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Carrier Ethernet Global Interconnect Service Provider Interoperability Test

Light Reading

Does anybody remember the world before the Internet, when IP packet networks were islands – some larger, some smaller? A number of Internet service providers (ISPs) already offered great IP services back then, but accessing their networks from anywhere in the world was a major headache and usually came with very limited service guarantees.

At one point in the early 1990s, however, the situation radically improved when standards like BGP matured and ISPs were able to create dependable, large-scale peering – either at commercial Internet exchanges (CIXs) or through bilateral connections.

In 2010, Carrier Ethernet service providers worldwide are at precisely the same point: Having set up individual service offerings, they are now looking to increase their global and regional footprints by interconnecting with other carriers.

This project aims at the core of the solution: improving real Carrier Ethernet service interconnection (not just based on Ethernet over SDH/Sonet circuits) by validating the end-to-end functionality, high availability, service-level management, and scale against a common standard.

So far, service providers have found that outsourcing segments of their end-to-end Ethernet services was rather an individual effort – time consuming and expensive to start with and to maintain.

Now that the MEF has completed the long-awaited Carrier Ethernet External Network-to-Network Interface (ENNI), service providers can use a well defined specification for interconnection moving forward.

In November 2009, the European Advanced Networking Test Center AG (EANTC) and ancotel invited European service providers to test their readiness to interconnect Carrier Ethernet services through ENNI. Six carriers signed up for the initial pilot testing phase. After a month-long preparation, testing culminated in a one-week session where the participants carried out detailed functional and resilience tests of all interconnections at ancotel's telehouse in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. (See LR Announces Carrier Ethernet Interconnect Test.)

The results confirmed a couple of things:

  • Functional Ethernet service interconnection works well today. Independent of the size or geographic coverage of the carrier, Ethernet services of the participating service providers were well understood and managed.

  • Interconnection was straightforward only in a few cases initially. ENNI bears a few configuration pitfalls, basic in nature but sometimes difficult to track down. Standardized procedures to validate the first-time interconnect and individual circuit provisioning can be helpful to avoid expensive troubleshooting.

  • Point-to-point services were supported across all participants. If and when the market for multipoint services develops, support will likely grow.

  • Proper selection of the Ethernet peering switches helps to ensure full support of all ENNI options supported. All equipment involved (purposefully unnamed here) was MEF 9 and MEF 14 certified; this was not a guarantee for the providers per se to pass ENNI testing easily. EANTC is editing the MEF's upcoming ENNI Abstract Test Suite to ensure that equipment passing ENNI conformance testing will actually help to reduce lab efforts for service providers.

  • End-to-end high availability and performance guarantees across ENNI require thorough testing to ensure that they will work as expected.

The results of the pilot test session were promising; there is more testing yet to come with regard to service-level guarantees, performance monitoring, and special features such as hairpin switching. Light Reading will publish the next phase test report in time for next month's Ethernet Europe in London. Given Carrier Ethernet's fast progress, we look forward to seeing even more European and international service providers participating in the next stage.

We hope that you will find this short test report insightful. Any comments and suggestions are very welcome.

Here's a hyperlinked table of contents:

— Carsten Rossenhövel is Managing Director of the European Advanced Networking Test Center AG (EANTC) , an independent test lab in Berlin. EANTC offers vendor-neutral network test facilities for manufacturers, service providers, and enterprises. He heads EANTC's manufacturer testing, certification group, and interoperability test events. Carsten has over 15 years of experience in data networks and testing. His areas of expertise include Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), Carrier Ethernet, Triple Play, and Mobile Backhaul.

Next Page: A Word From Ancotel

Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to Ethernet Europe 2010, Light Reading's tenth Ethernet event, designed to meet the information needs of service providers and enterprises that are working out what next-generation services and applications to deploy, and what infrastructures will help them do this in the most cost-effective and productive manner. To be staged in London, April 12 & 13, admission is free for attendees meeting our prequalification criteria. For more information, or to register, click here.

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