Optical/IP Networks

Metro Ethernet Gathers Momentum

The Ethernet services bandwagon gathered momentum this week, with yesterday's announcement that Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) has become a member of the Metro Ethernet Forum (see Verizon, Rockefeller Join MEF).

Verizon joins some other monster carriers already in the MEF, including BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS), SBC Communications Inc. (NYSE: SBC), and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: FON). Together, they account for $148 billion in revenues, compared to about $225 billion for the eight largest North American carriers tracked in Light Reading's Optical Oracle subscription research service.

With such powerful carriers behind it, the MEF stands a good chance of achieving its goal of accelerating the rollout of Ethernet services by standardizing their specification.

"Everybody will be talking the same language," says Bob Smith, BellSouth's senior director of data product management, who is a director of the MEF. There'll be less confusion if service providers use the same terminology when talking to customers, so adoption rates should be quicker. It should also accelerate development of network equipment for providing services, because vendors won't have to cater to such a wide range of requirements.

Smith goes on to say that BellSouth is overhauling its infrastructure right now so that it can upgrade Ethernet services it's been offering since 1994. The new service set will be based on "some" of MEF's specifications, he adds.

The MEF is defining two types of service -- Ethernet LAN (E-LAN), providing multipoint private networks between corporate sites, and Ethernet Line (E-Line), giving customers high-speed access to the public Internet.

It's also defining a whole bunch of performance parameters. Some of them, such as committed information rate (CIR -- minimum guaranteed bandwidth), are borrowed from Frame Relay terminology. Others define such things as delay and jitter, with an eye to users running voice and video as well as data over their E-LANs.

Right now, the specs are still under development, but earlier this week, MEF president Nan Chen set a target of August of this year for their finalization (see MEF Starts Ethernet Countdown).

It's worth pointing out that the MEF's specs are for Ethernet services where customers contend for bandwidth on a shared backbone in the same way that they do in Frame Relay networks. Hence the use of terms like CIR.

Right now, the majority of users of Ethernet services aren't contending for bandwidth. Typically, they're looking for something that's equivalent to a leased line and simple to understand, so they opt for having bandwidth dedicated to them -- akin to constant bit rate (CBR) in ATM networks.

Some Ethernet service providers, such as the U.K.'s Neosnetworks, only offer dedicated bandwidth services at present. "We may want to offer more sophisticated services in the future," says Paul Momtahan, Neosnetworks product marketing manager. When that happens, the MEF specs might come in handy.

Denmark's Butler Networks offers contended and dedicated bandwidth Ethernet service options. Right now, most customers opt for dedicated bandwidth services, says Henrik Vestergaard, the firm's manager director. However, he thinks the MEF specs will help persuade customers to try contended services, which ought to be less expensive. "It'll help customers understand what they're buying, and help them compare services from different providers." (Butler Networks is something of an oddity, by the way. It's one of the few Ethernet service providers to link to customers using LMDS fixed wireless.)

The MEF specs might also come in handy when operators jointly offer Ethernet services, notes Andreu Vilamitjana, director of marketing at Al-Pi Telecomunicacions, a Barcelona-based operator offering Ethernet services based on equipment from Atrica Inc. (see Atrica Wins in Europe). "Sooner or later we'll have to interconnect with other operators," notes Vilamitjana. Having the same service specs might make that a lot easier.

— Peter Heywood, Founding Editor, Light Reading

Editor’s note: Light Reading is not affiliated with Oracle Corporation

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squeegee 12/5/2012 | 12:29:59 AM
re: Metro Ethernet Gathers Momentum Isn't Yipes one of the founding members of the MEF? Why is there no mention of Yipes in this article? They are likely have among the largest customer base of metro ethernet users and seem to be in a leadership position as metro ethernet services gain acceptance.

BobbyMax 12/5/2012 | 12:29:58 AM
re: Metro Ethernet Gathers Momentum The carriers who have deployed SONET/SDH in the metro environment are not likely replace it with metro ethernet. The public carriers are also not very likely to buy from start-ups such as Atrica. Their longevity and product quality is a big question mark.

Mr. Raghvan, CEO of Atrica, Sold Siera Network, to Redback for $4.3 Billion. When Mr. Raghvan came to Redback, his performance became a big question mark.
Peter Heywood 12/5/2012 | 12:29:57 AM
re: Metro Ethernet Gathers Momentum MEF gave me a list of members and Yipes isn't on it. Remember that original Yipes is no more. The one that exists today is Yipes Enterprise something or other, reborn out of a Chapter 11 experience.

The smaller operators that I talked to for this article said that the MEF's membership fees - $15K - discouraged them from joining.

According to the list I was given, MEF has 62 members - nearly all system or component vendors, apart from the service providers I listed.

There's two exceptions:

1. France Telecom R&D is a member....so, more a lab than a service povider The link here is that France Telecom has an indirect stake in Al-Pi, the Spanish operator I quoted. France Telecom R&D was involved in the studies that Al-Pi did prior to it rolling out Ethernet services.

