At GlobalComm, I was fortunate enough to grab some of Nan Chen's time. As President of the Metro Ethernet Forum, Nan delivered an update and a roadmap. It had been several years since we had an opportunity to discuss the MEF, an industry organization supported by telcos, switch suppliers, and services. Here's the scoop:
NSDL: Tell me about the Metro Ethernet Forum. What have you been up to since we last sat down together?
Since we last talked, we're now up to 80 members, and we've accomplished three things. We've defined what carrier Ethernet is. It has five attributes which are: Standardized services including E-LINE and E-LAN, TDM support, etc. The second attribute is scalability. We want to be able to scale tens of thousands, millions of services for customers. The third is reliability. We want to be able to provide five-nines availability, provide 50 milliseconds resiliency, etc., Fourth, is quality of service so that we can really deliver service quality with SLA support. Finally, the last attribute is service management. So defining these attributes as making up carrier Ethernet is the first thing we accomplished.
The Metro Ethernet Forum also came up with 16 standards--or technical specifications. All of the specifications fit into at least one of the five attributes. So what we're really saying is that we've standardized on these attributes so that people can have the same implementation. From an interoperability perspective, that's really important. This process has taken us five years.
NSDL: What has happened recently?
That is the third accomplishment. We've launched a program called a certification program, which is a reinforcement of people's implementation of our specifications. We launched in April, 2005. The first companies to be certified were 16 vendors of 39 systems. That was under MEF 9, which guarantees that subscribers can confidently order Ethernet EPL, EVPL, and E-LAN services that conform to MEF service specifications. This is essential for large enterprises receiving Ethernet services from multiple providers. It enhances Ethernet services for enterprise subscribers who have strict requirements for service quality.
For each service, such as MEF 9, we do vendor first, then service provider. The second group of companies certified was service providers. Certified this year were: AT&T, Bell South, Cablevision Lightpath, Met-Net, ntl:Telewest Business, Qwest and Verizon Business.
Today, we've launched a second set of services--MEF 14, which covers quality of service, describing how network hardware suppliers can help meet the QoS goals for carriers establishing service level agreements with customers. MEF covers service performance and bandwidth profile rate enforcement. We've done vendor first, which is what was announced today, and you can imagine what's coming up.
So we've accomplished these three things and there have been many hurdles, but it's all been for the good.
NSDL: What were the major challenges you've overcome?
First of all, there was the industry downturn. We actually fared really well, keeping the membership and continuing to grow. Now we're actually seeing the result of that since we worked through that time and now we have the specifications that we can certify to.
The second was one was that people believed there would be cannibalization of their offerings.
NSDL: Companies were concerned that their technology would be compromised?
Right. And today, they're so proud of providing Ethernet services. That's what they're doing. So, with the right strategy, we continue to overcome this type of concern, and things will continue marching on.
NSDL: What have the surprises been?
I remember the first time I said, "Let's do MEF" to eight companies. What's surprising is that it's come together. It's really satisfying, with all the effort it's taken. From a marketing perspective we've done a good job and from the strategy we've implemented, it's really taken off.
NSDL: What's planned for the next five years?
We're still on the early curve of growth. We will continue to come up with new specifications. Now we have many more people involved, we have many more ideas as to how to make things work better. We're really working at the very foundation of the Internet and changing the scope as to what can be offered. So it's becoming the overall transportation if you well for the Internet economy of the world.
There's a lot we still need to do. Interoperability between service providers--certification is the first step. Bob Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet, is our advisor/director. One of the key mandates is to interoperability carries over. That's one of the key components of the overall global Ethernet service offerings.
For a recent Network Systems DesignLine article on the subject, see: Want high availability in Metro Ethernet networks? Resiliency is key.