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Ethernet Operators See Future in 100GE, NFV

Sterling Perrin
10/14/2015
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Trends in video, cloud and Internet content are driving network operator Ethernet decisions and bringing particular attention to 100 Gbit/s transport, 100 Gigabit Ethernet (GE) interfaces and services, and to SDN and NFV. These are some of the key findings in Heavy Reading's newly published 2015 Carrier Ethernet Survey, which analyzed responses from 68 qualified network operator employees from around the world.

The 100G transport trend has been in play for some time. Heavy Reading supplier data shows that 100G line-side interfaces already dominate the long-haul market, and are now starting to grow quickly in metros as well. In our Carrier Ethernet survey, operators overwhelmingly selected 100G transport as the top technology innovation of the past two years, delivering the greatest value today for Ethernet services. Interestingly, 100GE interfaces on switches/routers ranked third on the list this year, jumping up five places in the ranking from our 2013 version of the same survey (a greater jump than any other innovation on the list).

The distinction between 100G transport and 100GE interfaces needs some explanation. Initial interest around 100G transport was in "muxponder" applications. This means that 100G-equipped DWDM equipment transmitted at 100G rates, but the client-side inputs were from lower rates, primarily at 10G. The growing interest in 100GE interfaces means that 100GE services are on the rise -- with services both coming in and going out at 100G data rates.

What's driving the move to 100GE UNIs? In our survey, we asked a free-response question allowing survey takers to write in their main reasons for deploying 100GE. Tallying the various responses, video- and content-related write-ins topped the list by far. (Note that content can also include video streaming content.) Cloud, enterprise, data center interconnection and mobile capacity demands also rated as important, albeit secondary to the video/content drivers.

SDN and NFV are also beginning to have a significant impact on operators' Ethernet and IP services, according to our 2015 survey. This is a big change from our 2013 version of the survey, in which NFV and SDN registered nearly at the bottom of the near-term priorities list -- despite the significant industry hype that existed even then.

In our 2015 survey, 14 percent of operators expect a significant impact from SDN and NFV by end of the year, and an additional 55 percent of operators expect a major impact in the 2016-2017 timeframe. Also, while just 10 percent of operators surveyed expect 20 percent or more of their revenue to come from SDN/NFV architectures this year, 48 percent expect 20 percent or more of revenue to come from SDN/NFV architectures in 2018.

Consistent with other Heavy Reading surveys, the most important area of SDN development is NFV. Our research shows that while SDN certainly has applications beyond COTS hardware and function virtualization, NFV applications are of immediate interest and are tied tightly to operator priorities of adaptability and network/service agility. Within the realm of NFV, our survey data shows particular near-term interest in virtual CPE applications. By the end of 2016, more than half of respondents expect to have deployed vCPE in their networks.

Time will tell how precisely these operator projections map to their deployments, but the macro messages of greater network scale, flexibility and adaptability to drive New IP networks are clear and unmistakable.

— Sterling Perrin, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading


For more information on the Heavy Reading 2015 Carrier Ethernet Survey, please contact:

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