Metro Ethernet Forum Launches
Founding members of the MEF include big names like Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), which are already selling Ethernet gear for the metro. It also includes incumbent carriers like SBC Communications Inc. (NYSE: SBC) and BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS), along with newer Ethernet service providers Telseon Inc. and Yipes Communications Inc.
But this isn’t the first industry group to focus on Ethernet in the metro area network. The Resilient Packet Ring Alliance officially launched back in January of 2001 and since then has been working closely with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE).
So what does this mean for the RPR Alliance? According to Robert Love, chairman of the RPR Alliance, the new Ethernet forum doesn’t pose a threat.
“I think the MEF could positively affect the industry,” says Love. “They haven’t announced yet, so we don’t know exactly what they are planning, but I think the two groups could be complementary.”
Details about the MEF are still under wraps until tomorrow when the group is officially announced, but most people involved with the group agree with Love in saying it won’t conflict with the efforts of the RPR.
Why? RPR was formed specifically to support the efforts of the IEEE 802.17 working group, which is in the process of defining a standard that will allow Ethernet and packet technology to be carried on rings. While the RPR Alliance focuses on promoting and pushing the development of one Ethernet standard, the MEF will likely have a broader scope, says Andrew Feldman vice president of marketing for Riverstone Networks (Nasdaq: RSTN). Riverstone is one of several system companies, including Cisco, Nortel, and Dynarc, that will participate as members in both groups.
“The more groups marketing the hell out of Ethernet, the better,” says Feldman. “It will enlarge the entire market. And if we intend to be a market leader, which we do, it will only make things better for us. I don’t see a conflict at all.”
Because the MEF will handle a wider range of issues, it also includes members not interested in participating in the RPR Alliance efforts, including Atrica Inc..
Many see the new forum as having a similar purpose as other forums like the ATM Forum or the Frame Relay Forum. It will be more involved with defining service expectations rather than defining the architecture or other technology parameters.
“There are all these Ethernet services coming, and there aren’t any real definitions of things like burst rates,” says Scott Clavenna, president of PointEast Research LLC and director of research at Light Reading. “Right now the implementation of the service is all proprietary.”
Some in the industry hope that the MEF won’t take on too many characteristics of the ATM Forum. They say the group will focus on getting competing companies working together to overcome differences and pushing for standards that all vendors can support.
“What I learned from the ATM forum is that it cost all those involved an enormous amount because they didn’t work together to solve the problems,” says Feldman. “Nothing kills a technology faster than service providers worrying if they’ve bought a box today that won’t work with someone else’s gear tomorrow.”
- Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading