Carrier Ethernet 2.0 – Changing the World, Again

First generation Carrier Ethernet already dominates WAN equipment revenue, and now Carrier Ethernet 2.0 is making it easier for Carriers to meet and exploit the demand that Carrier Ethernet has already fuelled

Ten years ago The Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) was founded to develop and promote a new generation of Ethernet called Carrier Ethernet. Since then Carrier Ethernet has transformed WAN and enterprise connectivity as well as providing an infrastructure to fuel soaring user expectations for mobile applications.

First generation Carrier Ethernet already dominates WAN equipment revenue, and now Carrier Ethernet 2.0 is making it easier for Carriers to meet and exploit the demand that Carrier Ethernet has already fuelled

Ten years ago The Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) was founded to develop and promote a new generation of Ethernet called Carrier Ethernet. Since then Carrier Ethernet has transformed WAN and enterprise connectivity as well as providing an infrastructure to fuel soaring user expectations for mobile applications.

When the MEF was founded, telecoms was predominantly about connecting individuals – in the next ten years it will be more about connecting devices. Already some people go about carrying two or three devices – mobiles, smartphones, kindles, ultrabooks. Machine to machine connectivity injects rocket fuel into an already accelerating bandwidth demand. The move to cloud computing or on-demand IP – where users might want a few minutes of very high speed connectivity once in a while – no longer matches a traditional telco business model geared to one or multi-year, fixed-bandwidth contracts.

Carrier Ethernet arrived as a solution to the telecoms industry pressures and it has in turn stimulated a significant market evolution, resulting in a new set of challenges. Meanwhile the MEF has been busy, anticipating these changes and further developing the technology to keep ahead of demand.

From its humble 2.94 Mbps beginnings in Palo Alto, 1973 Ethernet has constantly re-invented itself and grown. Last year over 1.2 billion new Ethernet ports were shipped (400 million wired and 800 million wireless) according to IDC. Nevertheless, it was a surprise when the February 2012 NetEvents EMEA Press and Analyst Summit in Garmisch, Germany, saw Bob Metcalfe announcing:

“Hello.  I’m Bob Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet.  And now 39 years later I’m professor of Innovation at the University of Texas. It’s going to be my great pleasure today to introduce a new generation of Ethernet: Carrier Ethernet 2.0.”

What is the new generation of Carrier Ethernet, and why is it needed?

Carrier Ethernet v1.0 – scalable bandwidth

One of the strongest selling points of the first generation Carrier Ethernet, launched in 2005, was bandwidth on demand, scalable in small increments at short notice. Previously, if a business needed more bandwidth, it meant another line to the premises – a big step change requiring field engineers and a significant outlay. With Carrier Ethernet, however, the provider could raise or lower bandwidth on demand, without any truck roll.

As Bob explained: “For the first time, Ethernet services were standardized, triggering adoption in more than 100 companies, $40 billion in revenue, and tens of millions of Ethernet Service Locations.  More than a thousand products and services bear the MEF certified logo from 150 companies around the world.”

Since 2005 this scalability has been a key feature in Carrier Ethernet’s success. Enterprise users could now extend their corporate networks to branch offices and outlets with less capital outlay, matching the tariff to actual needs. Retail companies, for example, can raise or lower bandwidth to meet seasonal fluctuations without costly over-subscription.

If Carrier Ethernet had offered nothing more than this basic, point-to-point, scalable service, it would still be the success we know today. It has, however been continuously under development, with a whole range of further services already available or in the pipeline.

Carrier Ethernet v2.0 – multi–CoS, multi-network manageability

As Nan Chen, MEF founder and president, explained at the launch: “Our first generation of Carrier Ethernet (CE 1.0) enabled standardized Ethernet services to be delivered over a single provider’s network.  This second generation, CE 2.0, can be best defined by its ability to deliver differentiated applications over interconnected, managed networks globally.”

Ethernet’s sheer flexibility means that interconnecting services from different providers, each using their preferred choice of technical and business attributes, had become a complex process, although perfectly possible. Carrier Ethernet – such a simple solution for linking sites across a city – was taking a long time to extend across the globe because of the many parameters needing to be aligned between different providers’ networks and business models.

Also, the demand for E-line point-to-point connectivity has been so strong, that providers have not been selling E-LAN multipoint Ethernet connectivity to the same extent, even though it has long been specified by the MEF. Multipoint connectivity presents a more complex management scenario, so this has also been addressed with the automated management facilities of Carrier Ethernet v2.0.

