Carrier Ethernet is Ready for Prime Time

The Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) has announced the first group of providers to offer services certified for service quality and performance. Until now, every program in the history of the industry has only certified correct functionality, but never the quality of service.

The implication for enterprise users is that, they can be assured that MEF14 certified Carrier Ethernet services can support the most stringent real time communications applications including VOIP and HD quality videoconferencing.

AT&T, COLT, Embarq, Neon, NTL Telewest, Optimum Lightpath, RCN, Swisscom, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and VSNL International are now certified for Carrier Ethernet services compliant with MEF 14 – Abstract Test Suite for Traffic Management – an impressive spread of companies, as it includes major US carriers and cable providers as well as overseas providers. This MEF Certification ensures conformance to the MEF Quality of Service attributes – a requirement of SLAs (Service Level Agreements) supporting simultaneous real-time and data intensive business applications. The certificates will be presented at a special awards ceremony at NxtComm, Chicago by Nan Chen, the president of the Metro Ethernet Forum, and Bob Mandeville, president and founder of Iometrix, the company responsible for the conformance testing.

“These results confirm that Carrier Ethernet is ready for prime time,” commented Nan Chen. “These were real world test scenarios, the national network tests ran coast-to-coast, the international ones spanned the globe using real enterprise networks. Their performance was within SONET/SDH standards for key multimedia indicators like delay and jitter, confirming Carrier Ethernet’s suitability for mission critical applications while reducing capital and operating expenses. And this prestigious group of world-class service providers receiving the MEF 14 Certification have already been putting Carrier Ethernet in practice.”

Bob Mandeville explained that another world first was that this certification was also the first and only to test one way traffic metrics – critical for ensuring successful converged network applications. He expressed his appreciation for all those applying for what is the world’s first ever service provider certification program, and the level of commitment that this demanded. “We’re talking about some 48 consecutive business week hours of testing for each and every one of the 37 services submitted, based on a test plan comprising 170 test cases. Iometrix had to perform such intensive testing over a 3-month period. This was no ‘walk in the park’ as all services were subjected to extremely aggressive criteria, representing up to ten times the standard of typical service level agreements (SLAs). This represents, for example, less than 6 millisecond delays across the extended metro area (3.49 msec in the first 25 miles), and voice-grade delay and jitter figures right up to over 5,000 miles, the longest circuit we tested.”

In keeping with the MEF’s attention to services to the enterprise, all tests were run from an enterprise point of view: field tests using real circuits on production networks with measurements taken on simulated customer premises interfaces. Three broad areas were considered according to the provider’s footprint – metropolitan, national and international – and the providers had to build truly representative circuits in every case. All three MEF-defined carrier Ethernet service, EPL, EVPL and E-LAN, were tested according to the service portfolios submitted by the service providers seeking accreditation. It is important to know that all newly MEF 14 certified service provider services, without exception, have previously received MEF 9 certification.

The significance of MEF 14 for mission critical business applications is that it provides clear specifications-based guidelines for the formulation of SLAs. MEF 14 complements MEF 9 and covers two sets of MEF Service Attributes, namely “Service Performance” and “Bandwidth Profiles”. The first set comprises three Service Performance attributes relating to the Ethernet Virtual Circuits (EVC): frame delay, frame delay variation and frame loss ratio. The second set, relating to the User Network Interface (UNI) and following the familiar example of Frame Relay, include four Bandwidth Profile attributes: CIR (Committed Information Rate), CBS (Committed Burst Size), EIR (Excess Information Rate), EBS (Excess Burst Size). Together MEF 9 and MEF 14 cover the complete set of Carrier Ethernet Service Attributes defined in the core definitional technical document MEF 10.

“The testing process adheres rigidly to the MEF 14 performance criteria,” added Bob Mandeville, “but it is also a learning opportunity for the MEF as we keep an eye on other factors too. For example: we were all impressed by the outstanding reliability shown by every circuit we tested, and noted also that ‘R-factor’ measurements were consistently in the ‘Excellent’ class for voice transmission, even across the globe.

This first round of MEF 14 Service Provider certifications sends a clear and positive message to the enterprise: Carrier Ethernet stands up to the scrutiny of standards-based testing and certainly exceeds our own expectations in terms of sheer performance.”