Carrier Ethernet 2 aims for global connectivity

The Metro Ethernet Forum's Carrier Ethernet 2 will allow carriers to more easily manage and share Ethernet traffic

The Metro Ethernet Forum has updated its Carrier Ethernet specification, hoping to standardize the use of Ethernet for global multicarrier services.

"With Carrier Ethernet 2, we're expanding Quality-of-Service [QoS] well beyond best efforts, and will now allow carriers to interconnect to provide worldwide [Ethernet] service," said Bob Metcalfe, co-inventor of Ethernet, during a Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) Web conference held Thursday to announce the specification.

MEF introduced Carrier Ethernet in 2005 as a set of extensions that describe how data communications carriers should use Ethernet in a consistent manner. The new specification, Carrier Ethernet 2 (CES 2), establishes an additional set of rules. CES 2 provides guidance for setting up multiple Class-of-Service (Multi-CoS) definitions, which will allow carriers to establish more nuanced Service Level Agreements (SLAs). CES 2 provides a richer set of management metrics, and it also sets the stage for multiple service providers to exchange Ethernet traffic in a uniform fashion.

"Carriers have been managing interconnections [with] bilateral negotiations on a carrier-by-carrier basis. These standards will further enable interconnections to be achieved on a more cost effective basis," said Mike Volgende, MEF chairman, also during the Web conference.

Commercially introduced in 1980, Ethernet is a networking standard first developed by Xerox Parc, one designed to connect multiple computers in a network. Ethernet specifies how messages can be broken into smaller packets, called frames, and dispatched across cables shared by multiple computers. Successive generations of Ethernet increased the total amount of traffic that can be carried on a cable or set of cables, from 1Mbps, to 100Mbps, then 1Gbps and, most recently, 40Gbps and 100Gbps.

Initially Ethernet was used for creating LANs (local area networks) in which all the computers on the network are physically located close to one another. Today, thanks to the gigabit Ethernet standards, Ethernet is viable not only for LANs, but for Metro Area Networks (MANs) and even higher traffic back-haul communications. In this capacity, Ethernet offers an alternative to other high-volume networking technologies such as Synchronous Optical Networking (SONET).

MEF plans to offer more documentation on CES 2 on its website, and will also start a certification program for the specification.

Founded in 2001, the MEF is an industry alliance of over 150 networking hardware companies and service providers, which banded together to bring about the adoption of Ethernet for carrier networks. The organization develops Ethernet specifications that it then passes on to organizations such as the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) and the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers).

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