TMCnews Featured Article
March 10, 2009
IP Infusion's Newest ZebOS Network Platform
By Richard Grigonis, Executive Editor, IP Communications Group
IP Infusion is a top provider of intelligent network software solutions for enhanced IP services. Their advanced control plane software and professional services enable equipment vendors, service providers, and telecommunications and enterprise companies to quickly build and provision many types of value-added IP services around their core routing and switching software technology.
Back in 1995 – long before IP Infusion’s (News - Alert) incorporation in Delaware in 1999 – the company’s co-founder and CTO Kunihiro Ishiguro was working at a large Japanese ISP that was a joint venture between Marubeni and British Telecom. It was building Japan's Internet backbone using standard high-speed routers. Ishiguro felt that what the network needed was a platform-independent BGP (Border Gateway (News - Alert) Protocol, the most popular exterior gateway protocol for IP networks) route reflector that could easily be ported to multiple platforms.
In 1996, Ishiguro joined co-founder Yoshinari Yoshikawa at Digital Magic Labs in Japan to develop platform-independent software for OSPF (Open Shortest Path First, perhaps the most widely-used interior gateway protocol in large enterprise IP networks), BGP, and RIP (Routing Information Protocol, a dynamic routing protocol used in local and wide area networks) for both IPv4 and IPv6.
After building a large community of users of the software, Ishiguro and Yoshikawa recognized the tremendous potential this technology had for use in the market and decided to create a company. With help from initial investments from Bill Tai and T. Peter Thomas of IVP, as well as Michio Fujimura of IT-Farm, Yoshikawa and Ishiguro founded IP Infusion as a U.S. company in October 1999, with headquarters in Silicon Valley.
IP Infusion started out of the gate with a mission of delivering portable, platform-independent network software solutions for Internet equipment and devices. Now headquartered in Sunnyvale, California, it’s a wholly-owned, independently-operated subsidiary of ACCESS Co., Ltd.
IP Infusion is empowering communications equipment manufacturers and service providers to rapidly deliver both next generation IP applications, by providing a set of routing and switching solutions that integrate with embedded operating systems and network processors, and the traffic engineering and quality of service features that are required. These new communications applications include Carrier Ethernet equipment, high-performance edge routing, Voice-over-IP (VoIP), Virtual Private Networking (VPN), Storage Area Networking (SAN), content delivery and management, wireless and mobile networking, security, performance and conformance testers, photonic networking, home networking, and new enterprise network solutions.
The software initially developed by Ishiguro has now evolved into a full set of integrated IPv4, IPv6, and MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching), and multicast routing and switching protocol modules known as the ZebOS Network Platform. IP Infusion develops and markets its ZebOS family of advanced IP routing software, which is based on a unique, modular, multi-process architecture featuring control-plane components that provide route redistribution and conversion, management services, and an OS/processor abstraction layer for routing and switching modules.
ZebOS offers IPv4/IPv6 versions of OSPF, BGP, RIP, and IS-IS routing protocols; PIM-SM for IPv4/IPv6 and DVMRP multicast protocols; MPLS, BGP-VPN, VPLS, RSVP-TE, DiffServ, CR-LDP, and Layer 2 VPN switching and signaling protocols; Spanning Tree, Rapid Spanning Tree, Multiple Spanning Tree, Bridging, VLAN, GMRP, GVRP, Link Aggregation, and Port Authentication Layer 2 protocols; virtual routing, and TCP/IP dual stack support.
IP Infusion’s CEO, Kiochi Narasaki, says, “When we founded the company back in 1999, our first office was in San Jose, California. In March of 2006, IP Infusion was acquired by a Japanese publicly traded company, ACCESS Co., Ltd., a $1.2 billion global provider of mobile content delivery and Internet access technologies. I was Senior Vice President of Corporate Development. I had also dealt with PalmSource, which was a spinoff of Palm Computing, Inc. and in November 2005 became ACCESS Systems Americas, Inc., a subsidiary of ACCESS that develops the Palm OS PDA operating systems. So I did two deals at about the same time. All three companies are embedded software companies. ACCESS ‘lives’ mostly in the mobile world. They offer a mobile browser popular among Japanese and other mobile service providers. ACCESS also does home appliance software.”
