Ethernet services

7 Things to Know About Carrier Ethernet

We've had a little time to come down from the mad rush that was Ethernet Expo Americas 2011 in New York. Here are some of the main points we've taken from the show.

1. Ethernet exchanges didn't work.
Companies running carrier Ethernet exchanges have shifted focus to enterprise and data center connectivity, a reboot of the concept behind these services' meeting places. (See Are 'Carrier' Ethernet Exchanges Dead?)

Equinix Inc. (Nasdaq: EQIX) and Telx Group Inc. representatives made this point, saying it wasn't meant to be an indictment of the Ethernet exchange business model. But analysts convened at the Expo's closing panel were more direct. Michael Howard of Infonetics Research Inc. said he went around Carrier Ethernet World Congress recently asking about Ethernet exchange customers. "Luckily, I have two hands and two feet so I can count them all," he said.

It could still be a viable model for Tier 2 carriers, but Tier 1s don't seem to need it. "They already have the NNIs [network-to-network interfaces] in place," said Erin Dunne of Vertical Systems Group .

2. Everything has to get smarter.
Much of the hard work is completed for offering service level agreements on Ethernet services. But that's left a tangle of standards and tools for operators to deal with. The next step, keynoters said, would be to provide simpler interfaces, letting the network configure itself and do automated monitoring. (See Ethernet, Cloud Look to Scale.)

On a different note, Michael Rouleau, senior vice president of business development at tw telecom inc. (Nasdaq: TWTC), said Ethernet still needs to smarten up if it's going to provide the right enterprise applications. (See tw telecom: It's Time to Raise Ethernet's IQ.)

3. There's a party in mobile backhaul.
Alternative access vendors (AAVs) and cable MSOs -- companies like DukeNet Communications -- are becoming stars as the conduits for rural U.S. backhaul. "The rate at which they have met the carriers' wildest SLA expectations has been a hit," said Heavy Reading analyst Patrick Donegan. The next question is whether the ILECs might start buying up these companies, leading to the rise of the IAAV (incumbent AAV), as Donegan calls it.

4. OTN can start some great arguments.
Actually, no punches were thrown (maybe next year), but Sten Nordell of Transmode Systems AB got a bit of good discussion going, as we discussed with Heavy Reading's Sterling Perrin. (See Is OTN Overkill?)

5. The cloud is influencing Etherent equipment.
More sessions, dynamic OAM and different workloads for different devices suggest not just more processing, but the ability to handle more tasks simultaneously. And as Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) Vice President Kevin Daines said in his Tuesday keynote, some of that goes against the simplicity that's supposed to be Ethernet's calling card.

6. ITU-T Y.1564.
Ratified in January, this International Telecommunication Union, Standardization Sector (ITU-T) standard popped up in a few different talks throughout the session. It's a methodology for testing service activation, and it looks like it's going to be a big deal to service providers and equipment vendors. If you haven't heard of it already, start keeping an eye out for it on PowerPoint slides.

By the way, Carsten Rossenhoevel of European Advanced Networking Test Center AG (EANTC) noted that it can be a big configuration challenge turning up a service. And that's for a team that tests stuff for a living.

7. 100Gbit/s Ethernet is still in chicken-and-egg mode.
And that's largely due to optics prices, which remain high. Part of the reason for higher prices is low sales volumes; part of the reason for low volumes is the high price. We've heard it before, and we'll probably hear it more at OFC/NFOEC in March.

Of course, many more than seven things got discussed. If you were at the show, or even if you've just been reading the stories, let us know what this list is missing.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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