Service providers, local exchange carriers and network equipment vendors are among the group of 37 companies that have set up a forum to advance Ethernet technology in optical networks.
The consortium, called the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF), aims to push the adoption of optical Ethernet technology in metro networks around the world.
The group also plans to drive the implementation of existing and new technologies and standards that enable end-to-end Ethernet service creation.
In addition, the group will facilitate broad interoperability of optical Ethernet services and solutions in metro networks, while boosting worldwide awareness of optical Ethernet services.
Metropolitan area networks connect smaller Lans in a city into a single large network.
Among the MEF charter members are such industry heavyweights as 3Com, Agilent Technologies, Alcatel, Cisco Systems, Hewlett Packard, Intel, Juniper Networks, Lucent Technologies and Nortel Networks, incumbent carriers such as BellSouth and SBC, and several service providers.
Launched in May, the MEF has as its chairman Ron Young, who is also the founder and chief marketing officer of optical networking company Yipes Communications, and as president Nan Chen, director of product marketing for optical Ethernet company Atrica.
Young said rapid increases in the use and interest in Gigabit Ethernet for metro networks led to establishing the forum.
"Our goal is to enhance the benefits of optical Ethernet services. We will not be a standards body, but a forum to enable interoperability and applications."
Chen said the forum would leverage existing standards and technologies as much as possible and facilitate the development of new standards, service definitions and operational agreements necessary to bring multi-vendor optical Ethernet into metro networks.
"We don't intend to compete with existing organisations," Chen said. "We're going to exist as a liaison."
The group, which will support technologies such as Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS), Wave Division Multiplexing (WDM) integration, circuit emulation and others, will also work the technology into existing Synchronous Optical Network standard or SONET-based networks.
Market research analysts at Gartner highlight the promise of Ethernet as the "next major Wide Area Network (Wan) service".
In a report, Gartner analyst Jay Pultz said Ethernet was once Lan-only technology, but switching, optical advances and a new breed of service provider are positioning it to be the next major Wan service.
"Enterprises are advised to start preparing for the new Wan era," Pultz said. "By 2005, more than 30 per cent of high-speed Wan data services will be carried over Ethernet networks."
"With Ethernet becoming the new service provider demarcation point," he added, "enterprises will rely on new carrier-class services to extend their enterprise networks."
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