Metro Ethernet services have gotten off to a bit of a rocky start, making just $340 million in U.S.\/Canadian service revenue in 2002, according to Infonetics Research.One obstacle, of course, has been the unfortunate timing of these services' debut amid a sluggish economic milieu. In addition, though, these services are suffering from some confusing marketing messages.Until AT&T's recent announcement of an Ethernet transparent LAN service (TLS) that enables multisite connectivity and maintains customer virtual LANs (VLAN) across the MAN and WAN, Yipes Enterprise Services was the only carrier we know of offering true LAN-like services. AT&T, WorldCom and the regional Bell operating companies, for example, have heretofore been offering services that are point-to-point in nature, which are beneficial for some applications. But they shortchange you on the biggest economic benefits: running a "metro- or wide-area LAN."In fact, says Jason Knowles, senior analyst of network services with Current Analysis, "many enterprises have back-burnered metro Ethernet, because they've realized that the only application it is good for is Internet access. There have been issues surrounding the redundancy and resilience needed for mirrored data centers" and more LAN-like applications, he says.This is where Resilient Packet Ring (RPR) technology, a.k.a. IEEE 802.17, will serve the industry well. But beware of carriers confusing you with piles of technical RPR information in lieu of giving you specifics about service details.For example, if a carrier comes to you and says, "We've added new services to our Ethernet services portfolio and they are based on RPR," do you inherently understand what that means to your organization?Even if you do, you'll likely care more about who can communicate with whom and at what speeds, what the service-level agreements are, how much the service costs, how traffic is secured, and so forth - than the ins and outs of RPR technology.Note, for example, that:* AT&T says it is RPR technology that enabled its new TLS.* WorldCom says it has long used RPR in its Ethernet services networks, but that it doesn't offer TLS because of VLAN mapping issues.* Yipes does NOT use RPR, but DOES offer a TLS.Three carriers, three scenarios. It's safer to focus on the service, not on how it's delivered.