Ethernet equipment

RAD Claims OAM 'First'

RAD Data Communications Ltd. is claiming a lead in providing important OAM (operations, administration, and maintenance) functions for Ethernet -- or, at least, in talking about it.

RAD says it's the first vendor to announce pre-standards compliance for Ethernet OAM. The product in question is RAD's ETX-202 network termination box, targeting the very edge of the carrier network. (See RAD Claims Ethernet OAM First.) Non-OAM versions of the box had been shipping already, and the OAM version should begin shipping this month. RAD will be showing it off at the TelecomNext show next week, demonstrating capabilities it first announced in February. (See RAD Intros OAM Ethernet NTUs.)

Calling RAD's achievement a "first," as the press release does, might be a stretch. This might be the first demarcation device implementing pre-standard OAM, but many other companies are already shipping pre-standard OAM. For example, the features known as MAC ping and traceroute, which trace a network path between devices, have been implemented in equipment from Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) and Riverstone Networks Inc. (OTC: RSTN.PK) . (See TiMetra Shoots for Service Edge and Riverstone Aims for Access.)

Two standards are involved here: the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Y.1731 and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) 802.1ag efforts. Both are expected to be ratified in the third quarter of this year, meaning they're far enough along for companies to begin announcing "pre-standard" compliance, as all the major technical issues have been settled. And indeed, RAD does appear to be the first to specifically announce compliance with both standards.

Another flavor of OAM was woven into the IEEE 802.3ah standard for Ethernet in the First Mile (EFM) -- the segment of the access network leading up to the home or office. (See Startups Rally 'Round EFM.) But the 802.1ag and Y.1731 standards relate to the "entire" network; the EFM version "is a first stage but it's not a solution," says Joshua Etkin, RAD's senior director of network architecture.

Interestingly, RAD doesn't have the supposedly simpler 802.3ah OAM implemented yet. "It will be coming in several months," he says.

OAM would be a crucial step for Ethernet, as it would give carriers the kind of control they've enjoyed with Sonet/SDH. Ethernet was developed without such capabilities, and Ethernet OAM to date "has been seen as a bit of a joke when viewed from the grizzled telecom carrier perspective," as noted in the new Light Reading report, Ethernet OAM & Demarcation Devices.

Carriers are flocking to Ethernet even so, although they say the lack of OAM standards is a major stumbling block to making Ethernet services more widespread. For now, there seems to be user interest in Ethernet services, but some customers, particularly in the U.S., are having trouble finding the services they want. (See Ethernet Faces OA&M Challenge and Ethernet Expo: Shop 'Til You Drop.)

Etkin believes the ETX-202 with OAM will pop up in a North American carrier network within a couple of months. RAD is also working with European carriers interested in deploying the box, he says.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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