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Ethernet Faces OA&M Challenge

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
6/30/2005

LONDON – Light Reading Live – Ethernet services have been embraced by carriers and business users alike, but OA&M (operations, administration, and management) issues still need to be sorted out before Ethernet can become ubiquitous.

That was one of the main conclusions drawn by speakers and attendees at Tuesday's Light Reading Live event, "The Future of Carrier-Class Ethernet."

While the event's host, Heavy Reading senior analyst Graham Finnie, showed that carriers see Ethernet as one of the fastest growing revenue opportunities, and that they're already offering multiple Ethernet connectivity services, speaker after speaker, including keynote presenter Matt Bross, CTO of BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), noted there are still service and infrastructure management and interoperability issues that need to be resolved (see BT's Bross: Ethernet Will Deliver).

Eyal Rosen, a marketing VP at Siemens Communications Group, one of the event's sponsors, noted that standards efforts are underway to address the lack of OA&M clarity.

"The Ethernet in the First Mile Alliance and Metro Ethernet Forum have done some good work and provided guidelines. Now we're waiting for the IEEE to deliver its 802.1ag standard, which has used the MEF document as a starting point, to deliver greater clarity," said Rosen.

That standard, due in the next few months, is focused on Connectivity Fault Management, and is due to provide protocols and procedures for fault detection and isolation in large Ethernet networks. It will be in addition to the OA&M specifications included in the IEEE's current 802.3ah standard for Ethernet in access networks (see Ethernet in Access Networks).

In the meantime, a new breed of product that sits at the interconnection point between the carrier and user network, called the demarcation device, has emerged to help carriers tackle their last-mile Ethernet service and equipment management issues.

During his presentation, Yacov Cazes from RAD Data Communications Ltd. told the 184-strong audience that these products enable carriers to remotely test their own networks and the LANs of their business customers, and reduce their truck roll and field maintenance costs. They also enable service differentiation by classifying and prioritizing traffic at the edge of the network.

While Rosen at Siemens says his firm's Ethernet termination device includes such demarcation functions, companies such as Covaro Networks Inc., another of the event's sponsors, have developed specific products targeted at this pain point (see Covaro Intros Ethernet Demarcation).

Covaro's VP of marketing, Fred Ellefson, says its product, which incorporates test and measurement technology from partner Acterna Corp., has already been deployed by a number of operators and is currently in the labs at a number of Tier 1 carriers (see Memphis Networx Picks Covaro, Covaro Makes Progress, and Acterna, Covaro Team Up).

"Automation and mechanization will be essential if carriers are to provide profitable Ethernet services. Carriers will have some electronics in the enterprise network, and it's essential that they're able to monitor those devices. The carriers that manage their opex are the ones that will win in the Ethernet services market," states Ellefson.

Heavy Reading senior analyst Stan Hubbard says this is a "hot area -- there's been a lot of activity in this space in the past six months." Hubbard also notes that Siemens is "about the only incumbent vendor that has its own platform."

He says the whole Ethernet-in-the-first-mile (EFM) sector is buzzing at the moment, and that, in addition to Covaro, companies such as Actelis Networks Inc., Anda Networks Inc., Hatteras Networks Inc., and Overture Networks Inc. are emerging as key players in this area.

"We've seen an explosion of interest in Ethernet access technologies during the past year, as operators have looked for relatively cheap solutions to extend Ethernet services to more on-network and off-network locations and provide a common look and feel, regardless of the type of platforms used in the underlying network. The IEEE 802.3ah EFM standard completed in mid-2004 has really helped fuel activity," says Hubbard. "If folks haven’t paid attention to the EFM market, now is the time to start doing so. Feedback from carriers and vendors indicates dozens of operators worldwide are looking at various EFM solutions, and we should see some big decisions being made over the next three to six months."

In the latest Light Reading Insider report, "Telecom's Technology Hot Spots," Hubbard notes that this increase in recent activity "suggests that sales in this space should ramp into the hundreds of million of dollars over the next couple of years."

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

Telecom's Technology Hot Spots is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Light Reading Insider, priced at $1,350. Individual reports are available for $900. For more information, or to subscribe, please visit: www.lightreading.com/insider.

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