EFM Takes First Steps

(January 1, 2005) - SIX MONTHS AFTER THE IEEE 802.3ah standard was ratified - Ethernet in the First Mile is likely to see some high-profile deployments in the United States as well as a push for vendor conformance and interoperability.

“We were surprised - quite pleasantly - with the change in the attitudes of service providers after ratification of the EFM standard. It was almost like a light switch went on,” says Kevin Sheehan, president and CEO of Hatteras Networks Inc., which makes Ethernet-over-copper access devices for long-reach applications. Hatteras announced in October it had signed Expedient as a customer of its Metro Ethernet Copper Access (MECA) solution. Expedient planned to turn up Ethernet-overcopper services in Pittsburgh and Erie, Pa., and Cleveland by the end of 2004 and expand to all 20 of its current markets in 2005.

Hatteras’ competitor Actelis Networks also has announced domestic customer wins and Vice President of Marketing Yossi Saad says two ILECs and one Bell company - all undisclosed - have tapped the company’s MetaLIGHT series Ethernet-over-copper solutions to extend their metro Ethernet networks.

Sheehan’s and perhaps others’ surprise at the sudden uptick in business is because the EFM draft standard, which was ratified June 24, had been locked down for more than a year. It also already was included in many vendors’ offers and is deployed in provider networks, though mostly overseas, notes Craig Easley, president of the Ethernet in the First Mile Alliance and director of metro Ethernet services for Extreme Networks Inc.

The 802.3ah standard specifies requirements for Ethernet over point-to-point copper, for long-reach access (as supported by Hatteras and Actelis) and short-reach access, which is based on VDSL. EFM has set goals for a short-reach option of at least 10mbps up to at least 750 meters, and a long-reach option of at least 2mbps up to at least 2,700 meters. While the EFM committee has set these objectives as a minimum, the standard does not limit systems to these rates.

The 802.3ah standard also covers Ethernet over point-to-point and point-to-multipoint fiber (EPON). The EFM-over-fiber standards are aimed at the physical layer for point-to-point fiber with Ethernet at speeds of 100mbps and 1gbps, and spanning lengths of at least 10 kilometers over single-mode fiber. EFM PON builds a point-to-multipoint fiber topology that supports a speed of 1gbps for up to 20 kilometers.

In addition, it outlines operation, administration and maintenance (OAM). The main functions provided by OAM for EFM are link-performance monitoring; fault detection and fault signaling; and loopback testing.

Easley says vendors now are incorporating standardized components, and still more are adding OAM functions with or without the compliant components.

Most vendors agree it is the OAM functions that are the strength of EFM. Network operators can build or upgrade their access networks with multiple EFM topologies and manage them with a common set of tools and OAM procedures. Additionally, EFM OAM is backwards-compatible with any existing full-duplex Ethernet technology, and can be implemented on non-EFM Ethernet links. This compatibility was facilitated by the use of standard Ethernet frames as the transport mechanism for management information.

Test lab Iometrix Inc. has developed a certification program for the OAM portions of the specification. Isabelle Morency, director of operations for Iometrix, says her lab has created 138 tests for mandatory and optional requirements of the specification. She says Iometrix started working with vendors and service providers in the summer. Among its clients, Hatteras is the only one that has publicly announced that it has passed the OAM conformance testing.

Morency says much of the interest in testing by service providers has come from Asian operators, which have greenfield opportunities, instead of embedded DSL and ATM networks common to U.S. providers. While the short-term interest is international, Morency says EFM “will conquer the U.S. and Canada because of improvements in transmission speed and network management.”

Abdul Kasim, director of carrier business development for ADVA Optical Networking, says, “Everyone is embracing it, not a lot of convincing is required.” He says a handful of new and existing customers, including BT, are using the company’s EFM product, the Fiber Service Platform (FSP) 150, which was introduced in summer 2004. He explains that EFM’s merits boil down to opex cost savings. “[It also] has more appeal than what they have been using, which is not a carrier-class protocol,” he says.

In the enterprise, Ethernet links and networks have been managed via SNMP, which is not always efficient and is sometimes inadequate, according to an EFMA White Paper. Among other things, it requires provisioning IP on every device and instituting an IP overlay network even if the ultimate end-user service is an Ethernet service, which is impractical in a carrier environment, the paper concludes.

“What EFM does is it is enabling best-of-breed networks, end to end,” says Kasim. “To a large extent it’s a no-brainer for [carriers].”

Increasingly, such networks will be multivendor as more product conforms to the standard and is proved interoperable. Eric Lynskey, manager of the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL) EFM Consortium, says the lab has been testing interoperability of vendor product since September.

In early November, three vendors had been through testing and others were scheduled through the end of the year. “It’s picking up steam now,” he says.

UNH-IOL is the second of two labs conducting EFM tests. UNH-IOL tests focus on interoperability while Iometrix tests for conformance. Neither is sanctioned by any standards body, but both belong to the EFMA and were involved in the IEEE meetings on 802.3ah.

ADVA is the first vendor to complete a 100-point EFM compliance test devised and administered by UNH-IOL. ADVA’s FSP 150 product family (CP and MO versions), which ADVA introduced in the summer, were tested against the 802.3ah specifications for OAM remote loopback, variable query and link-event notification functionality and a battery of mandatory items specified within Clause 57. The UNH-IOL test setup also comprises all Ethernet point-to-point physical layers, including EPON.

Transition Networks Inc. plans to introduce in January its new, remotely managed 10/100/1000 copper-to-fiber media converter, providing a fully managed conversion between 10/100/1000BaseT and 1000BaseLX or SX signals at the central office and customer premises. The 10/100/1000 converter complies with the 802.3ah standard and is scheduled for interoperability testing this month.

As more products become interoperable, vendors like ADVA, Extreme Networks and others are expected to form marketing alliances with other compliant vendors to forward total solutions. So, for example, ADVA might pair up its FSP 150 with another manufacturer’s Layer 2 or 3 switch.

EFMA’s Easley says this will be an increasing strategy for vendors in targeting service providers with EFM solutions. It also will be a strategy to combat entrenched providers that still are trying to push T1 and DSL platforms, rather than cannibalize that business with EFM. As service providers begin to demand EFM, however, the upstart vendors expect to make OEM deals with the big equipment makers.


Khali Henderson 2005 Virgo Publishing http://www.x-changemag.com/articles/511network1.html