Ethernet equipment

Cisco Beefs Up the Edge

LAS VEGAS -- Telecom '05 -- Stretching the carrier Ethernet concept from edge to edge, (Nasdaq: CSCO) today extended its product reach to blanket an entire service provider network with Ethernet.

At the Telecom '05 show today, Cisco announced the Supervisor Engine 32, a card for its 6500 and 7600 series boxes. It's a smaller and cheaper version of the Supervisor 720, a card offered for aggregation boxes, allowing service providers to offer carrier Ethernet in metro switches and routers.

Going even further to the edge, Cisco also debuted the ME 3400, an access box designed to put carrier Ethernet at the customer premises -- in the basement of a multitenant unit, for example.

The combination of the Supervisor 720, the Supervisor Engine 32, and the ME 3400 gives Cisco a carrier Ethernet offering spanning from edge to edge. "Rather than a point product, we're really targeting the three areas across the carrier network," says Mark Milinkovich, director of Cisco's products and technology marketing organization for service providers.

Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) is a key requirement for carrier Ethernet, but Cisco is adding other options such as Resilient Packet Ring (RPR), trying to give carriers more flexibility in how they wield Ethernet, Milinkovich says.

Cisco is hardly the only vendor taking carrier Ethernet closer to the edge. Riverstone Networks Inc. (OTC: RSTN.PK) recently unveiled its 15100 and 15200 series routers, smaller versions of its flagship 15008, to bring its MPLS technology into access networks. And the trend is likely to continue. (See Riverstone Aims for Access.)

"Those companies involved in providing equipment that supports business services will feel pressure to have an MPLS customer-located equipment solution or partner with someone who does," says Mark Seery, an analyst with Ovum-RHK Inc.

It's all a sign of carrier Ethernet becoming "the next great battleground" for wireline equipment, says Heavy Reading senior analyst Stan Hubbard. "The stakes are huge, because we are talking about a technology that not only is emerging as the universal service access jack to the MAN and WAN, but it also is playing a critical role in the transport and aggregation portions of next-generation networks."

Until now, cost has blocked carrier Ethernet gear from the edges of the network. Carriers had to choose between deploying expensive "carrier-grade" boxes at the customer premises or settling for enterprise-class gear lacking in carrier features. To the latter point, some carriers used Cisco's 3550 or 3750 enterprise switches for the customer premises.

The ME 3400 is different in that it can isolate each subscriber on a different port. "With a regular switch you'd have to do funky things like put everybody on a different VLAN," says Brendan Gibbs, Cisco's director of product management.

More boxes like it could be on the way. "We’re seeing stepped-up efforts on the part of vendors to address this MTU market, because it appears poised to grow as enterprises transition from legacy services to Ethernet and as carriers look for cost-effective solutions for bringing high concentrations of consumer customers onto the network," says Hubbard.

Separately, Cisco's announcement today included 10-Gbit/s interfaces for the Catalyst 4500, 7600, and XR 12000 systems, as well as new 10/100-Mbit/s Ethernet interfaces for the ONS 15454.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 2:56:08 AM
re: Cisco Beefs Up the Edge So, if you're a service provider, which do you pick: Having "carrier Ethernet" stretch from end to end in the network ... or saving some money with cheaper equipment at the customer edge?

Similar question: Do you really need the features of carrier Ethernet to be present at the very fringes of the network?
sgamble 12/5/2012 | 2:56:07 AM
re: Cisco Beefs Up the Edge I think it depends on the market you are trying to compete in and where you fit.

As an MEU looking to compete in the SMB space, launching an E-10 service to compete against business DSL and Cable is a good fit _if_ the building is already on-net. The benefits for the end user go on and on and the price is solid against competing products. Also, it allows us stop handing over 80% of DSL loops costs back to Bell and resell our own access to other ISPs to collect loop fees ourselves.

So hitting the SMB market with packages that include VOIP, Web Hosting, Firewall, VPN (all centrall managed without CPE) is attractive.

The other benefit for us is that we deployed cheap switches that supports vlan, 802.1p, rate-limiting, control-plane policing, broadcast suppression and single strand gbics. This saves us in the towntown core on fibre where multiple clients are in one building.

