• United States
by Steve Taylor and Joanie Wexler

Will forum progress spur Ethernet service availability?

Nov 25, 20032 mins

* Specs emerge for carrier-class Ethernet services

The Metro Ethernet Forum recently ratified the industry’s first specifications for carrier-class Ethernet services, and it expects to nail down a couple more in 2004. Will having common technical specs in place actually help drive service availability?

The forum’s work gives service providers some common ground for deploying services. The Metro Ethernet Services Model, approved last month, defines certain components for building both point-to-point and any-to-any Ethernet services. Among the ratified specs are an Ethernet user-to-network interface (UNI) and Ethernet virtual connection (EVC).

The EVC is somewhat analogous to permanent virtual circuits (PVC) in frame relay and ATM networks. However, because Ethernet is based on a broadcast mechanism, EVCs don’t require the predefined virtual circuit connections between every two communicating points, explains Ralph Santitoro, co-chair of the MEF technical marketing and Web committee and director of network architecture at Nortel.

In a related move, the forum also defined Service Multiplexing, enabling carriers to offer you multiple service instances on one physical port. For example, you could divvy up Internet access, private IP VPN services and connections to a storage service provider over a single connection, each mapped into its own virtual LAN (VLAN). The forum has specified how service providers map each VLAN ID to appropriate EVCs.

Among the forum’s fruits expected next year is a specification governing quality of service (QoS) for Ethernet services. The IEEE 802.1p Ethernet standard only classifies Layer 2 traffic – it doesn’t specify how to treat traffic once classified, explains Nav Chander, MEF marketing committee co-chair and director of product marketing at Coriolis Networks.

We’ve discussed many times in this newsletter the potential benefits of having Ethernet-based services delivered right to your doorstep. For example, you can turn up the speed of your WAN connection quickly and leverage existing equipment and staff expertise.

Still, there is a lack of ubiquitous fiber required for widespread Ethernet services. There are a number of copper-based, fiber-extension infrastructure solutions from equipment vendors, though we haven’t seen any services in the U.S. deployed using them yet.

EDITOR’s NOTE: Due to the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday we will be sending just one newsletter this week. Regular service will resume next week. We wish you and your family a happy Thanksgiving.