MEF: Certification Wasn't Easy

The first round of Carrier Ethernet certifications included a lot of do-overs, the Metro Ethernet Forum says

September 13, 2005

3 Min Read
MEF: Certification Wasn't Easy

Failure is an option, it turns out.

With the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) handing out the first 16 Carrier Ethernet certifications today, the natural question was: Who didn't make the cut? And it turns out four products were submitted for testing but couldn't reach compliance in time for tonight's official certificate handouts at the Carrier Ethernet World Congress in Berlin (see MEF Rubber Stamps Ethernet Gear).

The MEF explained the certification process in gruesome detail in a press conference today, occasionally fighting off telephone-line disturbance that made reporters wonder if Berlin was also being hit by a hurricane.

The MEF wouldn't specify which vendors had failed the certification tests, but officials were quick to note that they don't just sit back and laugh when a vendor fails.

"The directive I have given to Iometrix is primarily to assist the vendors to be able to become certified," said Nan Chen, president of the MEF and vice president of marketing for Atrica Inc. "I don't think it was the MEF's intention to put competitive pressure on the vendors."

In fact, several vendors didn't pass on the first try.

"We actually had a crisis in the beginning of the testing, in that the first three or four vendors did not pass," said Peter Reed, an MEF committee co-chair and vice president of network architecture for {dirlink 5|119}

The problems were all "on paper," said Bob Mandeville, president of Iometrix Inc., the firm that did all the certification testing. That is, no one's box exploded. The problems had to do with things like VLAN tags. One common problem, for example, had to do with the value that identifies whether the equipment wants to preserve VLAN tags on incoming traffic.

"We do have a well over 200-page test plan," Mandeville said. "Some of the vendors got in touch with me and said, 'We just aren't ready for the testing yet.' " Changes took a couple of months to implement, so some that passed were "quite fortunate" to have submitted their equipment in June, when testing first started, he said.

One question is whether those that didn't pass could face a temporary handicap. Some carriers are anxious to get more Ethernet into their networks, but it's been vague until now just what "carrier-class" Ethernet entails -- which is why the MEF launched its certification process (see MEF Sets 'Carrier Ethernet' Bar). Just how valuable certification becomes to major carriers is yet to be seen.

Iometrix is the exclusive test house for Carrier Ethernet certification, but that contract expires Oct. 31. The MEF intends to bring more testing firms into the process, and Chen says discussions have begun with at least one candidate.

The MEF also will need a testing house for the next set of Carrier Ethernet criteria, which will involve traffic management and service delivery. The forum hopes to come out of its November meeting with that contract signed, Reed said.

Today's Carrier Ethernet certifications went to 39 products from 16 vendors:

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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