Metro Ethernet Forum notes "significant" progress

The Metro Ethernet Forum Wednesday said it has made "significant progress" in defining specifications for employing Ethernet as a transport infrastructure and service offering in metropolitan area networks.

At a recent quarterly meeting in Montreal, attended by more than half the forum's 70 member companies, the organization's Technical Committee reached consensus on 16 technical documents and moved them to draft status or beyond. The documents pertain to the following areas: Ethernet services, protocol and transport, management, and architecture.

Among the technical specifications that have progressed since the forum's New Orleans meeting last May are: definitions of Ethernet private line and private LAN services; committed and peak information rates; frameworks for quality-of-service, 50 millisecond protection and user-to-network interfaces; operations, administration and management disciplines for verifying SLAs; and element management system requirements.

The next step, according to forum President Nan Chen, is for member companies to develop products that comply with these specifications and test them for interoperability. The forum is forming an interoperability test group chartered to defining a test suite, which will be distributed among vendors.

The forum also plans to host a public interoperability demonstration early next summer to coincide with a major trade show or conference, Chen says. A staging location for the event has not yet been determined, he says.

The forum does not plan to submit its technical specifications to a standards body, such as the IEEE 802.1 and 802.3 Ethernet working groups. The IEEE's work is to broadly define standard Ethernet technology while the forum is focused solely on applying IEEE standard Ethernet in a metropolitan area network, Chen says.

"No one else is doing this work," he says, adding that the forum and the IEEE have "reached a mutual agreement" not to overlap standards efforts.

Chen also claims the forum's work is "complementary" to that of the IEEE 802.17 Resilient Packet Ring (RPR) working group, which is defining a ring topology for metro networks that is optimized for packet data yet as or more resilient than SONET. Chen says the RPR effort is focused solely defining an alternative to SONET and optical Ethernet as a metro data transport infrastructure, while the forum is focused on defining Ethernet services and merely proposing the LAN technology as a transport option.

Yet, Chen takes issue with assertions from RPR Alliance officials that claim Ethernet requires seconds to recover form network outages even when employing MPLS fast reroute and/or redundant label switched paths, as the forum is proposing.

"They either misled you or they didn't understand what we were doing," Chen says of the RPR Alliance officials that made those claims.

Chen also says three incumbent carriers -- BellSouth Corp., SBC Communications Inc. and France Telecom SA -- have representatives on the board of directors of the Metro Ethernet Forum. The carriers are driving rapid agreement among forum members on technical specifications, Chen says, which may be pivotal in establishing the success of Ethernet in the MAN -- and the forum -- because they'll be the ones buying forum-compliant products.

All three carriers are currently offering metro Ethernet services, Chen says.

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