Ethernet Expo: Gurus Grade Themselves

Having had to shop for carrier Ethernet, AT&T knows first-hand that it's not entirely there yet

Craig Matsumoto, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

October 12, 2005

3 Min Read
Ethernet Expo: Gurus Grade Themselves

NEW YORK – Ethernet Expo – While carrier Ethernet is taking off as an idea, the service is still undergoing some growing pains, at least in the United States.

Some of the stumbling blocks were noted in a session here titled "Enterprise Services: A Moving Target." Panelists noted some of the wonderful things anticipated about Ethernet services, and went on to explain what's missing from today's offerings.

The most detailed outlook came from Richard Klapman, {dirlink 5|11} (NYSE: T) product director for converged packet access. Klapman issued his carrier Ethernet report card, speaking not as a provider, but as a buyer. AT&T offers carrier Ethernet over its own fiber but also resells other providers' carrier Ethernet in some cases, and a request for proposal (RFP) earlier this year yielded some disappointing results.

Klapman gave carriers a B+ when it comes to availability and pricing. "Ethernet's really not available in all their LATAs or all their buildings," he said. "This gets in the way of carrier Ethernet becoming a multibillion-dollar market."

And prices remain higher than what AT&T's customers are expecting for Ethernet, he said. Klapman also took issue with the pricing process, which he found too slow, grating on the supposed ease of working with Ethernet. "It doesn't go with the simplicity -- faster, better, and cheaper."

For interoperability and performance, carriers get a C+ grade from Klapman. Speeds and interfaces often don't match, AT&T has found, and many carriers don't guarantee performance at all, making it difficult for AT&T to pledge QOS for its own users. "It's kind of like Ethernet's been out there for three decades and everybody's implemented it in different ways."

Klapman noted that interoperability should be aided by the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF)'s Carrier Ethernet Certification Program, which will set the bar for Ethernet services. (See MEF Adds Carrier Certification.)

One caveat: All this applies to AT&T's U.S. shopping experience."Ethernet is actually further advanced in the Pacific Rim and Europe and Australia," Klapman said.

Still, other panelists noted that Ethernet could use some more functionality to serve enterprises -- items such as monitoring, for example. Panelists discussed the possibilities for Ethernet to serve in storage markets, but storage networks often come with a low tolerance for downtime and a need to retrieve information immediately. "[Customers] need visibility at every step in the network," said Stephen Barr, director of carrier partner business development at Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN). "We need to turn Ethernet into more of a deterministic service, more of a guaranteed service."

Audience members got a taste of an enterprise wish list from Chris Lin, vice president of infrastructure for Ellie Mae Inc., which runs an online service connecting mortgage seekers to prospective lenders. Lin explained how the mortgage lending industry has taken to using networks to corral the mass of people and documents required for each transaction, then noted some features he would be willing to pay for.

They're the kinds of features that are available, but not at the level Lin wants, and not necessarily from the carriers providing Ethernet services. One was document management -- the scanning and storing of the voluminous paper documents that still permeate the mortgage process. (Lin said he's heard of one company that outsourced the scanning of documents to India.)

Another was data replication, which Lin said needs to be faster. "I cannot have good instantaneous replication, and yet because of disaster recovery, I have to keep things as far apart as possible," he said. "That's driving me crazy."

Neither case necessarily relates to the Ethernet argument, but Lin held out this carrot: If such features were available, that might "push me over the threshold" to buy other carrier services, he said. "The advantage of outsourcing is that I can gain additional services."

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Craig Matsumoto

Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

Yes, THAT Craig Matsumoto – who used to be at Light Reading from 2002 until 2013 and then went away and did other stuff and now HE'S BACK! As Editor-in-Chief. Go Craig!!

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