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tw telecom: It's Time to Raise Ethernet's IQ

Jeff Baumgartner
11/9/2011
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NEW YORK -- Ethernet Expo Americas 2011 -- Ethernet services have moved well past the "big dumb pipe" stage and now require a much bigger brain and a new level of intelligence to handle the kind of apps that enterprise customers are clamoring for, said a top tw telecom inc. (Nasdaq: TWTC) exec.

Michael Rouleau, tw telecom's SVP of business development and strategy, stressed that notion here Wednesday morning during his keynote address.

Those needs have evolved past the raw bandwidth requirements and into smarter, flatter, converged IT network infrastructures that let customers deliver voice, data and video services across a common backbone while also gaining the ability to fire up and support new applications rapidly, he said.

Rouleau outlined three ways the cloud is evolving to help Ethernet service providers add smarts to the network and obtain "best of breed" apps from outside parties.

First, the walled garden approach is becoming popular as network owners rush to acquire data centers and cloud computing companies. While that gives customers "one throat to choke" and end-to-end service assurance, Rouleau said this approach is challenged because it doesn't necessarily provide access to the latest, greatest apps on the market. (See Verizon Taps Terremark for $1.4B.)

Secondly, customers can also reach out directly to app providers such as Amazon Web Services Inc. , but they still need the network. And they won't have control of that network, making the idea unpredictable and not nearly as scalable as it needs to be.

Third, Rouleau said tw telecom is partial to an "applications access and enablement" model that bridges the gap by using the company's Ethernet infrastructure to reach these third-party app environments. That's coupled with new tools that provide an enhanced view of how the network is performing.

tw telecom is also big on the notion of Ethernet's bandwidth on-demand capabilities, which let customers turn speeds up and down and manage apps dynamically rather than having to reserve bandwidth in advance or tack it on later. A customer using such a system, for example, could turn up 20 Mbit/s of incremental bandwidth to drive a telepresence app and then tear it down as soon as the call is complete.

Rouleau said tw telecom is already making progress on its move toward a smart Ethernet network. The company's already added the network visibility element and expects to add the bandwidth-on-demand piece by mid-2012.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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