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Reliable delivery of packets from A to B.... that appears to be the end goal.
But you appear to have hit the nail on the head with your comment - you said:
"Perhaps the need is just for a reliable transport, like SONET/SDH..."
Indeed - *like* SONET/SDH, but *not* SONET/SDH, it seems.
That's why PBT is being touted as the carrier Ethernet equivalent (theoretically) of SONET/SDH in terms of its management capabilities.
That's why this debate is rumbling on and on -- there's a battle for the next gen transport $$$.