Forums Double-Team to Push Specs
The two organizations will stay separate, but as part of a new collaboration agreement, members will be able to attend each other’s meetings and give input. The result, both hope, will be a series of new implementation agreements involving Ethernet and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) specifications.
Let’s be clear: Neither the MEF nor the MPLS Forum is involved in finalizing industry standards. Instead, both take draft standards developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) or Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and define how those specs should be implemented to provide a particular service. The resulting implementation agreements spell out what equipment vendors and carriers need to do to offer emerging services.
For some, today's news might fall on jaded ears. After all, what's the importance of yet another industry pronouncement that raises unrealistic hopes before petering into obscurity?
Plenty, says at least one industry analyst. Implementation agreements, particularly in segments with lots of industry attention, give carrier customers the comfort of consensus and help generate new business. They also help drive industry direction.
”Many service providers already offer some Ethernet and MPLS services, and if they don’t now, they’re headed in that direction,” says Michael Howard, cofounder and principal analyst of Infonetics Research Inc.. This collaboration will grease the wheels.
The agreement also could speed the adoption of certain standards by helping coalesce industry opinion. According to Nan Chen, MEF president and also director of product marketing at optical Ethernet transport vendor Atrica Inc., the MEF and MPLS Forum have been working together unofficially for several months. Their efforts have centered around MPLS Fast Reroute, which allows for sub-50-millisecond network restoration and Virtual Private LAN Services, which will allow carriers to use MPLS to offer an extended transparent LAN service or Ethernet private line service to corporate customers.
The MEF has always been a proponent of MPLS Fast Reroute. The forum agreed early on to use MPLS for defining resiliency in Ethernet networks (see MPLS Spurs Metro Ethernet Debate). Now, both the MEF and MPLS Forum are standing behind the draft called Fast Reroute/MPLS for Local Protection, which has been gaining momentum in the industry over the past few months (see MPLS Vendors Demo Fast Reroute and MPLS Fast Reroute Gains Momentum).
The added momentum, it’s hoped, will push things to closure. “We’re putting a stake in the ground and saying this is the draft we think should become the standard,” says Chen. “We are hoping this will help bring the standard to its final stages.”
The groups also could help get carriers interested in implementing virtual private LAN service (VPLS). Still in early development, VPLS technical specs are currently being worked on in various IETF working groups (see VPLS Standard Debated). Chen says that neither the MEF nor the MPLS Forum is prepared to endorse one proposal or another. But both have members involved in the IETF and will continue to push for consensus where it’s appropriate.
The MPLS Forum has 54 members; the MEF has 65. Seventeen companies are members of both organizations.
— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading