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Issues cloud Carrier Ethernet

Posted: 16 Jun 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:carrier grade? Ethernet? standards interoperability?

Haugh: You'd think that with its simple plumbing, Carrier Ethernet wouldn't have any major rhubarbs, but in fact three major issues influence its near-term success.

Service providers need Carrier Ethernet to deploy new services, consumers want it in their homes, and businesses want it for virtual private networking services that give them a competitive advantage. For enterprises, Carrier Ethernet delivers higher bandwidth at a fraction of the cost of ATM or frame relay.

Carrier Ethernet is reliable, pain-free and clear-cut. Because it's very visible, it simplifies customers' understanding of what they're buying. The service provider provides a pipe, and the mode of transport doesn't matter to the customer.

Yet despite its simplicity, there are three issues that cloud Carrier Ethernet's near-term success.

The first is standards compatibility. With 802.1ag, infrastructure vendors delivering switches and routers must adhere to the current draft to achieve interoperability. Major changes were made between Draft 6 and Draft 8 of the standard. Second, significant interoperability challenges exist. And third, protocol interworking hurdles need to be overcome.

Carrier Ethernet must deliver carrier-grade feature sets that support high availability and resiliency. The rub is that protocols that provide these requirementsIEEE's Ethernet Operations, Administration and Maintenance (OAM) and Connectivity Fault Management (CFM) standards and International Telecommunication Union's Y.1731 are just emerging. Also, Ethernet OAM and CFM must interwork seamlessly to ensure a healthy network.

In yet another level of complexity, native Metro Ethernet clouds may be interconnected by an IP Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) service provider core. Here, visibility would be lost because the core would appear as one hop to its client clouds. A joint public effort has yet to address this issue, but questions have arisen: Do you generate an SNMP trap? If a connectivity check fails, do you execute a link down?

In summary, a flawless interworking relationship is required between the Ethernet OAM CFM and the MPLS OAM to achieve end-to-end fault detection, fault isolation and performance monitoring.

The onus will be on service providers to ensure that infrastructure investments meet the interoperability and interworking challenges for their Carrier Ethernet networks and delivered services. Cross-industry engineering efforts that address not only service providers' interests but also equipment manufacturers' and enterprise customers' needs will require rigorous testing in these areas.

- Mike Haugh
Senior Product Line Manager
Carrier Ethernet

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