Nan Chen Issue: Europe II 2016
Article no.: 6
Topic: Networks and network infrastructure:
The future is global interconnect
Author: Nan Chen
Title: President
Organisation: Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF)
PDF size: 217KB

About author

Nan Chen is the Co–Founder and Executive Vice-Chairman, Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF)

Nan is renowned in the telecom/networking industry as the founding President of the MEF, which established Carrier Ethernet as the predominant technology and service for businesses and mobile infrastructure. Nan’s drive to unite standardization and certification with dynamic, global campaigns and strategic initiatives, has helped make Carrier Ethernet one of the fastest growing areas in telecoms.

Previously Nan held senior VP Marketing roles at Atrica (acquired by Nokia Siemens), Strix Systems (acquired by Private Equity), and was Director of Technology at Bay Networks/SynOptics (acquired by Nortel). A founding Board of Director of 10 Gigabit Ethernet Alliance, Nan has received 30+ industry awards/accolades and has been named as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in the Telecom/Internet Industry.

Article abstract

The global Carrier Ethernet services market is huge, at about US$50 billion and growing steadily. We at the MEF saw that operators were struggling to interconnect their networks in a consistent and easily replicable manner. Although the MEF has created multiple specifications to pave the way toward standardized “plug-and-play” Carrier Ethernet interconnections, most operators still use non-standard, custom-built, network-to-network interconnections (NNIs) that are slow and costly to set up. 

Full Article

The future of networks is just that: Networks. Plural. Many networks coming together to interconnect and integrate in order to provide seamless, agile, well-orchestrated end-to-end connectivity.

From the enterprise customer’s perspective, this is an imperative. Organizations may live in one city or one country, yet require high-speed services to offices, partners or cloud service providers half-way around the world. Business moves today at the speed of light, and no CTO, CIO or CEO wants to be hamstrung by the limitations of telecom service providers.

A few decades ago, early users of email services were only able to send messages to other subscribers of that same service. AOL, CompuServe, MCI Mail – those were closed walled gardens. A few years later, gateways provided the means to bridge those networks, but it was often up to the message sender to figure out how to format and route the emails. Today, of course, the network-to-network connectivity between email providers is ubiquitous, automatic and (except to a few network engineers) completely transparent.

What made it work? Standards. At first the standards were rough and unreliable. Today, with the exception of a few issues (such as occasional problems with Windows email attachments being read on Macintosh computers), it simply works. The same is true of voice phone connectivity. You can call a customer on the other side of the world just as easily as you can call your friend across town, no matter which carriers are involved, or whether each party is using a cell phone, a hard-wired analog line, or Voice-over-IP (VoIP) software stack through a computer. Standards break down barriers, and standards make it all work.

Here at the MEF, we listen to our 220+ member organizations, comprising service providers, equipment makers, software developers, and large enterprise. We understand everyone shares the goal of seamless connectivity across multiple networks. We know they want those solutions to work in traditional networks, in new networks based on Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV). We understand carriers want internetwork provisioning to be as easy — and as fast — as internetwork connectivity, and that new technologies for Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO), business support systems (BSS) and operational support systems (OSS) are making that happen. It started in 2015, and is building momentum in 2016.

We are proud to be partnering, through the MEF UNITE program, with many other standards-defining organizations (SDOs) around the globe. The MEF has a long and successful history of evolving the market based on existing standards and work projects from the broader networking and information and communications technology industry by both incorporating standards into MEF specifications as well as liaising with relevant SDOs to avoid duplication, speed standards adoption and collaborate to achieve the market’s goals.

The newest piece: Ethernet interconnect point

In our effort to create a seamless global environment for carriers to interconnect, the MEF recently released the Ethernet Interconnect Points (EIP) ENNI Implementation Agreement (IA) — the first step in the MEF’s EIP project.

The Ethernet Interconnect Points (EIP) Project was initially championed at the MEF by AT&T and Verizon, and participants include Frontier, Windstream, CenturyLink, TelePacific Communications, Accedian Networks, Alcatel-Lucent (Nokia), Canoga Perkins, Ciena, Cisco, Juniper Networks, RAD and Veryx Technologies.

The purpose of the EIP project is to produce a series of implementation agreements to create a more efficient marketplace of interconnected operators offering standardized Carrier Ethernet services that interoperate effectively over two or more networks. The progress of the EIP project is key to future industry growth and innovation because widely deployed and interconnected Carrier Ethernet networking fabrics will form the foundation upon which to build agile, assured, and orchestrated network services.

The EIP IA brings together service providers and operators to agree on a framework that allows them to interconnect their wholesale Carrier Ethernet services quickly and in a way that will support end-to-end automation. The project goal is to develop Implementation Agreements — based on MEF specifications — for the benefit of the global Ethernet Service Provider community.

The IA will streamline the interconnection of operator networks to support end-to-end Carrier Ethernet services. The new standard provides practical guidance so operators can evolve their networks to meet full MEF E-Access standards-based interconnection capabilities, and gives operators the steps involved to create these new interconnections either all at once or in a series of steps. E-Access is a standard for connecting an operator virtual connection (OVC) endpoint with an external network-to-network interface (ENNI) endpoint.

The networking journey into the future

The global Carrier Ethernet services market is huge, at about US$50 billion and growing steadily. We at the MEF saw that operators were struggling to interconnect their networks in a consistent and easily replicable manner. Although the MEF has created multiple specifications to pave the way toward standardized “plug-and-play” Carrier Ethernet interconnections, most operators still use non-standard, custom-built, network-to-network interconnections (NNIs) that are slow and costly to set up.

The MEF surveyed its operator community to understand why the market was not moving towards standardization faster and uncovered key obstacles that needed to be addressed. This inspired the creation of the EIP project: an assembly of large operators under one roof, in a test-bed environment, focused on resolving obstacles together. The first place to start is with the most common types of interconnects, and thus, the focus for the initial Implementation Agreement on connecting carriers’ external-facing NNIs (ENNIs).

One of this project’s leaders, Dan Blemings, Director of Ethernet Product Management, AT&T Mobile and Business Solutions, told me that “Our goal is to enable operators to make informed decisions and take the next step on their journey toward standardized interconnects. A growing community of operators using efficient and scalable Ethernet interconnections will cut provisioning times, eliminate the need for operators to certify each other, and make it easier to deliver Carrier Ethernet services to more locations outside their own footprints.”

The ENNI Implementation Agreement is the first phase in the MEF’s EIP program. It will allow the most basic carrier-to-carrier interconnection possible: an Ethernet Provide Line created using two E-Access services from different carriers with an ENNI interconnect between them.

Stay tuned, because soon we will announce the second phase, which will add test cases with greater complexity, as well as new use cases based on other access models, including Ethernet Virtual Private Line (EVPL) and E-Transit (which connects two OVC endpoints).

The future of networks is networks – multiple carriers, telcos and other service providers coming together to interconnect and offer their customers agile end-to-end services with the ubiquity of the Internet with the reliability of Carrier Ethernet — what the MEF and its members call the Third Network. This exciting future is coming, and it’s coming fast.