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The Power of Standards

By Wenshan, Linhongji, Mengke, Network World

First-class enterprises set standards, and standards makers are often leaders in their industries. In the ICT industry, Huawei has made remarkable progress through its participation in international standards-development efforts.

The Chairmen of the World Standards Cooperation (consisting of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)) made the following remarks in their speeches for this year's World Standards Day:

"Systems, products and services perform as we expect them to because of the essential features specified in international standards."

"Interoperability creates economies of scale and ensures that users can obtain equal service wherever they travel. Therefore, international standards benefit consumers, manufacturers and service providers alike. Importantly, in developing countries, international standards accelerate the deployment of new products and services and drive economic development."

"International standards create this confidence by being developed in an environment of openness and transparency, where every stakeholder can contribute."

After years of effort and output in international standards, Huawei has successfully turned itself from a follower to a leader. By the end of 2011, Huawei has won positions in 148 standards organizations, held key positions in more than 150 standards organizations, and has proposed more than 23,000 standards in total.

Significance and Values of Standards

It is sometimes said that first-class enterprises set standards, second-class enterprises build brands, and third-class enterprises produce products. Standards makers are often leaders in their industries. From early years of Huawei, Huawei has been strongly aware of the huge value and benefits that standards can bring.

On the Huawei 2011 Standards Experts Tour held in September 2011, Luo Zhong, director responsible for industry standards affairs at Huawei, discussed the importance of industry standards both for equipment vendors and customers. "For equipment vendors, standards will ensure that they can enter markets without difficulties concerning patents and standards compliance. Due to equipment interconnection and interworking, and open technologies and solutions, it is easy for equipment vendors to learn industry requirements, construct ecological systems, boost brands, and establish industry leadership. For customers, standards ensure equipment interconnection and interworking, innovation and intellectual property, technology sharing, and industrialization, and prevent a single manufacturer from dominating the market."

Professor Li Xing, Ph.D. supervisor and deputy director of the Network Research Center, Tsinghua University, stated, "The highest achievement an enterprise can make is to develop standards, through which the enterprise can influence the technology development direction of an industry."

Dr. Wu Dongya listed the following advantages for vendors participating in international standards development:

(1) Direct access to international markets;

(2) Influence on standards through participation;

(3) Better brand influence;

(4) Less patent risk and lower cost.

In summary, standards are the cornerstone of economic development. Standards simplify and unify production and services, promote large-scale production, reduce cost, enhance efficiency, and push modern economic development. Standards can be effectively integrated with laws and policies to adjust the industry direction and phase out outdated industries. Standards are common languages in international trade and important tools to promote business development and global economy prosperity.

Maintaining an Open Attitude

On November 7, 2010, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) held its 79th meeting. In this meeting, Huawei was the second largest equipment vendor in terms of its involvement and the number of participants. Today in the IETF, Huawei holds one position on the Internet Architecture Bulletin (IAB), one Area Director (AD) position, has more than 10 chairs in Working Groups (WG), and has 121 standards compilation editors. Huawei is a major player in pushing the development of IP technology standards for our industry.

Dr. Wu Dongya, director of the Informatization and System Department, Information Technology Research Center, China Electronics Standardization Institute (CESI), pointed out, "Countries join in international standards development in different ways. Europe and Japan have international standards systems similar to the ISO and the IEC and directly partake in international standards development. The USA and other countries carry out activities in loose forms, such as enterprise alliances or associations (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and IETF) and submit their standards to formal organizations like ISO for internationalization only when the standards are mature."

"Generally, large enterprises play the main role in standards development and some universities take part. A company with developed standards has more influence over international standards development. If an enterprise holds a dominant position in a standards organization, its personnel can serve as chairpersons or sponsors in a technical committee and persistently track developments in this field. They are familiar with technologies, engage in regulation development, and have great influence over standards development."

On September 15, 2011, Huawei planned and held The Huawei 2011 Standards Experts Tour China. The purpose was to encourage enterprises to learn and participate in international standards development and share their professional ideas and latest research achievements with international standards experts. Six world-class standards experts joined this activity. The Huawei experts that participated were Chuck Adams (former Vice President and Director of the IEEE), Susan Hares (chairperson of the IETF IDR), Donald Eastlake (chairperson of the IETF TRILL WG and the IETF PPPEXT WG), Linda Dunbar (chairperson of the IETF ARMD), Ben Mackcrane (editor of the IEEE802.1 & ITU-T), and Robert Sultan (editor of the IEEE802.1 and IEEE802.17). As both international standards experts and Huawei senior engineers, they hold dominant positions in the international standards development of their respective fields.

On enterprises' participation in standards making, Professor Li Xing pointed out, "There should be staff persistently tracking relevant fields, including joining email discussion groups, submitting drafts online, and attending three major annual meetings, These meetings are indeed processes of communications."

Companies need to adopt an open attitude towards working with other companies when participating in standards development. Linda Dunbar, chairperson of the IETF ARMD and Senior System Architect for Huawei's Data communications Product Line commented, "An enterprise must comply with international market rules before entering new markets to expand international market share. If the enterprise has not been active in standards work it may be met with resistance to new standards from competitors in the industry. Huawei adopts an open attitude and works jointly with international peers in discussing problems in protocols and standards. In addition, when launching its products and solutions, Huawei attaches great importance to the interoperability of its equipment with that of other vendors in the industry and the creation of a solution ecosystem. For example, Huawei owns numerous patents in 3GPP standards, the maturity of which enables wide application of the 3G (fully developed at present) in global markets."

Dealing with Overlapping Standards

At the Network World Conference 2011 and the 10th Ethernet World Conference hosted by the Network World, Patricia Thaler, Chairman chairperson of the IEEE 802.1 Data Center Bridging Task Group, pointed out that given the explosive traffic growth in data centers, 40 Gbit/s uplink traffic would become dominant and 100 Gbit/s uplink traffic would be in application gradually. According to Patricia Thaler, the traditional Ethernet Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) cannot support next-generation data center networks that are high density, virtualized or converged, or support automatic network management. The industry is in urgent need of new technical standards for constructing a flattened network (Layer 2 Ethernet) for data centers to support this transformation.

To overcome the restrictions of traditional STP, the IETF issued the Transparent Interconnect of Lots of Links (TRILL) protocol and the IEEE released the Shortest Path Bridging (SPB) protocol. Both achieve the same purpose: simplified and interconnected data center networks.

At the very beginning of the data center network revolution, Huawei has been heavily involved in standards development. Huawei supports the development of multiple standards, even those standards overlap, and allows the market to determine which should be used. As Linda Dunbar put it, "Huawei deeply understands that neither the IETF nor the IEEE standards can provide all functions required by users. As always, Huawei adopts a balanced policy for standards in dispute and standards that can coexist and tries to provide products supporting both. Situations such as these, Huawei will support the development of both standards and allow end-customers to make choices that best fit their business. Huawei believes that standards should be open protocols to help develop the enterprise ecosystem and make it easier for enterprises to deploy technology from a variety of vendors. "

Developing standards is quite a challenging task. You must focus on and integrate various technologies and ultimately provide users with an effective solution to achieve success in the marketplace.

Participation in international standardization efforts is part of Huawei's global strategy. Huawei has hundreds of employees dedicated to global and regional standards and has set up standards teams in the US, Europe, and China. Huawei has invested heavily in standards related to wireless, wired, access, and other network fields. For example, in the IP standards field, Huawei has joined many international standards-defining organizations, such as IETF and BBF and has made remarkable contributions to these organizations. Huawei is a leader in driving several associated mainstream standards.

Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links (TRILL) and Shortest Path Bridging (SPB) protocols share the same purpose: simplifying data center networks and making these networks interoperable. The two protocols have different implementation modes. SPB originates from telecom carriers' Ethernet networks, while TRILL derives from enterprise data centers. Therefore, telecom carriers tend to opt for SPB but data center users prefer TRILL. Network administrators who are quite familiar with switches find SPB rather easy to master, while those who have a deep understanding of routers consider TRILL to be easy to grasp. TRILL applies to legacy equipment that enterprises are using. SPB are more suitable to legacy bridge equipment that telecom carriers are using. Additionally, TRILL is quite appropriate for large-scale networks.

Huawei has always been customer-centric and standards-focused. Although many companies may have launched their own private solutions, Huawei actively supports both TRILL and SPB to help customers simplify their data center networks and make their networks interoperable.

The development of TRILL standards began about six or seven years ago. Now, the basic protocol has been finalized. The basic principles regarding TRILL are to implement Layer 2 interoperability, carry virtual Local Area Network (LAN), terminate routes, and maintain Layer 2 attributes. Huawei has played an active role in developing TRILL standards. Following the completion of the basic protocol, several new TRILL tasks are now being introduced, including developing multi-tenant protocols and ensuring reliable transmission on OEM.

To flatten network architecture, Huawei proposes Layer 2/Layer 3 flat network architectures over a unified platform to meet different service requirements of customers. Rather than promoting private and closed systems, Huawei insists on developing open standardsbased solutions and works with industry stakeholders to drive the development of data center networks by taking advantage of the mature Ethernet ecosystem.

IEEE working groups has voted SPB, a hot technology for data center networks, on. SPB standards are expected to be released in March 2012 after another two rounds of voting by sponsors. As virtualization and cloud computing are developing quickly, the industry is in urgent need of new standards to construct a flat (large Layer 2) data center network. SPB and Equal-Cost Multi-Path Routing (ECMP) can create an efficient Layer 2 fabric architecture for data centers, thereby improving the Virtual Machine (VM) mobility and network resource utilization. Currently, Huawei has conducted three rounds of interoperability testing (IOT) with Alcatel-Lucent and other SPB-enabled vendors. The testing results show that SPB solutions from Huawei and other vendors can interoperate well.

802.1Qbf PBB-TE, designed to provide end-to-end protection for Traffic Engineered Service Instances (TESI), has been incorporated into 802.1Q-2011. The 802.1Qbf PBB-TE diverts all TESIs passing through a common link or a series of links (functioning as the infrastructure segment) to a backup infrastructure segment. This prevents frequent peer-to-peer TESI protection swapping. 802.1Qbf PBB-TE has been voted on by sponsors and will soon be released.

SPB deployments in data centers will drive Provider Backbone Bridging (PBB) rollouts, because PBB is the basis and prerequisite for SPB applications. PBB easily expands the scale of data centers, while SPB improves the availability of data centers.