Ethernet services

Ethernet Europe: Interconnect Woes Put to Bed

LONDON -- Ethernet Europe -- It hasn't been easy, but results from the second phase of the Advanced Global Interconnect Test Program show promising signs that the widespread global interconnection of Carrier Ethernet services could become a reality in the coming several years.

The first phase of the Test Program -- a joint initiative of Light Reading, independent test lab European Advanced Networking Test Center AG (EANTC) , and carrier interconnect company ancotel -- dealt with point-to-point connectivity and protection, and was conducted in February. (See Carrier Ethernet Global Interconnect Service Provider Interoperability Test and EANTC, Ancotel Test Global Interconnects.)

The second phase, completed to coincide with Ethernet Europe, has been a lot more complicated, as it attempted to find out whether Carrier Ethernet service providers could interconnect and retain their service-level management attributes, with a specific focus on Class of Service mapping. (See our Light Reading TV interviews, EANTC Global Interconnect, and Ethernet Europe Demo Announced.)

"The results [of phase two] were very good," says Carsten Rossenhoevel, managing director of EANTC. "The mapping [of Carrier Ethernet services] actually works -- they can provide end-to-end services," he adds, referring to the participating service providers, Belgacom SA (Euronext: BELG)'s International Carrier Services (ICS) business, Equinix Inc. (Nasdaq: EQIX), Expereo International (the Netherlands), Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT), P&T Luxembourg , Teragate (Germany), Tinet , and Ucomline (Ukraine).

Their services were connected at ancotel's telehouse in Frankfurt, while the network infrastructure technology used for the second phase was provided by Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) (its 7750 services switch) and MRV Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: MRVC) (its OS904 network interface device), while Spirent Communications plc 's TestCenter was used for evaluation. Some of the network interface devices (NIDs) were located as far away as Brussels, Paris, and Sevastopol in the Ukraine.

The third phase will begin in November, and will tackle the even more thorny issue of how to troubleshoot problems across interconnected networks. "We need end-to-end monitoring in fault management," says the EANTC man.

Phase three will be tough, and Rossenhoevel says phase two was far from easy. "The SDH/Sonet world was a simple one," he says. "The problem with Carrier Ethernet is that there are too many options" in terms of services, which can range from plain vanilla point-to-point connectivity to far more sophisticated offerings.

"All these options are laid down in the MEF ENNI [external network-network interface] standard. But it is not trivial to get them aligned, because of the range of services."

He adds that service providers also have subtly different interpretations of the various service options and QoS levels: "We helped them to conform to ENNI."

Based on results so far, Rossenhoevel thinks it will take another five years before widescale Carrier Ethernet interconnection will be prevalent. "Most Carrier Ethernet services are still on top of SDH/Sonet. That is not the future -- it's too expensive and it's not scalable."

He welcomes the advent of the global Ethernet services exchanges set up by Equinix and CENX Inc. , which will help Tier 2 and Tier 3 operators get in on the act. The likes of "AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Orange Business Services can set up their own peer-to-peer networks," he notes, "but not every service provider can do that. Exchanges will mean that there is one single prequalification level" instead of hundreds.

— Anne Morris, freelance editor, special to Light Reading

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