Carrier Ethernet traffic now exceeds the total volume of T-1, ATM and frame relay traffic, according to the Metro Ethernet Forum – and the MEF hopes to push that number even further by expanding the applications that Carrier Ethernet can support and expanding the pool of carriers offering Carrier Ethernet services.

With that goal in mind, the MEF last year finalized what the group calls Carrier Ethernet 2.0, a group of standards aimed at providing network operators with a common set of service parameters for specific services. Mobile backhaul, for example, has different requirements than cloud connectivity. Before Carrier Ethernet 2.0, each network operator had to figure out on its own which of numerous classes of service to use for each of its service offerings – and those settings determined a wide range of characteristics such as delay, jitter and packet loss.

This was a daunting task for carriers – including some Tier 2 and Tier 3 network operators – that lacked strong Ethernet expertise, making them wary of emphasizing Carrier Ethernet or even keeping the carriers out of the market. But that could change now that equipment supporting the 2.0 standard has been released to the market and 20 manufacturers – including networking heavyweights Cisco and Juniper — have been Carrier Ethernet 2.0-certified. An additional 60 companies, including service providers as well as manufacturers, are expected to be certified by year-end.

The MEF certainly expects big things as a result. This week the group invited press and analysts to its quarterly meeting in San Diego, where the first 20 Carrier Ethernet 2.0-certified manufacturers were acknowledged in a ceremony and Ethernet luminary Bob Metcalfe was on hand to share his enthusiasm for the MEF’s latest achievements.

Metcalfe is often credited with inventing the original version of Ethernet back in 1973, but he made a point of saying that he didn’t do it alone. He added, however that he was the one who named Ethernet. “That’s indisputable,” he quipped. “There’s a memo and everything.”

Metcalfe also has a law named after him – the one that says the value of a network increases with the number of endpoints on that network. And although Metcalfe told conference attendees that he never imagined Ethernet “escaping the building,” he is now a strong advocate for applying Metcalfe’s law on a broader scale.

“Greater connectivity brings more freedom and prosperity,” he said. By supporting backhaul for mobile and landline broadband services, Carrier Ethernet has helped make those services more widely available and by expanding connectivity, has helped make democracy more transparent.

Carrier Ethernet 2.0 defines four broad service types – point-to-point E-Line, multipoint E-LAN, an E-Access offering designed for wholesale applications and E-Tree, which is designed to support broadcast applications. The relatively new E-Access offering could be particularly helpful in expanding Ethernet connections between endpoints served by different network operators.

Previously there were limited options when a network operator required an Ethernet connection in a market where the operator did not have its own infrastructure. But the E-Access standard defines a network-to-network connection from an end user location served by one carrier to another carrier’s point of presence, thereby facilitating the ability to give the customer an end-to-end Carrier Ethernet connection. The local or regional carrier may only need to connect with the larger carrier at a single POP to gain access to end user locations anywhere on the larger carrier’s network.  That capability, in turn, could potentially open up new opportunities for Tier 2 and possibly even Tier 3 carriers that have a limited geographic footprint.

Vertical Systems analyst Erin Dunne, on hand for the San Diego event, said that research firm is projecting E-Access lines to triple between 2012 and 2016.

The 20 companies that have received Carrier Ethernet 2.0 certification are:

BTI Systems
Telco Systems
Transition Networks


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