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As Ethernet technology turns 40 years old, a group of cloud vendors, users and carriers launched a cross-industry alliance, the CloudEthernet Forum, to target further development of the technology so that it can meet the evolving needs of cloud service providers and users.

CloudEthernet forum launches to improve the capability of Ethernet for cloud

CloudEthernet forum launches to improve the capability of Ethernet for cloud

The Forum’s membership so far consists of cloud, data centre, wide-area network (WAN) service providers and carriers. Founding members include Alcatel-Lucent; Avaya, Equinix, HP, Juniper, PCCW Global, Spirent, Tata Communications and Verizon. The new forum will work alongside the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF), the “defining body” for carrier Ethernet, itself an international alliance comprising more than 200 organisations including telecom service providers, cable MSOs (Multiple System Operators), network equipment and software manufacturers, semiconductor vendors and testing organisations.

The purpose of the CloudEthernet Forum will be to produce recommended standardisation implementations of existing Ethernet technologies, and to develop other relevant technologies enabling the creation of highly scalable, adaptable cloud infrastructures.

James Walker, President of the CloudEthernet Forum and VP of Managed Network Services for Tata Communications, a founding member, commented: “Four years ago we migrated our Ethernet over SDH services to native Ethernet over PBB and it is proving highly popular with our datacenter customers. They love Ethernet’s simplicity and scalability and want more. However, as datacenter networks become larger and more sophisticated, they are coming up against challenges, and the CloudEthernet Forum is committed to resolving those issues.”

While Ethernet was originally used for local-area networks (LAN), it’s increasingly being adopted by enterprises and service providers who operate WANs.

The news is as encouraging for large enterprises as it is for data centres and cloud service providers. As large enterprises grow and continue to adopt cloud technologies, the number of tenants and virtual machines increases – which can place a burden on cloud service providers as well – and could crowd out data packets, creating more traffic as a result.

Ethernet also currently has limits on the number of Virtual LANs that can be set up (just over 4,000 on the latest IEEE 802.1Q standard), which is less of an issue for enterprises as it is for cloud service providers. Developing the technology further to grow the number of VLANs capable of running through the systems could mean a huge opportunity for public cloud service providers in particular, many of which require data centres capable of offering customers thousands of separate VLANs for a range of computing and storage operations.

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