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'India has great potential to develop Ethernet'

Metro Ethernet Forum head Mr Nan Chen speaks about the successful launch of Ethernet in India to Priya Rajendran from | By Priya Rajendran, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 14, 2007 04:12 PM IST

Welcome to the new generation of internet users. Finally there is one technology coming to overtake the internet and the LAN. It has been rechristened the Ethernet. In technical language, it means a large, diverse family of frame-based computer networking technologies that operates at many speeds for local area networks (LANs).

The name originates from the physical concept of 'ether', which defines a number of wiring and signaling standards for the physical layer, through means of network access at the Media Access Control (MAC)/Data Link Layer, and a common addressing format. Originally, Ethernet is the brainchild of Robert Metcalfe who is currently on the board of MEF.

The Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF), with its headquarters at Singapore, is a non-profit organisation which strives to accelerate worldwide adoption of Carrier class Ethernet Networks and Services. The forum comprises of leading service providers, major incumbent local exchange carriers, top network equipment vendors, test equipment vendors and other prominent networking companies that share an interest in metro Ethernet. The MEF has over 80 members as of July 2006.

In an exclusive chat with, Metro Ethernet Forum president Mr Nan Chen speaks about his journey into the cyberworld, the connection between LAN (Land Area Network) and WAN (Wide Access Network), and the successful launch of MEF in India.

What is the MEF and Ethernet?

The Metro Ethernet Forum originated in the 1990s in Silicon Valley. At a time when even internet as a medium was not popular, the concept of Carrier Ethernet was yet to establish itself. As a medium, it is an infrastructure for the next generation of internet as it is low cost and by far the cheapest and fastest. Ethernet is mainly being used by ISP (Internet Service Providers), Cable operators and Vendors. It is meant to provide standardised services globally.

Your interest in Ethernet?

In the late '90s, when I was working in the Silicon Valley, I got interested in the concept of Ethernet. At that time, our team was working on 100 MB/sec Ethernet. This was connecting all PCs, systems and the building with data cable wires.

These wires carried valuable data which was being transmitted to all the systems. Eventually in the mid-1990s, we found that the capacity of ethernet could be increased and could be converted into a standardised service which could transmit data across the globe. Thus MEF or the Metro Ethernet Forum was born.

What are the MEF priorities and scope of work?

This is mainly carrier service. Ethernet services defined by the MEF are transport-oriented. The Metro Ethernet services can be communicated using two umbrella service types 'Ethernet Line Services'(E-Line Services - point-to-point services) and 'Ethernet LAN Services' (E-LAN Services - multipoint-to-multipoint services).

As part of the E-Line Service and E-LAN Service definitions, the MEF has defined the service attributes and parameters recommended for successful implementation of these services. This means that for each service based on these Service definitions, there are associated service attributes that have parameters, which must be set accordingly, so as to meet the customer service expectations.

Its typical service attributes include performance, bandwidth, speed, mode and class of service. Within each of these attributes parameters are recommended that provide interoperability between metro Ethernet Service Providers and vendors who implement the services.

What sets the WAN-based MEF apart from the LAN-based Ethernet?

Ethernet has been a part of internet, but a very minute one. Internet uses the Land Access Network and Ethernet is used in Wide Access Network (WAN). The MEF has defined five attributes for its Carrier Services: Standardised services, Scalability, Service Management, Reliability and Quality of Service. This sets it apart from the LAN-based Ethernet.

Top market sectors targeted by MEF...

Health Care, Finance, Education, Government, Media

How do you value Ethernet in the market?

Globally, Ethernet's service revenue was $5.9 bn in 2005 and is expected to grow by 280% in 2009. While cumulative services revenues from 2005 and 2009 are expected to be $69.2 bn, of which $2.9 bn will be Asia Pacific. The Asia Pacific market will account for $18.9 bn of a worldwide cumulative 2005-09. Metro Ethernet equipment market is worth $49 bn.

What is the MEF certification?

It certifies services for Carrier Ethernet systems and equipment that deliver MEF compliant Ethernet services and in turn assures enterprise and residential subscribers of the same. Presently, we have 80 registered users of Ethernet Carrier services of which VSNL is a part.

MEF is targeting Indian metros for its campaign…

Quite soon, we are joining Indian Ethernet users VSNL and a couple of other organizations involved with MEF in roadshows to make IT companies aware of the benefits of Ethernet and MEF too. And this is mainly because India has great potential to develop Ethernet technology as it is still a raw ground in terms of internet usage. We are expecting a great boost to MEF in the near future.

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