With all this said, the costs and pay back do not work with an expensive deployment of a 'carrier ethernet switch' with mpls built in. It's a very tough cost model if you add it all up - fibre, fibre splicing, ups, rack, BLA fees, switch... Again this depends on what space you are trying to tackle and the amount of users and density. Ottawa is not a huge city and the size of buildings aren't like those in Toronto or New York.

We see the MTU requirements as minimal - its a cheap service that the SMB want with services bolted on. VOIP and Storage are two prime examples. We will run multiple cat-5 cables (depending on the distance within the building) to the customer suite (port costs are so low it works in the cost model).

The idea moving forward is to plug these cheap switches running vlans into an MPLS core. If the client is an enterprise client requiring anyting over 10 or 100Mb than we will run individual pair of fibres directly to their suite to the 10Gig core.

My take...

OldPOTS 12/5/2012 | 2:56:07 AM
re: Cisco Beefs Up the Edge Craig,

First do you mean by "carrier Ethernet"??
- boxes that have carrier grade reliability capabilities, or
- boxes that have carrier features, such as MPLS in the box and remote management.

If one delivers IPTV late to compete with Cable and Satellites, then one must deliver carrier grade reliability at a better price. The edge device then must be very reliable but cheap.

Their problem with this is that there are so many more (>30:1) edge devices as compared to 'core' devices in a network that a few dollars more for the edge device is much more significant. My personal proposal experience tells me that a carrier grade reliable box cost almost 1.5 to 2.0 times the price of the 'enterprise box'.

Thus the dilemma for carriers, how do they compete without high costs? I have contended for a long time that only a few have grasped that there is such a dilemma.

They can not afford to get press for unreliable service as people are already skeptical as to whether they can deliver service at all. And after all the POTS quality will also be the standard customers expect of them.

ironccie 12/5/2012 | 2:56:06 AM
re: Cisco Beefs Up the Edge Great, now I can have the same buggy behavior end to end. No offense Cisco, I like what you do, but I want to have many more than one company in my network. This is scientific reliability. I am not building networks in Kentucky.

How does RiverSTONE keep getting mentioned by LightReading. Corporate credit cards?

gotman 12/5/2012 | 2:56:05 AM
re: Cisco Beefs Up the Edge This buggy behavior is the internet at your service today sir, so please explain yourself.
hmmm are they not the only vendor which has 30% of the MEF cert products? Show me your F and J stamp.
zher 12/5/2012 | 2:56:02 AM
re: Cisco Beefs Up the Edge so who is not buggy? bugs are ok, as long as the supplier is able to fix them in time.

is there any ATT folks here? They probably can talk about the bug fix stories about Avici.
tmc1 12/5/2012 | 2:56:00 AM
re: Cisco Beefs Up the Edge In reality, there is only one "mainstream" vendor routing product that was designed for carrier class delivery of ethernet services. This is the TiMetra product from Alcatel (7x50 family). It was purpose built for carrier class ethernet. All the rest of these are either re-purposed L2/3 enterprise switches (Riverstone, Cisco) or core routers (Juniper) or BRAS routers (Juniper, Redback). Cisco should have bought them when they had the chance!
turing 12/5/2012 | 2:56:00 AM
re: Cisco Beefs Up the Edge Actually I have a bunch of buddies from AT&T, and they say the Avici's are a ton more reliable than the cisco's, and they respond faster. But then the Avici is the core and doesn't change much, whereas cisco is the edge and does the complicated stuff i guess.
And cisco has infinitely more customers to worry about, so it's not a surprise that Avici would focus on supporting ATT which is their biggest customer by far (and only real tier-1 as far as I can tell).
From my perspective Avici's problem is they're the 3rd horse in a 2 horse race, and they only sell a core router when the other guys sell a whole network.
OldPOTS 12/5/2012 | 2:55:55 AM
re: Cisco Beefs Up the Edge Craig,
For those more interrested in the various solutions I would recommend the archive of 'Ethernet Access' 10/27 webinar.

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