Ethernet pioneer Bob Metcalfe promises enterprises faster 'third network'

A 'new vision' of faster network services available for businesses to use, was spelt out by Ethernet creator Bob Metcalfe at the NetEvents forum in Portugal yesterday.


A 'new vision' of faster network services available for businesses to use, was spelt out by Ethernet creator Bob Metcalfe at the NetEvents forum in Portugal yesterday.

The networking industry is working together to combine network functions virtualisation (NFV), software defined network (SDN) and service orchestration to develop higher speed services for its customers.

Speaking through video link to the NetEvents conference in Portugal, Metcalfe was joined by Nan Chen, president of the Ethernet carrier body MEF, to explain why this had never been achieved before.

Chen said: "Today telecom operating systems are in functional silos such as separate inventory, provisioning, performance and fault management systems. Each functional system must hold detailed information of all domains or layers like optical, Ethernet and IP. Change in any domain results in changing all systems which takes extraordinary amount of time and money."

Now NFV will use general purpose virtual machines (VMs) instead of vendor-specific network elements for every network function, while SDN will move control functions in network elements to central controllers.

For connectivity services, service orchestration will play a main role, Chen added.

"Service orchestration manages the entire lifecycle of connectivity services - fulfilment, control, performance, assurance, usage and analytics. It holds detailed service inventory of all services in a layered domain and it provide necessary APIs for information exchange between service providers or internal systems operating at different layers.”

The move builds on the CE2.0 network, which changed the network industry two years ago.

"The new third network orchestrates dynamic performance assured services and brings explosive growth in the market for all stakeholders", Metcalfe said.

Net neutrality

The new drive coincides with growing concern over internet neutrality and the question whether the internet and its speed should be a level playing field for all.

Chen admitted the issue was "sensitive" but likened the market to consumers paying to fly on a budget or luxury airline in first class.

"Net neutrality is a sensitive subject - what we really are here to do is provide alternative that service people get better service if they pay for it. It is a prioritisation of traffic, where people pay more to get what they want.

"There are no unlimited resources for anything that is available, pay as you go is the way to move forward."

Benefit to enterprise

The announcement is a chance for businesses to provide faster more reliable connections for their employees in the office or working remotely but also a new revenue opportunity for service providers and vendors - all of whom Metcalfe called upon to help bring this new network into the market.

Service providers like Orange have already brought hybrid virtual private networks to the market, which use private multi protocol label switching (MPLS), carrier Ethernet and internet connectivity. But the MEF say that the new third network will be key for businesses who are looking at cloud services or migration.

Andrew McFadzen, MEF's chairman said: "Cloud service delivery will be seamless with service on demand and as you go that interconnects user locations to virtual machines or virtual network functions running on blade servers in remote datacentres."

Analyst perspective

Not all delegates at NetEvents were entirely convinced by the announcement. Pim Bilderbeek, analyst at The Metis Files said: "I dont't know about paying more for better speeds. its more like automation - the ability to deliver better services. I think its a good initiative, but I'll wait and see until it has been implemented."