In the 11 years that the MEF has been developing technical specifications, promoting the adoption of Carrier Ethernet and certifying Carrier Ethernet services, the industry has grown from almost zero to a $40 billion (€30.8 billion) market.
Earlier this year the MEF ushered in the next generation of standardized, Carrier Ethernet services - now known as "CE2.0". After developing over 30 technical specifications and agreements, covering areas such as service definitions and attributes, SOAM, CoS and MBH, the MEF decided to present this work to the market as CE2.0.
is an umbrella term for a wide range of related MEF work that enables application-aware SLAs with the industry's first standardized multi-CoS performance objectives, interoperability between service providers and manageability of multi-provider networks and new Ethernet access services. Prior to CE 2.0, there were just three standardized Carrier Ethernet services (EPL, EVPL and E-LAN) that could be certified for functionality and performance (MEF 9 and MEF 14 respectively). The latter is now considered the first generation of Carrier Ethernet - in other words, CE 1.0.
In contrast to the first generation of Carrier Ethernet, CE2.0 makes eight standardized Carrier Ethernet services available for implementation and certification. These eight form the basis for a wide range of advanced applications for Carrier Ethernet in many industry verticals.
Business communications - in finance, health, government, education and manufacturing for example - will increasingly rely on the point-to-point and multipoint-to-multipoint high bandwidth, low latency, application-aware, regional-global capabilities of CE2.0 services. Similarly, rapidly growing mobile data networks will become increasingly dependent on the low cost per bit and class of service features provided by CE2.0 services and MEF mobile backhaul
Of course, the inexorable shift to cloud-based services - whether applications for businesses, software as a service, content distribution or online commerce - is also being accelerated by the availability of standardized layer 2 CE2.0 services that include support for rooted multipoint-to-multipoint topologies and access services.
Asia Pacific impact
The MEF is a global organization with over 50 member companies from the Asia-Pacific region. As part of its increasing presence in this pivotal part of the global economy, the MEF holds one of its strategic quarterly meetings in APAC. The most recent one was held in Shanghai in October and hosted the first Carrier Ethernet APAC Summit with senior executives from China Telecom, Japan's KVH, Verizon and PCCW Global.
A key takeaway from the event was how central standardized Carrier Ethernet is to members' ability to meet customer demand and grow revenue. In fact, the pace of replacement of legacy services by Carrier Ethernet services has surprised many of them. Vertical Systems reported that Carrier Ethernet demand will surpass all other types of data communications services put together this year - that is six to seven years earlier than forecast when Carrier Ethernet was introduced two years ago. That extreme growth in customer adoption in the APAC region highlights the importance of not only making standardized CE2.0 services available, but also certifying them.
One of the most important aspects of the MEF's work is certification of services, equipment and professionals. It's equally critical to enable service providers and equipment vendors to demonstrate their compliance with those standards.
Currently over 220 certified service providers and equipment vendors offer more than 1,200 MEF 9/MEF 14 (CE 1.0) certified services and devices. Growth in certification over the past two years has been strongest in the Asia-Pacific region.
The next major milestone is CE2.0 certification, which was introduced in April. Actual CE2.0 testing got underway in July, and the first group of CE2.0 certified equipment vendors will be announced in January at the Carrier Ethernet Summit - Americas in San Diego.
Certifying equipment for CE2.0 compliance involves submitting the equipment for testing by the MEF approved test lab - Iometrix - either on their site or on the equipment vendor's site. This contrasts with certification testing of services, which is performed on the service itself in the field.
Although service providers have already started testing for CE2.0 certification, the announcement of the first group of certified equipment vendors in January will act as a catalyst for many more Carrier Ethernet service providers to offer certified CE2.0 services based on certified equipment.
To achieve certification of a service, the provider goes through a qualification phase with Iometrix, which enables the company to identify any potential deficiencies in the service that could hinder certification being achieved.
In the configuration phase, the service to be certified is prepared for testing based on detailed technical interactions between the test lab and the service provider. Finally, probes are shipped to the service provider to be attached at the appropriate UNIs (and ENNI in the case of an E-Access service), then the in-situ testing begins.
Another important aspect of certified services is the team behind its provisioning, sales engineering and after-sales support. In Asia Pacific several service providers have taken the lead by training their frontline Carrier Ethernet teams for the MEF's professional certification exam - MEF-CECP. To date more than 430 professionals in 39 countries and 116 organizations have passed the exam. More than 100 of these are in the Asia-Pacific region.
By offering CE2.0 certification to service providers and equipment vendors around standardized E-Line, E-LAN, E-Tree and E-Access services, the MEF is enabling enterprises and service providers to move more quickly to high-performance, cost-effective connectivity. Certified CE2.0 services carry the promise of increased productivity in an increasingly globalized, online and mobile economy - a key to the continued rapid growth of economies.
Nan Chen is president at the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF)