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Ethernet Mulls Interface Standard

Craig Matsumoto
10/31/2006

Having come up with benchmarks for Ethernet equipment and Ethernet services, the MEF is next turning to helping Ethernet services stretch across multiple networks.

The Ethernet network-to-network interface (E-NNI), describing how networks will hand off Ethernet services to one another, will be among the topics hotly pursued at the quarterly MEF meeting that begins today in Scottsdale, Ariz.

It's not the only issue the MEF will be hashing out. A standardized list of services is on the to-do list, as is work on the ordering and billing front.

But the E-NNI touches on an issue that's going to dog Ethernet services for a while: Services just don't reach every potential customer. That means carriers have to borrow one another's networks in order to reach some customers -- which in turn means they have to agree on some way to maintain service-level agreements and QOS while the traffic is crossing someone else's network.

That's why E-NNI was a frequent topic of discussion at last week's Light Reading Ethernet Expo. (See Ethernet Expo in Pictures .) In fact, there is some urgency to the MEF's E-NNI effort, which is being led by AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Enterprise Solutions .

Members of the E-NNI committee "got so into it that they actually met at the beginning of the month, in Newark, I think, to get more traction before the Scottsdale meeting at the end of the month," said Margaret Chiosi, director of AT&T Labs, during her Expo keynote speech.

Lack of an E-NNI isn't paralyzing anyone, as carriers are already negotiating deals to send Ethernet traffic across one another's networks. San Francisco-based Yipes Enterprise Services Inc. has done this in several cases, including partnerships in Europe with Colt Technology Services Group Ltd and Exponential-e Ltd. (See Yipes, Exponential-e Hook Up.)

The problem is that E-NNI right now is a custom job, Chiosi said. Each carrier has different needs, and not every carrier is willing to open its network to competitors -- so a new E-NNI agreement has to be hashed out every time one carrier wants to create a partnership with another.

An E-NNI would theoretically speed up the process by standardizing it, in a sense. But carriers still might differ in how they want networks to interact.

"The larger challenge beyond the standard is: How are the large PTTs and carriers going to open their networks?" says Keao Caindec, chief marketing officer of Yipes, during an Expo panel. "How is that going to work -- or is it?"

Steve Alexander, CTO of Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN), thinks the end result will be a set of optional hooks in the E-NNI standard. "What you're going to see are basic features that can be turned on and off," he told Light Reading at the Ethernet Expo.

Not that the other items on the MEF agenda aren't valuable too. The creation of standardized services would be an immense help, some carriers said. Ethernet speeds, for example, are pretty much arbitrary -- there's no common slate of "N-Mbit/s" services that every carrier offers. That's in contrast to the old TDM world with its well understood speed gradations.

"I could go anywhere and order DS1 or DS3 endpoints" for a given service, says Mike Tighe, MEF chairman and Verizon Business director of strategy. "The challenge with Ethernet is that I can't order that common set of endpoints. That's probably two years off."

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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light-headed
light-headed
12/5/2012 | 3:36:24 AM
re: Ethernet Mulls Interface Standard
The MEF continues it's search for relevance.
Pete Baldwin
Pete Baldwin
12/5/2012 | 3:36:23 AM
re: Ethernet Mulls Interface Standard
Oh, I'd say the MEF is relevant enough. "Lexicon" is the word people keep using ... the MEF is developing the definitions to anchor metro Ethernet to.

Granted, that's not the same as inventing groundbreaking technology. You could think of it like a bookkeeping or dictionary-writing job. (The MEF goons are gonna come down on me for that one.) But the stuff they do seems to be appreciated ... or, at least, vendors and carriers seem to think they can't afford to not be included in the MEF circle.

I'm curious how much of a can of worms the E-NNI is going to be. It's possible they'll have two or three major points of contention among carriers, which could become the "optional" kinds of features Steve Alexander mentioned.

It's possible, though, that the newer and older carriers will disagree on how they want their networks to interface and how they want to bill each other. Not the end of the world, but it could draw out the E-NNI process for a while... it's before my time, but I'm told Frame Relay had a similar problem that never got resolved.
paolo.franzoi
paolo.franzoi
12/5/2012 | 3:36:21 AM
re: Ethernet Mulls Interface Standard

How will you build a non-commodity service offering if:

1 - You have to extend it in a common way to other people's networks

2 - Can only sell the features that everyone has

3 - Will have to spend extra money, time and effort to achieve

So, you get to spend extra money to commoditze your product offering. That is why NNI products have been so problematic in the Enterprise Carriage space.

seven
ethertype
ethertype
12/5/2012 | 3:36:17 AM
re: Ethernet Mulls Interface Standard
Seven,

You're stuck in the mindset that the transport protocol is the service. If all carriers provide is a static point-to-point "Ethernet private line" service, then you would be right. But what about multipoint connectivity? End-to-end QoS and SLA assurance? Customer reporting & management capabilities? Also keep in mind that most T1 access circuits today are NOT tail circuits for a T1 private line; they are used for access to another service (Internet, FR, ATM, IP-VPN, Small Bus. Integrated Access, etc., etc.). IMHO, ENNI is most valuable for those kinds of applications.

Ethertype
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