Yesterday the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) announced that 20 equipment vendors had achieved Carrier Ethernet 2.0 (CE2.0) certification, the MEF’s designation for its second generation of service standards. Then today, Ciena announced the CE2.0 certification details for our award-wining packet networking platforms.

It was less than a year ago that the MEF first introduced the concept of CE2.0 to the world, and now a who’s who of the world’s top equipment vendors has adopted the standard. In today’s telecom world where the standards process can take five years to complete, the uptake of CE2.0 happened at light speed. In fact, 25% of vendors who had CE 1.0 certification are now CE 2.0 certified.

So what does this overwhelming industry adoption mean for the industry and for Carrier Ethernet technology? I didn’t have to go far to find those answers, as one of Ciena’s Carrier Ethernet and Packet Networking experts is also a member of the MEF board of directors. Raghu Ranganathan is a Senior Advisor of Network Architecture within the Office of CTO at Ciena. With the MEF, he currently serves as Technical Committee co-chair, Editor of MEF 6.2 Service Definitions, and is on the board of directors. I recently caught up with Raghu to talk about the MEF’s CE2.0 efforts. Below is our conversation:

Q: What exactly is the MEF’s Carrier Ethernet 2.0 certification and why is it important?

Raghu: CE2.0 is the MEF’s designation for its second generation of service standards.  CE 2.0 is about new services (E-Tree, E-Access) and interfaces (ENNI) in addition to significant enhancements to previously defined services (E-Line, E-LAN). The services allow an operator to achieve global coverage with interoperable interconnection, management and performance.

A CE 2.0 certified compliant implementation will also enable faster and consistent rollout of MEF services. Over the last 10 years, the MEF has been key in generating industry consensus in a comprehensive set of services (think E-Line, E-LAN and E-Tree) that are in high demand, and benefit from standardized definitions. Customers can order them confidently, and operators know what they are expected to deliver. Service procurement is far less complex and time to service activation is minimized.  

Q: What was involved in gaining the certification?

Raghu: The CE2.0 certification is a very rigorous process involving hundreds of test cases as a result of requirements for Service Definitions and Attributes. Each vendor can decide to certify their products as being capable of supporting some or all MEF Services and Interfaces that are part of this CE 2.0.

With Ciena specifically, we focused on an initial group of products for six of eight services. The Ciena products chosen for the initial testing were our 3916, 3930 and 5150 platforms. The common Service Aware Operating System (SAOS) used across our portfolio and our engineering team’s efforts in keeping the portfolio aligned with MEF specifications as they were being defined substantially helped us to achieve this milestone in sync with MEF’s launch of CE 2.0 certification. The focus for Ciena was also on those services that would be of immediate benefit to our deployments in both service provider and enterprise customers.

Q: Ciena’s certification is for six services each across three products.  What services did we focus on?

Raghu:  Ciena worked very closely with our customers on identifying what is most relevant for their current service portfolio coupled with what was possible in the limited testing in the first phase of CE 2.0 certification. We have deployments for both point-to-point as well as multipoint-to-multipoint services. So, supporting the CE 2.0 enhancements for these E-Line and E-LAN services is critical. Also, we have aligned our portfolio to support the implementation of External Network to Network Interface (ENNI) in addition to User Network Interface (UNI) so as to support point-to-point E-Access services to enable global interconnect. The port and vlan based services for E-Line/E-LAN/E-Access are 6 services with standard classes of service that are consistent with our current deployments. Ciena plans to have other products certified for these as well as E-Tree services as soon as the certification lab schedule allows it.

Q: When will these CE2.0 certified products be available?

Raghu: Right away.  The products and SAOS software upon which Ciena has certified CE 2.0 are mature and generally available releases.  I think our ability to achieve certification for six services each across three different products is a testament to the leadership Ciena folks have in technical activities at MEF both as contributors to multiple projects as well as our Editor role in Service Definitions, Mobile Backhaul IA, and Amendments to SOAM PM. Ciena is committed to open and standardized interoperable implementations for our customers.

Q: An impressive total of 20 vendors were awarded MEF CE2.0 certification. What does that mean for service providers and enterprises buying Carrier Ethernet equipment and what does it say to you about the state of the CE industry?

Raghu: A Service Provider’s network and service deployment is always going to be a multi-vendor world.  In addition, a service provider has peering relationships with many local operators across the world. It is important to have interoperable implementations for MEF Services and Interfaces.  The MEF has helped in this arena for more than a decade with strong technical work, and the CE2.0 standard takes it to the next level with regard to interoperable implementations – including consistent class-of-service handling, OAM capabilities, etc.

As for the state of the industry, I think the fact that 25% of CE 1.0 certified vendors felt it was critical to gain CE2.0 certification from the outset provides a positive sign that their customers are demanding support for the advanced MEF Services and hence see the value in this exercise.

Q: In your conversations with operators, how important is CE2.0 certification to them?

Raghu: The CE2.0 certification confirms that implementations of UNI and E-NNI are consistent with MEF specifications. This reduces the effort that service providers have to put to verify and also to allow ease of service turn up, thus enabling service providers to roll out more services.  Most of the operators that I have talked to are also actively following MEF projects because the work helps them to expand their market footprint (for example, with the E-Access service) and helps minimize the otherwise prolonged negotiations between the buying and selling operators in these multi-operator situations. Time to revenue matters a lot.

But CE2.0 is about more than just multi-operator handoff.  The multi-CoS aspect of CE2.0 defines three classes of service that simplify the handling of differentiated traffic amongst operators. The MEF 23.1 Implementation Agreement and MEF 6.1 Technical Spec capture the specific classes of service and their attributes  that are used to consistently deliver a particular level of performance across operators. This allows Carrier Ethernet services that are interoperable and predictably support well-understood subscriber applications on an end-to-end basis.

Q: Does the CE2.0 program also involve operators certifying their Carrier Ethernet service offerings?

Raghu: Yes.  The CE 2.0 program offers certification for service providers who are MEF members, whereby service providers certify their service offerings for MEF CE 2.0 compliance. For obvious reasons, that  program lags the vendor certification program that is being announced this week. It is important for service providers to know that the equipment they use is capable of CE 2.0.

So eventually you will see operators become MEF certified at the service level. That includes some of Ciena’s customers, and we are cooperating with them to help them succeed at the service level as they begin the pre-testing and testing stage.

Q: Earlier this year, Ciena unveiled a “Built for Speed” campaign focused on reducing the time required for delivery and support of Carrier Ethernet services.  What does our adoption of CE2.0 specifications do to help that cause?

Raghu: Built for Speed was a moniker we used to highlight a host of enhancements to our Packet Networking Portfolio aimed at radically changing the speed of service for managed Ethernet service offerings that carriers and network operators provide to their enterprise customers.  For example, with Ciena gear a service provider can use embedded tools and templates to configure, test and turn up a new Ethernet service connection in hours instead of weeks, and can make upgrades or changes to existing services with the push of a button.  CE2.0 is another example of speed of service activation. For example the fact that there is now a well-defined E-Access service type means multi-operator services can be more readily available, whereas before, lengthy contractual discussions were needed to establish exactly what was being bought and sold between the parties. A well-defined E-Access offering eases that whole process.

Q: Final thoughts?

Raghu: Ciena looks forward to assisting our service provider customers get certified compliant to CE 2.0 when the MEF services are deployed using our platforms. Also, Ciena will continue to actively involved with MEF and collaborate with our customers in ensuring they have the necessary standard interoperable implementations in addition to any relevant Ciena enhancements.