NXTcomm: Top 5 Ethernet Trends

This year's NXTcomm was sporting an Ethernet look, with deployments, backhaul, management, and PBT leading the discussions

Craig Matsumoto, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

June 23, 2008

6 Min Read
NXTcomm: Top 5 Ethernet Trends

NXTcomm just wouldn't be the show it is (or used to be) if it wasn't saturated with carrier Ethernet announcements, developments, and displays -- so in one way, at least, the show didn't disappoint, as the event was awash with vendors proudly boasting of increasing carrier interest and uptake.

Here are the five main carrier Ethernet trends we swept up from the show floor (along with the tumbleweeds...).

1. Sales success spreads
Not only is the carrier Ethernet market growing, but it's growing for vendors other than Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO).

Competitors are nibbling away at Cisco's dominant position from multiple directions, says Heavy Reading analyst Stan Hubbard. (See Cisco Gets a CESR Wakeup Call.)

For example, BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) is to use Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) routers to power an Ethernet services drive. And, while it didn't announce a win at the show, Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) claims it has a $250 million annual run rate and well more than 100 customers for the Ethernet-heavy MX series of routers, which weren't even shipping before March 2007. (See AlcaLu Expands at BT and Juniper Antes Up on Ethernet (Finally).)

Hubbard says to watch what Juniper does in cable. It's scored at least one big deal there, with Cox Communications Inc. , as announced in May. (See Cox Picks Juniper.)

2. Is PBT on the canvas, or just taking a standing count?
BT, having confirmed its U-turn over Provider Backbone Transport (PBT, also called PBB-TE), showed its hand by choosing Alcatel-Lucent as its main vendor partner for Ethernet service development, as noted above. (See PBT Sidelined at BT and A Guide to PBT/PBB-TE.)

But while BT's pro-Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) camp has the upper hand at the moment, Nortel Networks Ltd. , the vendor that's pumped PBT the hardest, and which was set to gain the most from a broad PBT deployment by the British carrier, is taking the AlcaLu deal in its stride.

"Certainly there are the technology's supporters" inside BT, says Michael Loomis, who leads product line management for carrier Ethernet at Nortel. "They've worked with us for a very long time," he adds, while hunting around for some straws to clutch. (See Nortel Touts Carrier Ethernet and Nortel: There's More to PBT Than BT.)

From the vendor side, Fujitsu Network Communications Inc. gave PBT a vote of confidence, and analysts, including those at Heavy Reading, consider PBT far from dead. (See Fujitsu Supports PBB-TE and Analyst: PBT’s Not Dead Yet.)

Other equipment firms made PBT-related announcements as well:

  • Ethos Shows Off

  • Ixia Gets PBT Nod


  • Telrad Intros Demarc

To Page 2

3. Backhaul: Embracing TDM
Wireless backhaul has become a hot topic for Ethernet equipment vendors, but they've got to find ways to deal with the TDM-based infrastructure that's not going away, while serving the Ethernet-based data traffic that's increasing in volume.

At NXTcomm, Hatteras Networks Inc. was showing a way to put native TDM on the same copper lines as Ethernet. The technology -- called BFP, for Big Flexible Pipe -- won't be formally announced until the Fall.

"Rather than trying to put voice into pseudowires and having your challenges of buffers to control jitter and so forth, we're able to carry TDM over the same copper facility," says Gary Bolton, Hatteras's VP of marketing.

Still, Hatteras says some of its customers do still want pseudowires, and the technology continues to get a lot of attention from vendors.

Actelis Networks Inc. , for instance, announced its first pseudowire capability at the show, having been better known as an Ethernet-over-DSL play. Pseudowire's backhaul handicap is the requirement for network synchronization, something Ethernet doesn't do. So Actelis has devised its own way to do that by propagating a Sonet/SDH clock signal. (See Actelis Gets Certified.)

The issue of synchronization was also addressed by Brilliant Telecommunications Inc. during the show. (See Actelis Gets Certified.)

Introducing such capabilities is important because support for multiple protocols in backhaul will be needed for years to come, even as packet-based technologies such as Long Term Evolution (LTE) come into play.

"I think this idea of backhaul changing to Ethernet is misleading," says Lindsay Newell, a marketing VP at Alcatel-Lucent. "With mobile, if I'm driving in my car, I don't know if I'm hitting a 2G tower, a 3G tower, or a 4G tower." (AlcaLu doesn't endorse mobile Web browsing while driving, of course, and we're kinda hoping that Newell doesn't hit any sort of tower.)

4. Getting in control
It doesn't have the glitz appeal of backhaul (which is so sparkly it looks as if it's been in a teen pageant), but Ethernet management is edging into the spotlight as vendors try to replicate some of the touchy-feely capabilities of Sonet/SDH in the carrier Ethernet world.

Most vendors in Las Vegas were touting their ability to support standards such as IEEE 802.1g (MAC bridging). "I think carriers are still looking for a bit more from the standards community and the vendor community," AlcaLu's Newell says.

Soapstone Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SOAP) was, once again, showing off its ability to configure paths across multivendor networks. The software automatically generates protection paths, too, or flags the operator if no protection path with sufficient bandwidth exists. (See Soapstone Shores Up Ethernet.)

ANDA Networks Inc. , a partner of Soapstone's, was at the show promoting its EtherView element management system (EMS). Like Soapstone, ANDA is pushing multivendor support as a key factor -- not just because networks are so heterogeneous, but because it's a way for ANDA to sneak into big networks. (See ANDA Boasts Multivendor EMS.)

Other firms made Ethernet management announcements, too:

  • Hatteras Flexes

  • Foundry Pumps Ethernet

  • Gridpoint, DCL Team

5. The 100-Gig question
You didn't think an Ethernet list could go by without a mention of 100-Gbit/s, did you?

It's mostly talk right now, since a standard won't arrive for at least another year. "Unless you put a gun to their heads, carriers aren't going to deploy anything pre-standard" in 100-Gbit/s, one vendor was overheard saying.

  • 100-Gig Demo

  • Chipping Away at 100-Gig

  • 100G Committee Forms

And the rest
Here's a smattering of other Ethernet-related news from the show:

  • NXTcomm Preview: Ethernet & 8-Tbit/s

  • Demarc Goes 10-Gig

  • MRV Spews News

  • Vitesse Pumps MACs

  • Integra Picks Hatteras

  • Alloptic Intros Modular ONT

  • ADVA Does Ethernet Over Copper

  • Agilent Adds Ethernet

  • MRV Ups 'TereScope'

  • Juniper Enhances Routers

  • AMCC, Marvell Team Up

  • RAD Shrinks Pseudowire Gateway

  • ANDA, Nakina Team Up

  • Extreme Demos at NXTcomm

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to Ethernet Expo 2008, a conference and exposition examining the latest trends in the carrier Ethernet market. To be staged in New York, October 20-22, the conference will also host Light Reading's third annual Ethernet Service Provider of the Year Awards for North America. Admission is free for attendees meeting our prequalification criteria. For more information, or to register, click here.

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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