2. NTT Advanced Technology Corp. I didn't check, to be frank, but NTT has all sorts of spinoffs that aren't service providers.
photoness 12/5/2012 | 12:29:56 AM
re: Metro Ethernet Gathers Momentum Will MEF produce a standard which will include hooks enabling Ethernet to more easily be monitored, maintained, scaled to achieve greater reliability? If so isn't it then some reconstituted or modified version of already existing standards? Is it reinventing the wheel or YATS (yet another telco standard)? How does that ultimately make it "better" and/or less expensive then cost reduced SONET/SDH or ATM?
Please no religious arguments....thanks. I hold no flame for any particular standard but I also don't see the business advantage. The cost argument perhaps the most important remains to be seen....their are always many hidden costs that make a piece of cheap (I mean inexpensive equipment) very costly. Most end users could care less how their traffic is transported but they damm well do care when their network is out, down and availability is unknown.
BillyWood 12/5/2012 | 12:29:55 AM
re: Metro Ethernet Gathers Momentum The use of ethernet in the metro does not obviate SONET/SDH. The GFP generic framing procedure or virtually concatenated ethernet allows ethernet to be carried in standard SONET payload structures. This way the carriers get the best of both worlds- the use of low cost ethernet interfaces on CPE and integrated with SONET provisioning, performance montioring and protection in their network. As a matter of fact, if the forum is exploring CIR concepts for ethernet, there is nothing more committed than TDM bandwidth in SONET. This would be my advise for the forum and it's worth every penny that was paid for it.
raypeso 12/5/2012 | 12:29:52 AM
re: Metro Ethernet Gathers Momentum My company is already doing this. Most vendors have an ethernet over sonet capability. The few that I know or are Cisco, Marconi, Ciena, Luxn and Tellabs. Customers like the face that we hand them an ethernet connection as oppsed to a sonet connection. They don't have to learn anything new or buy anyother equipment. We have done so well with the ehternet over sonet that we will now start deploying full ethernet rings to customers that have the $$. Ethernet could really help out the telecom sector.
green 12/5/2012 | 12:29:51 AM
re: Metro Ethernet Gathers Momentum isn't France Telecomm also a investor/partner in Atrica ?

No surprise then they should 'recommend' Atrica for Al-Pi the spanish operator.

on a side note France Telecom lost 20.7 billion Euro ($22.7 billion U.S dollar)last year. If I were Atrica I would seriously look elsewhere for a investor
materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 12:29:49 AM
re: Metro Ethernet Gathers Momentum Isn't putting Ethernet over SONET like painting diamonds black to look like coal? The goal of Ethernet is dirt cheap transport, not high quality transport. So why spend money to fancy it up when you can adjust your application to live with jitter, latency and so on? Just because CPE ports may be cheaper does not justify much new buying. Won't new spending will require a new level of ROI, which comes in part from radically cheaper transport?
yIPes! Chicago 12/5/2012 | 12:29:46 AM
re: Metro Ethernet Gathers Momentum "that is fast"
Increased capabilities, no hardware needed, unprecedented performance and guaranteed uptime...Sounds like a good thing that the old skool is coming around to the new skool!
God Bless Each and Everyone of Us...
BillyWood 12/5/2012 | 12:29:42 AM
re: Metro Ethernet Gathers Momentum The question is how do you achieve the radically different ROI.

Pulling fiber through the streets cost the same for whatever you use. So let's look at the cost of the equipment since that is one of the chief differences as well as bandwidth utilization. Today's garden variety Ethernet switches are cheaper than SONET for one reason-they are non-redundant. Redundancy is insisted upon by 99 and 44/100 % of carriers (that is the carriers that remain standing not the one's whose only value exists as capital loss tax write offs). This causes the equipment to cost(not price) greater than twice that of non-redundant. Why you may ask? Well-first there is twice the hw and there is many more paths on the backplane to interconnect all the redundant hw which complicates and makes the hw more costly. If it weren't for redundancy SONET would be much cheaper than Ethernet since TDM is cheaper than processing packets which needs gobs of processing power , memory and custom ASICs, especially in to acheive real time QoS needs.

On the network utilization side or bandwidth, one does get a 50% stat muxing benefit with packet transport of voice ( 80+% of the revenue of the same carriers is voice) but the end to end delay and delay variance needs to be managed. In todays environment this may not be an issue given all the under-utilized bandwidth in existence. (Isn't this is ultimately why we all have time to pen such drivel?)

The linch pin probably is the intgration into the management infrastructure, since in the big carriers the OSS's are the tail that wags the dog. It's cheaper and easier to integrate the nascent service into an existing infrastructure including the OSS's. Of course the carrier could believe some pie charts from a $30,000 a year consultancy or two and make the big upfront investment or wait until sales volume justifies a dedicated overlay network.

At some point in the network, ethernet obviously hits a packet switch ie router. Does it need to be at the network demarcation into the carrier network which the Metro Ethernet Forum plans to address? It doesn't today for the most part.

Sometimes reality differs with the techno-religous dogma.

I wonder if anyone has an opinion on this topic. Wait- this is Light Reading where opinions are like a______s, everyone has one.
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