One of the surprising elements of Ethernet is how many different standards bodies there are developing a diverse set of extensions to Ethernet. I’m beginning to wonder how far Ethernet can be pulled and stretched and yet still look like Ethernet.
|IETF are developing TRILL and previously VPWS, VPLS and other L2 Ethernet LAN extension technologies.|
|The IEEE are the long time custodians of the 802.3 standard. Except for the bits that they no longer control. Obviously in control of things like DCB and all the 802.1 buzzwords that we throw around. The IEEE are the custodians of the Ethernet frame format, but they don’t control extension to the Ethernet protocol that other people might put together. For example FCoE, TRILL, and many more|
|Focussing on taking the operational features of legacy protocols like ATM and Frame Relay and adding them onto the ethernet (thus justifying the purpose of ATM and Frame Relay and we should have been using it anyway).|
|Never one to produce anything useful, they are developing synchronous ethernet (for goodness sake) in addition to a range of OAM protocols.|
|Attempting to make Ethernet in the last mile instead of PPP. Things like DSL/FttX/Broadband related architecture and transport aspects (TR-101), BRAS/BNG-requirements, Ethernet Aggregation/TR-59 evolution, subscriber session handling.|
Not to mention people that appear to be lobbyists for making sure the Ethernet standards ‘go your way’. For example, http://ethernetalliance.org/ has a vague kind of job that looks like a political lobby.
Let not forget the FibreChannel people attempting to turn Ethernet into something new as well via the ANSI X11 commitee http://www.t11.org/ who are hoping to stay relevant for a few more years with FCoE.
The EtherealMind View
So Ethernet might be the protocol that we are ‘converging’ on. As you might expect, Ethernet doesn’t actually suit all use cases e.g. in the carrier space Ethernet has no OAM capabilities for remote service monitoring of edge devices. It’s human nature to attempt to extend the protocol, possibly taking the technology in directions that are sub-optimal. A living example of this problem is Microsoft Windows and it’s years of extensions and patches – and it isn’t working so well.
I take the view that there is no longer just one version of ethernet as it gets pulled in many directions to suit different needs. I do wonder just how far Ethernet can go as Grand Unified Theory of networking. And it’s confusing to attempt to track all the different splinters.
For example, as I write this, TRILL (IETF) and SPB (IEEE) are developing standard for L2 ECMP and today it seems that the market will use TRILL in the Data Centre, and Service Providers/Carriers will use it in the WAN. Both of these technologies are, loosely, signalling layers that extend Ethernet’s capabilities. The frame format might be the same, but Ethernet is very different for these two technologies.
What I find quietly amusing is that many of the features that were present in other technologies (like end-to-end status for Frame Relay PVCs) are being developed for Ethernet. I’m not sure if I should laugh or cry about that.