Ethernet services

An Ethernet Expo Rundown

Carrier Ethernet is one of the most exciting and closely monitored subjects in today's communications industry, whether you think about it in terms of Ethernet connectivity services, access-based enterprise or residential applications, network infrastructure, or technologies. Perhaps just about everyone following the Ethernet market understands that growth opportunities for service providers, equipment vendors, and component suppliers are huge, but there are lots of angles to consider when placing bets on winners and losers.

Beginning next Monday, October 15, hundreds of industry professionals from 20+ countries will be coming together to explore the opportunities and challenges that will shape Ethernet's future at Light Reading's three-day Ethernet Expo 2007 in New York City. Last year's Expo remains the largest carrier Ethernet event ever held in North America or Europe, and the pace of registration for this year's event at the Hilton New York indicates that this year's is shaping up to be another great show.

More than 50 sponsoring and participating companies – including 13 service providers and dozens of vendors – will be gathering to discuss the latest industry innovations, debate the merits of competing and/or complimentary technologies, and position their companies in the increasingly competitive Ethernet market. This represents about a 20 percent increase in company representation compared to last year.

As chair of Ethernet Expo 2007, I am pleased to have a stellar lineup of speakers from leading Ethernet service providers, equipment vendors, and industry organizations, including a veritable Who's Who of the largest and most innovative operators in North America. In addition, we are pleased to have representatives of the MEF , which has grown to more than 130 members and become the leading voice promoting Ethernet's adoption, shaping service definitions, and driving industry cooperation on standards and related high-performance service and management features.

Key themes of Ethernet Expo 2007 include:

2007 has been a breakout year for Ethernet enterprise services. For the last several years, Heavy Reading has trumpeted the theme that Ethernet will transform the carrier data services landscape, and now we are clearly seeing this take place in North America, much of Europe, and large portions of Asia. Large and small telecom providers, and increasingly cable operators, are investing more capital, sales, and marketing resources to transition their customers to Layer 2 Ethernet and Layer 3 IP VPN services delivered over a converged network infrastructure. Discussions with service providers and other Heavy Reading research indicates that Ethernet services have emerged as the fastest-growing part of carrier data services portfolios – outstripping IP/MPLS VPNs and leaving legacy TDM private line, Frame Relay, and ATM services in the dust. And up-to-date Heavy Reading survey data on enterprise end users indicates that many expect Ethernet connectivity services to account for a much larger portion of their overall communications expenditures over the next two years.

Service providers are focused on empowering customers with greater choice from a broader set of Ethernet services and applications. Operators worldwide are investing heavily in extending the geographical reach of their services, increasing the density of their service footprint within metro markets, and providing more point-to-point, point-to-multipoint, and multipoint-to-multipoint connectivity options. Heavy Reading survey data suggests that some 90 percent of service providers worldwide will be offering some form of Ethernet connectivity service within the next three years. In addition, survey feedback indicates that most service providers intend to offer as many as ten different Ethernet-based applications, including voice over IP (VOIP), IP/MPLS VPN access, and interactive video.

Service providers are particularly interested in selling tiered services with various quality-of-service (QOS) levels. Heavy Reading research suggests that while only a modest percentage of all Ethernet services on the market today offer different QOS tiers, the vast majority of Ethernet service providers intend to offer tiered services in the next few years. Many equipment vendors stand ready to answer this call, and at the Expo they will be sharing how they intend to enable operators to develop stronger service-level agreements (SLAs) with multiple QOS and class-of-service (COS) options.

Enterprise users are rapidly embracing all major types of Ethernet connectivity services and Ethernet-based applications. Businesses, educational institutions, and government entities are widely embracing Ethernet Private Line (EPL), Ethernet Virtual Private Line (EVPL), and Ethernet Virtual Private LAN (EVPLAN) services as a way to control communications costs, scale with bandwidth demands, and support mission-critical applications such as VOIP and storage extension. Industry feedback indicates that the biggest impediments to accelerated adoption of Ethernet services are getting Ethernet to every location that needs to be connected and educating enterprises about the availability, flexibility, and reliability of the high-performance Ethernet services now available.

Carrier Ethernet access platform vendors and the MEF are stepping up to help fuel Ethernet adoption by enterprises. On the access front, Heavy Reading surveys indicate that there is a huge amount of test, trial, RFP, and deployment activity related to wireline and wireless access gear. One way to look at this is that hundreds of operators have already deployed aggregation and transport platforms, and that they are now increasingly turning their attention to leveraging their next-generation networks to add more customer endpoints. As for the MEF, the organization has greatly expanded over the past year to include more operators that are keen to evangelize the benefits of Ethernet services for enterprise customers. The MEF's Ethernet services certification program, about which we will hear more at the show, is a key part of its enterprise outreach strategy.

Carrier Ethernet is the service convergence and network technology of choice. Carrier Ethernet is not only being used to enable enterprise voice and data service convergence, but is also playing a critical role in next-generation networks to support residential triple-play services and wireless backhaul. We will focus on the various technology options that operators can now mix-and-match to build a true converged network infrastructure that will support any service, including: VLAN stacking (Provider Bridges); Mac-in-Mac (Provider Backbone Bridges MPLS; VPLS/HVPLS; and emerging connection-oriented Ethernet technologies, such as Provider Backbone Transport (PBT)/Provider Backbone Bridge Traffic Engineering (PBB-TE) and Transport MPLS (T-MPLS). We will explore the pros and cons of different infrastructure choices for video-based services and the ways in which carriers are aiming to keep operating costs under control.

End-to-end OAM/service management and PBT/PBB-TE have been hot topics throughout 2007. If you are a regular reader of the Light Reading Website or have been attending its online Webinars, you know that end-to-end operations, administration, and maintenance (OAM) and PBT/PBB-TE remain two of the hottest Ethernet-related topics right now. While relatively few operators have announced that they intend to deploy PBB-TE, we understand many are seriously evaluating the technology: Recent Heavy Reading survey data indicates that many service provider professionals expect their employers to deploy PBB-TE-ready solutions in 2008 and 2009. We have set aside a good portion of time at this year's event to provide updates on standards activity related to OAM and PBT/PBB-TE, and we also introduced a hot-topic roundtable on PBB-TE, T-MPLS, and MPLS/VPLS that you won't want to miss.

— Stan Hubbard, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to Ethernet Expo 2007, a conference and exhibition that will explore major carrier Ethernet networking and service trends. To be staged in New York City, October 15-17, admission is free for attendees meeting our prequalification criteria. For more information, or to register, click here.

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