Why it’s Time for the Telecoms Industry to Embrace Carrier Ethernet Standards

There is no doubt that the popularity of Carrier Ethernet is on the rise. We're seeing rapid adoption due to its cost benefits versus TDM, not to mention its flexibility in terms of access and transport technologies. As the worldwide telecommunications industry shifts from TDM to packet-based technologies, Carrier Ethernet services and the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) have taken leading roles in providing various data networking services that were previously the exclusive domain of TDM.

Despite its growing adoption throughout the industry, however, there remains a sense of confusion and frustration around Carrier Ethernet among many communications service providers (CSPs), and the very efforts to assuage those concerns have, in many ways, made matters worse.

Carrier Ethernet Confusion

To illustrate this, let's start from the beginning. Any organization attempting to draft specifications and documentation in an industry that evolves as much and as fast as telecommunications does will quickly amass a large, cumbersome library. This prompted the MEF to create "generations" that summarize groups of Carrier Ethernet specifications in order to make them more digestible for CSPs. On the one hand, this has been a big help in furthering Carrier Ethernet adoption. On the other hand, it has created a few new sources of confusion specifically when it comes to Carrier Ethernet performance management.

The MEF's Specification 35 (MEF 35) defines "an Implementation Agreement (IA) for MEF Service Operations, Administration and Maintenance (SOAM) Performance Monitoring … The goal of this IA is to define specific performance measurement procedures and specify solutions for collecting the information needed to compute the performance metrics" laid out in previous specifications. The problem is that MEF 35 was actually published after Carrier Ethernet 2.0, albeit by only a matter of weeks. Therefore, this specification is not technically part of this generation of Carrier Ethernet, despite the fact that Carrier Ethernet 2.0 is marketed as one that includes "management" as a main tenet. Confusing, isn't it?

Furthermore, though MEF 35 focuses on the best practices for Carrier Ethernet performance monitoring, it does not directly provide the constructs to collect, store and organize the various technical indicators. That work was left to Specification 36 (and later 39), where the MEF identified methods based on SNMP (and NETCONF, respectively). MEF 36, "Service OAM SNMP MIB for Performance Monitoring," defines a Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) Management Information Base (MIB) to align with MEF 17, MEF 7.1 and MEF 35. For CSPs looking to use these constructs, there is yet another challenge to overcome. Equipment vendors are not required to use them and, in many cases, have invested in similar proprietary constructs prior to the standards being ratified or released. With respect to the SNMP-based MEF 36, this MIB is one that all hardware vendors can implement to ensure a consistent mechanism for MEF-defined Carrier Ethernet performance monitoring. Unfortunately, since vendors can, and do, define their own MIBs, it makes it difficult to implement best practices in a standard fashion across multiple vendors, and do so rapidly to ensure an accelerated time-to-market for CSPs' Carrier Ethernet offerings. Without equipment vendors that fully support the components of these specifications, CSPs aren't able to completely adhere to the performance management best practices the MEF has outlined, at least not yet.

Adding to the frustration is the fact that this makes multi-vendor solutions more challenging to manage, because it means more time and effort is needed to create the necessary Carrier Ethernet reporting. For example, a vendor may implement some or all of MEF 35, but do it in its own MIB structure or via its EMS, which means every vendor's equipment must be integrated differently to accommodate those nuances. The documentation exists. The path has been laid out before us, and the MEF has worked tirelessly to further the adoption of Carrier Ethernet through industry-wide performance management standards and best practices, but CSPs cannot easily adhere to them until equipment vendors fully adopt the standards, and that takes time and the appropriate motivation. Once they do, then CSPs will finally be able to address their frustrations by implementing MEF best practices in a standard fashion across multiple vendors and accelerate the time to market for their Carrier Ethernet offerings.

The Short- and Long-Term Value of Carrier Ethernet Standards

While it can, at times, feel like a game of "hurry up and wait," it's important to remember that there is real value in MEF 35 right now. The fact that one cannot fully implement it doesn't remove its value; it merely delays some of it from being realized, while the ecosystem of suppliers and CSPs catches up. Meanwhile, the rest of Carrier Ethernet 2.0, which defines new service types and the framework for delivering business-class services that have multiple CoS, offers CSPs a more consistent set of building blocks to enable their Carrier Ethernet services.

It also means that suppliers of management solutions (fault, configuration, performance and planning, among others) can make use of the same standards to better address the needs of the market and do so with solutions that can be more rapidly deployed versus those that entail years of custom development. This makes it far easier to manage multi-vendor networks and eliminate proprietary, vendor-specific nuances that bog down CSPs and significantly slow new implementations. Service assurance and Carrier Ethernet network performance management will become vastly more time- and cost-efficient, with both CSPs and their customers reaping the rewards. In the end, unified Carrier Ethernet standards and certifications make sense. We just need to work to accelerate their implementation, and that means that all of the suppliers that make Carrier Ethernet 2.0 a reality for CSPs must catch up with these best practices and standards.

Read more: Why it's Time for the Telecoms Industry to Embrace Carrier Ethernet Standards - FierceTelecom http://www.fiercetelecom.com/executive-insights/why-its-time-telecoms-industry-embrace-carrier-ethernet-standards#ixzz2ytvNGmMK

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