Optical/IP Networks

Metro's Future Is Tied to Ethernet

Ethernet will rule metropolitan networks in the not-too-distant future, according to the May Light Research poll, The Future of the Metro.

At press time, 53 percent of 763 respondents to the poll said they think more Ethernet than Sonet will populate metro networks in five years' time.

This is no surprise. Industry observers increasingly view the metro space as key to the future of optical networking, since it's the locus of lucrative business services based on optical backbones. And Ethernet, in turn, is seen as the key to unlock these services.

"Optical Ethernet is a key strategy for us. It takes away the metro bottleneck," said Brian McFadden, president of the Metropolitan Optical division of Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) in an exclusive interview with Light Reading at Supercomm 2001 last week. "Ethernet is scalable, ubiquitous, and cost effective. It's going to help drive the buildout of more fiber in metro areas."

The growing importance of metro Ethernet could be seen at Supercomm, as a growing roster of vendors specializing in optical Ethernet paraded their wares -- including Atrica Inc., Lantern Communications Inc., and World Wide Packets Inc.

Metro Ethernet also is the theme of an emerging alliance of carriers and vendors expected to debut tomorrow (see Thoughts on Supercomm, and watch for a story here later today).

All of this isn't to say that Ethernet will be the only networking protocol in the metro space. Roughly 19 percent of respondents to Light Reading's poll said that more Sonet than Ethernet will prevail in the metro. And a growing cadre of companies -- like Corrigent Systems (see Corrigent Joins Metro Ethernet Mix) -- says Sonet management and protection capabilities are going to be key to all metro networks in the future, including those based on Ethernet.

Some respondents think future networks will contain about the same amount of Ethernet as Sonet (13 percent); or be something else altogether (9 percent).

Interestingly, 6 percent of respondents, a sizeable minority in any survey, are stumped about the look of future networks. While Ethernet is clearly believed to be the metro's future, it's not a given that there won't be a range of still-unforeseen changes to Ethernet as that trend evolves.- Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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