MIAMI – The Metro Ethernet Forum has started technical work on standards to support cloud computing and software-defined networking over carrier-grade Ethernet. First fruits from the work that started about three months ago are expected before the end of 2013.
The project will define new dynamic response capabilities for Ethernet. The work initially was motivated by the trend toward cloud computing, but more recently also has started to consider the implications of the trend to software-defined networking (SDN), said Kevin Vachon, chief operating officer of MEF.
Specifically, the effort aims to define ways users can ask for and get on an ad hoc basis the kinds of Ethernet services they need from carriers when using cloud computing services. “When you are setting up and operating cloud services, there are some issues not well addressed” in today’s Carrier Ethernet products, said Ben Mack-Crane one of the technical editors working on the project.
For example, cloud users sometimes must move large databases or large numbers of virtual machines from their internal systems to an external data center hosting the cloud service. To do so efficiently, they need to request high-bandwidth Ethernet connections for short periods of time, services that today can require several hours or days to set up.
Mack-Crane’s group will define user scenarios to lay a foundation for what specific standards MEF will subsequently draft. He expects the specs may include capabilities to respond to the kinds of application programming interfaces developers are working on for SDNs.
“First we will document some use cases, and then we will define what kind of management models and interfaces are needed to enable them,” he said. “We are trying to get the first phase of the work out by mid-2013, but it’s a process of discovery,” he said.
The new group is one of many working on standards for cloud services, including an effort started last year at the IEEE.
MEF supporters estimate as many as three quarters of carrier networks are now using some form of Ethernet as they slowly transition to Internet Protocol and away from older time-division multiplexed (TDM) networks.
To encourage the shift, MEF rolled out a new batch of specifications earlier this year that support many of the legacy features carriers like in their TDM nets. Equipment makers are now undergoing certification tests for the so-called Carrier Ethernet 2.0 suite of specs, hoping to field products based on them early next year.