MEF pushes ahead with Ethernet standards

The Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) has set itself an August deadline for the completion of several service standards and specifications, as it looks to push the uptake of Ethernet in Metropolitan area networks (MANs).

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By  Zoe Moleshead Published  March 24, 2003

The Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) has set itself an August deadline for the completion of several service standards and specifications, as it looks to push the uptake of Ethernet in Metropolitan area networks (MANs). The specifications are primarily designed to create a standardised definition for Ethernet, as well as make sure Ethernet is primed the carrier class transport.

“There are two major issues that need to be resolved for Ethernet to work [effectively] in the Metro environment. We need to have a standardised Ethernet definition. For example, Frame Relay has standard service definition, such as 64 K/bits/s and 128 K/bits/s, there is no 78 K/bits/s or 110 K/bits/s. Everything is standardised and you need to do the same with Ethernet for it to become prevalent,” says Nan Chen, president of MEF.

“Secondly, you want to make sure Ethernet as a transport is carrier class and you need to have mechanisms in place to deliver this, for example, protection, Quality of Service (QoS), operation, administration & maintenance (OAM) and user network interfaces,” he continues.

As such, the forum has set up a test environment for vendors to assess their technology and see if it complies to the various standards it is developing. Initially, MEF is looking deliver its Ethernet Line (E-Line) and Ethernet LAN (E-LAN) specifications.

“E-Line is a point-to-point service with the functionality of multiple service attributes, for example, bandwidth and multiplexing. E-LAN is a multipoint-to-multipoint service, so it’s like a local area network (LAN) in a Metro area, which connects multiple sites with similar attributes to E-Line,” explains Chen.

These service specifications are just part of the ongoing work MEF is carrying out alongside other standards bodies such as the IETF and the IEEE, to improve Ethernet services and make them comparable to Frame Relay and other technologies. The forum believes that standardisation will not only improve the use of Ethernet in MANs, but also enable end users and service providers to capitalise on its benefits.

“Ethernet is driving into this area [Metro] for multiple reasons. Firstly it is a more mature, predictable technology and secondly over 90% of internet and business end points are Ethernet. When the end points are Ethernet, [users] want to start and terminate with Ethernet, they don’t want to go through SONET/SDH or anything else,” comments Chen.

“Thirdly, the cost of ownership for Ethernet is significantly lower than other technologies,” he adds.

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