According to a press release announcing its formation, the Forum "provides a unique framework for industry stakeholders to collectively develop solutions that address technical challenges such as VLAN scaling, layer 2 performance and resilience across very large domains and consolidating storage network technologies onto ethernet."
The new body is associated with the Metro Ethernet Forum. James Walker vice president of managed network services for Tata Communications has been appointed president.
Walker said: "This is in response to urgent requirements from customers … We are already seeing performance degradation today from customers who have difficulty distributing their resources around the world … I started talking to colleagues and peers in December and now we are launching it. It brings together many stakeholders from many different parts of the industry … It addresses two areas: ethernet and its behaviour in a large environment and how it interacts with the cloud orchestration layer that sits above that… They have a very tight interaction with each other."
To demonstrate this tight integration, Walker said: "Cloud orchestration platforms use multicast to discover resources, so if you had taken multicast out of ethernet on the WAN you would have broken cloud orchestration platforms. So it is very important to have the interaction between those two layers."
He added: "There are also requirements from a privacy and regulatory point of view. In some countries there are certain types of data that you cannot take offshore so controlling where storage sits and how it is accessed becomes very important."
He said the goal of the forum was to enable separate data centres connected over a wide area network to behave as if they were on the same local area network.
"For customer with a data centre and Singapore and one in Hong Kong that wants to move a virtual machine from one to the other, that is a big exercise, but if they are on one LAN it behaves as one data centre. So we are talking about data centre virtualisation. That is extremely attractive to customers."
The new body is closely aligned with the Metro Ethernet Forum. Walker said: "We are sharing back office resources. They have an intellectual property structure and it allows us to get up to speed very quickly."
The new body expects to have its first deliverables in about six months. These will be a set of best practices, "things you can do today with existing technologies," Walker said. He added: "If we have to generate new standards it will be a 12-18 month job. If we decide that the ethernet framework has to be redesigned and the IEEE has to go away and think about it, it will take longer."
He expects membership to grow quickly. "Over the next few weeks you will see further announcements. There are 30-40 companies that have expressed interest in the Forum. We want to bring in large-scale cloud and SaaS providers. We have had discussions with several of them and they have expressed an interest."