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Ethernet Crew Tackles OAM

Ray Le Maistre
9/27/2006

The carrier Ethernet community believes it has successfully addressed one of its major bugbears -- a lack of carrier-grade operations, administration, and maintenance (OAM) capabilities.

The charge that carrier Ethernet equipment companies have been unable to deliver suitable OAM alongside their hardware has long been leveled, and, more importantly, taken on board and addressed, by bodies such as the MEF . (See Ethernet Growing Pains , Aggregation Aggravation, Ethernet Faces OA&M Challenge, and Carriers Face Ethernet 'Black Hole'.)

OAM capabilities are essential for service providers, which need to be able to provision, monitor, and identify faults in their networks and services using standardized, recognized tools, something they are used to doing with their TDM networks and services. (See Ethernet OAM & Demarcation Devices.)

But significant progress has been made in the past year, and the progress was noted during the Carrier Ethernet World Congress in Madrid this week. Independent consultant Mark Lum noted in his industry overview that new OAM standards from the likes of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) and MEF had been implemented in product platforms, and that the industry has "stepped up to the mark and made tremendous progress."

That observation followed Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s announcement Monday that it is offering a number of Ethernet Layer 2 OAM features in its service provider equipment: link monitoring, which enables a carrier to troubleshoot its network segment-by-segment, using the IEEE's 802.3ah standard; fault isolation, using the IEEE's 802.1ag standard; and a tool for the auto-provisioning of customer premises equipment (CPE) based on MEF's Ethernet link management interface (E-LMI). (See Cisco, ADVA Push Ethernet Access and Cisco Enhances Ethernet Gear.)

These capabilities, claims Gloria Formenti, Cisco's business development manager for carrier Ethernet, will enable service providers to offer service-level agreements (SLAs) that are as good as those offered for frame relay services.

Nortel Networks Ltd. has also been talking up the OAM capabilities of the controversial new Ethernet technology, Provider Backbone Transport (PBT), which has attracted strong interest from BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) and other Tier 1 carriers. PBT, says Nortel's director of Carrier Ethernet in Europe, Mervyn Kelly, brings "SDH-like OAM to Ethernet." (See BT Likes Nortel's New Ethernet Flavor and BT Rethinks 21CN Core Strategy.)

And it's not just these two vendors that have added OAM capabilities to their carrier Ethernet products this year. (See RAD Claims OAM 'First', Ethernet OAM & Demarcation Devices, Corrigent Supports 10G OAM, Metrobility Goes Multiport, and Copper Ethernet Makes Strides .)

The relative proliferation of Ethernet OAM also enabled independent German test house European Advanced Networking Test Center AG (EANTC) to include OAM in its recent Multi-Vendor Carrier Ethernet Interoperability Test, held in Berlin two weeks ago and involving equipment from 14 vendors and test tools from Circadiant Systems and Ixia (Nasdaq: XXIA). (See EANTC Completes Ethernet Test, Juniper Demos MEF Specs, Actelis Demos at CEWC, and Redback Passes Interop Tests.)

EANTC's Managing Director, Carsten Rossenhoevel, told the Madrid conference that the test included a number of OAM features, such as the "dying gasp" method included in the IEEE's 802.3ah standard, whereby a CPE sends a signal to the network when it is turned off to say that it is no longer on the network but not because of a technical failure.

Other OAM features tested included the continuity of service checks for VLAN services included in the 802.1ag standard.

Rossenhoevel said the tests validated these new standards, and showed, overall, that "carrier Ethernet is working."

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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