Spreading the influence of Ethernet beyond the LAN

By Mike Downing, Senior Editor, Integrated Communications Design

Two new industry forums have declared war on network bottlenecks, and Ethernet is their weapon of choice. The Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) and the Ethernet in the First Mile Alliance (EFMA) are initiating activity to continue the deployment and improvement of Ethernet infrastructure at the metro and access layers, respectively.

With support from companies such as Juniper, Foundry, Cisco, NEC, TI, Intel, 3Com, Nortel, and Agilent, the MEF's mission is to evangelise new Ethernet technology, to facilitate interoperability between different equipment manufacturers, and to promote rapid adoption by service providers.

The MEF also is attempting to unite service providers, equipment vendors, and end-users on Ethernet service definition, technical specifications, and interoperability. The organisation plans to facilitate the implementation of standards and the definition of test procedures so that Ethernet-based metro networks can function as a carrier-class level.

Founding chairman Ron Young (and co-founder of San Francisco-based Yipes Communications) says that most people in the communications industry agree that the latest networking bottleneck lies in the metro. "And while the metro bottleneck is frustrating to most end-users, it represents a huge opportunity for equipment manufacturers and service providers."

For its part, the EFMA has the support of such companies as Alloptic, Cisco Systems, Elastic Networks, Ericsson, Extreme Networks, Finisar, Intel, NTT, and World Wide Packets. Its mission is to promote Ethernet subscriber access technology and support the related IEEE standard effort. In addition, the EFMA announced that the IEEE has authorized the formation of the 802.3ah Ethernet in the First Mile Task Force, which is chartered with developing the technical standard for Ethernet in the first mile.


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