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Carrier-Grade Ethernet Faces Obstacles

GENEVA — As a number of global telecom forums rush to move Ethernet beyond the enterprise, much of their work remains fragmented, leaving equipment vendors scrambling to find the best place to discuss what's needed to make carrier-grade Ethernet a reality. Keynote speakers and attendees at a workshop here this month made their concerns clear.

Noting that almost all carrier services are becoming Internet Protocol-based, Hans-Ulrich Schoen, a Siemens AG vice president responsible for carrier products, said in his keynote address, "Ethernet is the natural language of IP." But first, he said, "Ethernet must become carrier-grade."

Schoen spoke at the All Star Network Access Workshop, sponsored by the ITU-T, the standardization arm of the International Telecommunication Union.

Many want to see a LAN connectivity technology progress to a carrier-class-service delivery technology, saying it will enable carriers to provide better flexibility through a far simpler, lower-cost interface. It will let users specify, for example, exactly how much bandwidth they want between the 10-Mbit/second and 1-Gbit/s range currently offered, proponents of carrier-grade Ethernet maintain.

Today's Ethernet lacks such carrier-grade features as quality-of-service, provisioning, fault-tolerant and self-healing specs, and what the telecom community calls "operations, administration and maintenance" features. "We know Ethernet is reliable within the LAN," Schoen said. "But we need to make it also reliable throughout the network." Moreover, he said, "when there is a problem of getting an access to an application in the network, we need to be able to pinpoint where the problem lies. Is the problem in the access, is it in the core or is it in the content platform?"

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