The invitation-only event drew over 200 registrants, of which over 85 percent represented service providers, enterprise customers, and public sector agencies.
A full complement of international incumbents turned out, including AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T), Bell Canada (NYSE/Toronto: BCE), BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS), British Telecommunications plc (BT) (NYSE: BTY; London: BTA), MCI (Nasdaq: MCIT), SBC Communications Inc. (NYSE: SBC), and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: FON), to name just a few.
Also on hand were members of the Ethernet in the First Mile Alliance (EFMA) and Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF), both of which are engaged in full-throttle efforts to solve a range of problems facing service providers -- and standardize those solutions.
There's no doubt Ethernet is the key services technology of the future, said Light Reading cofounder and CEO Steve Saunders in his introductory remarks: "We're here to find out the details of its ascendancy."
At the top of his mind was how to make Ethernet truly "carrier-class" by addressing issues of scaleability, security, interoperability, and manageability. As one questioner put it during one of the day's several panels: "[Quality of service] for Ethernet seems almost a retro fit for an aging queen..."
To keep Ethernet from being enthroned in the enterprise but powerless to rule the WAN, where its benefits are clearly demonstrable, carriers need to address a range of economic, technical, and regulatory issues.
As panelists chewed over these topics, specific themes cropped up repeatedly throughout the day:
After taking a gleeful ribbing from co-panelist Peter Green, engineering team leader for optical broadband services at Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), Voit said: "Cisco sells switches, too, not just routers!"
Different types of carriers will have different approaches. One representative from a North American IXC, for instance, said during a break that the IXCs, not the ILECs, are in a more favorable position to start offering Ethernet as an alternative to legacy services, because they don't have as much invested in local private lines as RBOCs.
Another RBOC attendee, questioned separately, saw his key opportunity as virtual LAN services in metro areas, where RBOCs have the upper hand in terms of customer clout -- right now, anyway.
Others say applications will be key. Charles Kenmore, a board member of TechNet, a regulatory pressure group, said in his speech that telcos will need to understand the entertainment value of applications such as video.
In the end, there were no easy answers. In a session led by Bob Mandeville, president of Iometrix Inc., Ethernet project director at Light Reading, and facilitator of a massive, 28-vendor network being demonstrated at this show, he made clear that the biggest challenge would be for carriers to understand the different elements involved in metro Ethernet in order to make decisions that suited their specific networks and circumstances. "There is no one answer," he said.
— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading