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Ethernet: You Da MAN!
After years of playing third fiddle to LANs and WANs in the networking pecking order, metropolitan area networks (MAN) have garnered some new technology developments --along with the public's voracious appetite for high-speed access to the Internet and enterprise resource -- that have given it a sex appeal all its own.
Once the exclusive domain of niche players providing metro-loop data services (primarily to businesses), the space has been democratized with new wireless technologies and the growing presence of Ethernet networks, creating a multifaceted set of opportunities for manufacturers, service providers, and end users (both corporate and consumer).
The rising importance of Ethernet in the metro loop was illustrated by the Metro Ethernet Forum's (MEF) successful effort to recruit Bob Metcalfe (Ethernet's inventor) as an advisory director. Metcalfe stated that after conquering the LAN and corporate-campus environment, the Metro-loop represents a fertile market opportunity for Ethernet technologies, especially as new standards are developed to support the carrier-grade networking requirements of service providers in the space.
The recent approval of the IEEE 802.3ah spec for Ethernet in the First Mile joins the ratification of four other Metro Ethernet Forum technical specifications (for traffic management and circuit emulation, among others) that are solidifying the technology's place in the networking world.
Ethernet's penetration of the metro network is creating the potential for new applications, including connecting LANs in different buildings within a metro network, or providing direct Ethernet links to data centers within the metro network's reach. Without a doubt, this is just the start of a new era of innovation between the LAN and the WAN.
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