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Carrier Ethernet is a version of Ethernet. It is overseen by the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) who has an official definition for the technology. The MEF defines Carrier Ethernet as: "a ubiquitous, standardized, carrier-class Service and Network defined by five attributes that distinguish Carrier Ethernet from familiar LAN based Ethernet.”The five distinguishing attributes are:
You can think of Carrier Ethernet as a bridge that reconciles the advantages of Ethernet with the requirements of service providers.
Early Ethernet services were based on standard Ethernet switches and IEEE standards 802.1(a) and (d). These services had to face challenges such as limited traffic engineering, lack of scalability, limited quality of service and limited protection. These drawbacks led to the development of Carrier Ethernet. Operators around the world use carrier Ethernet to support Ethernet enterprise services and residential "triple play" services.
There are 30+ technical specifications that provide the exact definitions to Carrier Ethernet. These specs are oveseen by the MEF, who works closely with industry and other standards bodies. In order for a product or service to claim the title of "Carrier Ethernet" it must be certified by the MEF.