So what does CE 2.0 add up to?

  • Firstly, CE 2.0 expands from the basic  three CE 1.0 Ethernet services to eight services: two of each in E-Line, E-LAN, E-Tree and E-Access
  • Secondly, CE 2.0 supports newly standardized and powerful service features: Multi-CoS, Interconnect and Manageability, all of which are delivered through tightly integrated and inherently connected Service Attributes, Implementation Agreements and Management Specifications.
  • In particular, the CE 2.0 Mobile Backhaul Implementation Agreement creates a standard for efficient and reliable 4G mobile backhaul networks and services, delivering significant backhaul savings for mobile operators and revenue opportunities for access providers through Multi-CoS enabled Interconnect.

The Multi-CoS extensions standardize performance objectives across a variety of ‘Performance Tiers’ and applications. This results in improved Quality of Service (QoS) and optimized efficiency on a global scale.

The Interconnect specifications expand the influence and reach of Carrier Ethernet worldwide, and new management specifications provide new levels of affordable scalability and measurability.

New market value, new opportunities

“Carrier Ethernet 2.0 is not just defined by the technical work and specifications, but by the incremental value it brings to an expanded Carrier Ethernet community” explained Mike Volgende, Chairman of the MEF Board.

For example, support of multiple classes of service is not itself new. What’s new is standardization with performance objectives for each service class – so you know what performance to expect for each class and can be sure of consistent performance levels and SLAs no matter who you interconnect with.

Carrier Ethernet 2.0’s interconnection standards increase the efficiency of global interconnection, allowing enterprises to expand rapidly regardless of geography. Standardized multi-CoS enables smaller businesses to access Internet and hosted services through a single Carrier Ethernet connection, yet with higher SLAs. This enables enterprise-quality networking for small and medium businesses for those applications that require high performance and secure delivery.

Mobile operators will also benefit.  There is already extensive migration of mobile backhaul to Carrier Ethernet. CE 2.0 lays the foundation for additional efficiencies and cost saving through implementation of backhaul-specific performance objectives such as: packet and network-based synchronization, resiliency performance and service OAM fault management.

For service providers and equipment manufacturers, the ability to reach vast numbers of locations locally, regionally and globally is more efficient with the introduction of standardized wholesale E-Access and standardized engineering over distance from multi-CoS. E-Access standardization will further the buying and selling of wholesale services, making it easier to join the Carrier Ethernet community. 

All the above is, of course, also good news for equipment manufacturers. Carrier Ethernet 2.0 opens up additional new markets and possibilities to further boost the continuing growth trend.

In summary, Carrier Ethernet 2.0 standards address many key requirements.  First, Multi-Class of Service standards enable increased efficiency of Carrier Ethernet support of both wire and wireless network providers.  Second, Interconnect standards allow for more efficient expansion of Ethernet service footprints. And third, manageability standards enable more consistent performance throughput to better accommodate SLAs to customers.

CE 2.0 – the way forward

According to Nan Chen: “CE 2.0 is not just a standard on paper, its implementation is already well underway by the members of the MEF.  The details of CE 2.0 are available now on the MEF website… the MEF will be providing in-depth seminars, workshops, conference appearances and guidance on how to implement CE 2.0… Once again MEF Certification will play a vital role of speeding installation, creating an interoperable baseline and establishing elevated recognition for those who bring CE2.0 benefits to the market.”

Sure enough, CE 2.0 certification for the full eight services began this year: for equipment vendors it opened in April and for service providers in May. Meanwhile the existing MEF 9 and MEF 14 certifications remain valid and are still available under the new “Carrier Ethernet 1.0” brand.

Introducing the ‘generations’ concept is already helping to provide a framework and roadmap for ongoing evolution and development. The promise is that future CE generation networks and services will be geared towards ever more simple and automated service delivery.


So much has happened in the seven years since Carrier Ethernet was launched. This year sees the tenth anniversary of the MEF’s foundation; Ethernet itself will be 40 in May 2013. Bob Metcalfe summarized the outlook for CE 2.0 by saying:

“Perhaps most remarkable is that almost 40 years later, the growth of Ethernet is so strong and innovation is still hard at work.  Every time we look at a reinvention of Ethernet we are always left with the same conclusion: This is just the beginning. We encourage everyone to join us here at the MEF in changing the world again, with a new generation of Ethernet – Carrier Ethernet 2.0.”