engineer at Spirent, focusing on solutions and services related to fixed and mobile networks, Layer 4-7 application and security testing, and test- and lab-automation. Boris works with the Sales team and customers to define, support, and execute test methodologies, as well as provide technical training and support with product demonstrations at tradeshows and events.