Home Global-ICTGlobal-ICT 2007 The rise and impact of Carrier Ethernet

The rise and impact of Carrier Ethernet

by david.nunes
Jeff ReedyIssue:Global-ICT 2007
Article no.:16
Topic:The rise and impact of Carrier Ethernet
Author:Jeff Reedy
Title:President and CEO
Organisation:Overture Networks
PDF size:232KB

About author

Jeff Reedy is the President and CEO of Overture Networks. Prior to Overture, Mr Reedy was VP of Engineering of Larscom Incorporated, a network access equipment company. Mr Reedy joined Larscom when they acquired T3 Technologies, a start-up he co-founded. Mr Reedy began his career at Bell Laboratories designing packet switching hardware and later joined FiberLAN, Inc., rising to Director of Engineering. He holds two patents. Mr Reedy earned a BS in electrical engineering and computer science from Duke University and a MSEE from Stanford University.

Article abstract

Telecommunications is undergoing a tremendous transformation caused, in part, by Carrier Ethernet. Today, Ethernet is more than a local area network (LAN) technology. Telecom service providers and equipment vendors have adapted Ethernet technology for metropolitan and wide area networks to offer business customers data, voice and video services. Carrier Ethernet offers the reliability, manageability, flexibility and high speed needed not only for business but for medical, distance learning and other applications that bring vital services to people throughout the world.

Full Article

The telecommunications industry is undergoing a tremendous transformation on three fronts. Much has been written about the first two fronts, which are essentially a battle for the consumer – the triple play of voice, video and data at the home and the wave of innovation in wireless networking. The third front is the battle for the business, and the technology causing this transformation is Carrier Ethernet. What is Carrier Ethernet? Most people know Ethernet as a local area networking technology used in the office to connect computers to servers and printers and as the connection at home from the PC to the cable or DSL modem. Since the late 1990s, telecom service providers and networking equipment vendors have been adapting Ethernet technology for metropolitan and wide area networks by making it more reliable, scaleable, manageable and suitable for offering multiple data, voice and video services to business customers. Like any new approach, adoption was gradual at first but this service has now hit an inflection point. According to Infonetics Research, worldwide Ethernet service revenues hit US$ 9.4 billion in 2006 and are expected to top US$ 25 billion by 2010. Why are businesses demanding Carrier Ethernet? Carrier Ethernet is the natural delivery mechanism for IP-based data, voice and video applications, and businesses want the speed, flexibility and ease of use that Carrier Ethernet offers. Speeds can range from one megabit per second (Mb/s) to over one gigabit per second (Gb/s). Flexibility means only having to pay for the bandwidth that is used, and if more bandwidth is needed, it is a very quick process to ratchet up the data rate. Ease of use comes from the simplicity of Ethernet and the fact that company personnel are already familiar with the technology in their local environment. The impact of Carrier Ethernet To the layman, Carrier Ethernet may seem like just another wave of new technology that is better and faster than the previous approaches, but the speed and universality of Carrier Ethernet is having a significant beneficial impact on the way the world works. In medicine, Carrier Ethernet’s high speed and low latency enables physicians to remotely diagnose patients that are tens or hundreds of miles away and would otherwise not receive the benefit of expert treatment. In education, Carrier Ethernet’s ability to handle voice, data and video streams on a single network helps fulfil the promise of distance learning and fully networked school systems. In finance, the seamless nature of Carrier Ethernet enables distribution of computing and storage resources to provide disaster recovery and critical low latency transactions. In almost any business, Carrier Ethernet helps bridge time and distance barriers, enabling collaboration and productivity within and between companies. Ultimately this creates an environment for innovation, as people expand their circle of connect points and focus their talents on new ideas. This knits the global community together more tightly, accelerating knowledge sharing and skills to improve the livelihood of all. Challenges Carrier Ethernet is not without its challenges. As demand for the technology escalates, the telecom service providers face several issues scaling their services to meet expectations. Initially, Carrier Ethernet was only delivered over fibre to a small set of densely occupied buildings in major urban centres. This was acceptable because the networks were simple – connecting a remote diagnostic facility across town to a hospital, for example, or corporate headquarters to a backup data-storage facility. Now, however, businesses want to convert their mainstream networks, based on older technology such as frame relay or asynchronous time division multiplexing (ATM), to Carrier Ethernet. This means the service provider must reach all locations, whether connected via fibre, copper or microwave. The carrier needs to offer data rates from 1 Mb/s to 1 Gb/s and beyond so the economics of the solution can match the bandwidth requirements of each location. Carriers also need solutions that provide the intelligence to prioritise different types of traffic and ensure that data, voice and video are delivered quickly and reliably. Fortunately, the service providers are receiving plenty of help from networking equipment companies, and they are being proactive in driving requirements to advance the state of the art. In addition, service providers, enterprises and equipment vendors are all working together in standards bodies such as the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF), to define feature sets and interoperability standards that ensure networks provide the reach, scale and manageability required for a truly universal service. The ultimate goal is everything over Ethernet, everywhere and all the time. Challenge means opportunity For the service providers who can respond to the ever-growing business demand for Carrier Ethernet, there are opportunities for both increased revenues and reduced costs. Services such as Virtual LAN, High-Speed Internet, voice over IP (VoIP) and packet video can be provisioned on a single connection, and each service adds revenues and increases the return on investment. These basic connectivity services can be expanded to provide even more profitable services, such as software application hosting, data mirroring, storage backup and content distribution. In addition to revenue enhancement, carriers recognise that Carrier Ethernet can provide significant cost savings on network interfaces, in transport networks, and at aggregation points – which continue to become more significant as silicon technology advances. Building a single packet-based network for all services provides operational savings over having to build and maintain multiple networks. Studies by Network Strategy Partners have quantified capital expense savings at 39 per cent and operational expense savings up to 49 per cent with a Carrier Ethernet approach. Furthermore, enterprise IT departments also save operational costs by interfacing to the carrier with a simple Ethernet handoff rather than with different interfaces for different services. The next few years What can the business community expect in the next few years? There will generally be options available from multiple service providers for Carrier Ethernet solutions that step up functionality and performance compared to legacy networks. Fibre will reach some locations and copper or wireless technology will reach still others. The speed of communications will de-emphasise physical barriers and change the way resources are allocated and processes are implemented. It is a natural question to ask, ‘What’s next after Carrier Ethernet?’ After all, the technical community has a way of inventing some new protocol every ten or 15 years and starting a new cycle of hype, hope and change. The answer today is that Carrier Ethernet will be the cornerstone technology of networks for many years to come. The data rates will get faster – reaching 40 Gb/s and 100 Gb/s and beyond. The beauty of the basic Carrier Ethernet architecture being implemented today is that it will continue to scale in breadth and speed as underlying technologies evolve. Carrier Ethernet represents a milestone in the evolution of the telecommunications network, but it is more than just bits and bytes – the speed, flexibility and ability to carry data, voice and video seamlessly throughout the globe makes Carrier Ethernet the cornerstone of 21st century communications, and will change the way people and institutions work and operate. That change has already begun and will continue to accelerate over the next few years.

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