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A Network Experts contribution on MEF Foundational elements

Having associated with MEF (then Metro Ethernet Forum) from as far back as 2003, I thought of sharing a bit about my experience with MEF for the benefit of everyone.

Few months after joining my current company (a Service Provider in Sri Lanka) as a young Engineer back in 2003, I was asked to plan and design a network using a technology called “Metro Ethernet”. Though I had heard about Ethernet, Metro Ethernet was kind of new to me. I searched on the web and within the 1st few search results there came the “Metro Ethernet Forum”.

While referring to other learning material, I extensively used the material available in MEF to learn about the foundation principles of Metro Ethernet. I found the MEF Technical Specifications extremely user friendly, compared to the documents published by other SDOs (Standards Developing Organizations). That made me to read more MEF documents. I also used the book Metro Ethernet by Sam Halabi. Having gained enough knowledge, in 2004, I started architecting, planning and designing Sri Lanka’s 1st Metro Ethernet Network from scratch and prepared the RFP (Request For Proposal) documents for product selection. The document approach and evolution was based on various IETF (RFCs and drafts), ITU-T, IEEE and MEF specifications. Two of the MEF specifications included in the RFP were MEF 8: Implementation Agreement for the Emulation of PDH Circuits over Metro Ethernet Network and MEF 14: Abstract Test Suite for Traffic Management Phase 1.

As we wanted to have CESoPSN (Circuit Emulation Services over Packet Switched Networks), MEF 8 was included.

In the evaluation and product selection phase, we had to meet different vendors and to listen to their product and solution presentations. The knowledge gained from MEF extensively helped our team to clarify things easily. After selecting the vendor, the network was deployed with extensive testing to make sure the interoperability with existing networks. Lot of awareness had to be done for the internal staff, especially the sales staff, on Metro Ethernet, proposed Metro Ethernet Network and the Metro Ethernet services.  In 2006 the Metro Ethernet products were officially launched and at that time were called as VLL (Virtual Leased Line) for E-Line and VPLS (Virtual Private LAN Service) for E-LAN. The Metro Ethernet Network was expanded several times and one of the rules maintained throughout was the support of MEF standards on the selected equipment.

The success of the Metro Ethernet Network made the company to use the technology beyond E-Line and E-LAN as end customer services and to use it for service and traffic aggregation for other access networks. That also made me to join the planning team in 2008 and to architect, design and plan Sri Lanka’s 1st Carrier Ethernet Network, again from scratch. The same steps were followed as in the Metro Ethernet Network, but with the knowledge and experienced gained through the deployment for the Metro Ethernet Network, we could move quicker. In addition to MEF 8 and MEF 14, MEF 9 (Abstract Test Suite for Ethernet Services at the UNI) was used. The Carrier Ethernet Network was commissioned in 2010 with a huge success and to date had several expansions to cater the growing demand.

After taking a different role within the same company as a Solution Support Engineer, I started using the Metro Ethernet and Carrier Ethernet services in most of my solutions. The products are now referred to as EDL (Ethernet Data Line) for E-Line and EVPN (Ethernet VPN) for E-LAN.

When looking back, I proudly admire the work of MEF for being the driving force behind Metro Ethernet services from the inception. Since 2003, beyond Metro Ethernet and Carrier Ethernet, MEF specifications have been widely referred and used in most of the network RFPs and product selection criteria.

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Thank you Anuradha Udunuwara as a new contributor to the MEFProCERT blog.  Feel free to respond to Anuradha and the community with your own experiences.

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