“IP Infusion concerns itself with purely the network infrastructure side of software,” says Narasaki. “ACCESS acquired IP Infusion because ACCESS has a hugely strong presence when it comes to the endpoint side devices, such as cell phones, home appliances, PSPs and some of the Nintendo devices. They all run ACCESS embedded software too. So ACCESS had a very strong presence at the endpoints, but it needed an infrastructure presence too. So IP Infusion was a perfect fit.”
“The acquisition of IP Infusion by ACCESS accelerated the convergence of mobile devices, especially when you consider our addition of Carrier Ethernet technology,” says Narasaki. “In fact, ever since IP Infusion was founded, it has served the industry as an independent commercial off-the-shelf networking protocol middleware provider. MPLS was something Cisco Systems (News - Alert) and Juniper came up with for for IP networks which we sometimes amusingly call ‘Layer 2.5’ because it’s positioned between Layer 2 Ethernet-type of technologies and Layer 3, which is where you can find IP. We’re heavily into all forms of MPLS technology. The August 2008 version [7.6] of our ZebOS Network Platform software suite began support for PBB [Provider Backbone Bridge]. Now, in 2009, our version 7.7 initiates support for PBB-TE [Provider Backbone Bridge–Traffic Engineering], so it now provides full support for not only MPLS but Carrier Ethernet as well and all other networking technologies, allowing router and switch OEMs to lower their software engineering costs and reduce time to market in delivering next-generation transport hardware to market.”
“When I started my career, analog crossbar switches were still around,” says Narasaki. “Then something very new called TDM [Time-Division Multiplexing] appeared. Then SONET [Synchronous optical networking] and SDH [Synchronous Digital Hierarchy] multiplexing transport protocols came along for transferring multiple digital bit streams over fiber. And their large concatenated frames could now easily transport newer items such as ATM frames, IP packets, and Ethernet. People thought that ATM would ‘rule the world’, which was completely wrong, it turned out to be IP. All my customers – and my customers’ customers – are still look at and deal with SONET/SDH interworking with IP, as well as ATM. Some of them have sold tons of ATM interfaces to their business customers. So, one of the very unique features found in our ZebOS software suite is that we can cater of interworking between SONET/TDM and IP. We can bridge the new and old network worlds. It’s funny how young people entering our industry have little or no familiarity with TDM communications. I was talking about the SS7 [Signaling System #7] telephone signaling protocols a few days ago and people were asking me, ‘What’s this SS7 thing?’. Some of them just aren’t aware of the older, underlying switching, transport and signaling technologies.”
“With the new version of our software we also support BFD [Bidirectional Forwarding Detection], which enables us to offer more network resiliency,” says Narasaki. “Everyone is talking about High Availability [HA] these days, and non-stop operation. Since version 7.5 – two versions ago – we’ve supported HA features of our solution in terms of the use of nonstop forwarding and the checkpoint mechanisms from Enea (News - Alert) in Sweden which we wrap around our own software. We have a strategic alliance with Enea that combines the HA feature set of the Enea Accelerator Platform with our ZebOS protocol suite to deliver the highest resiliency available in today’s market for Layer 2 and Layer 3 implementations. Moreover, with our support of OpenSAF, an open source project established to develop a base platform middleware consistent with Service Availability Forum (SA Forum), our customers now have options from which to choose. They can go with our Enea-powered or OpenSAF solutions.”
“Last, but not least, we offer a BGP [Border Gateway Protocol] route server as part of version 7.7 of IP Infusion's ZebOS protocol stack,” says Narasaki. “BGP is the Internet routing protocol used by routers to decide where to send packets. Internet routers are supposed to keep, update and exchange BGP-derived route information with each other. But when high-end routers house these activities, it consumes a lot of memory and network overhead. But now, with our separate BGP route server – which can run on an inexpensive server such as an off-the-shelf blade server – routers get some help forwarding packets, since they can access the BGP route information from an inexpensive, BGP route-computing device, and so the route servers don’t have to occupy router slots. This makes the whole network much more efficient and economical.”
Richard Grigonis is Executive Editor of TMC (News - Alert)�s IP Communications Group. To read more of Richard’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Jessica Kostek