Since its commercial introduction 32 years ago, Ethernet has become vastly popular, largely replacing competing wired LAN technologies. Its ability to continuously adapt enabled Ethernet to establish itself as an innovation and a revelation in communication technology. As an ubiquitous, standardised device, carrier Ethernet took over traditional, LAN-based Ethernet solution, while nowadays, Ethernet over copper breathes new life into this wired communication technology.
Ethernet at the carrier level can support P2P applications, voice switching, termination arrangements, and a host of consumer applications. Ethernet adoption drivers for businesses are still very much focused on the cost-effectiveness of bandwidth and the operational efficiencies gained from managing a technology and service that is essentially an extension of the LAN environment.
These factors, in combination with the cost benefits of not having to administer and maintain a layer 3 network where it is not needed (e.g. interconnecting LANs), represent the most compelling reasons for Ethernet services. The continued convergence of voice and data at the enterprise level and to the exchange, consolidation of businesses data centres, adoption of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and the implementation of cloud computing are expected to be the major drivers of Ethernet adoption moving forward.
Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF), established in 2001 to define standards, was very successful in gaining rapid adoption of its standards, the end result being that major carriers are now offering end-to-end carrier Ethernet services that guarantee a common language, definitions, standards, and integrity for carriage of Ethernet traffic across an entire network or multiple networks.
Importantly, MEF services support Ethernet Internet access and both Ethernet private line and Ethernet virtual private line (E-Line service), point to multipoint (E-Tree service), and multipoint to multipoint VLAN service (known as E-LAN service).
The MEF standard for “Ethernet First Mile”, or Ethernet over copper (“EoCu”) services have transformed the market for mid-band access. Mid-band is defined by MEF as 2 to 100 Mbps. While E1/ISDN circuits are fixed at 2Mbps, and fibre is usually offered for fast Ethernet speeds and above (100Mbps), EoCu enables services from 5 to 45 Mbps symmetrical, by logically “bonding” multiple copper pairs. Carrier Ethernet’s success in the marketplace stems from MEF’s stringent carrier Ethernet standards that enable ubiquitous, standardised, carrier-class service and network to be delivered via multiple equipment and network vendors, and is defined by five attributes that distinguish it from the familiar LAN-based Ethernet.
Simplicity and ease of implementation in Ethernet technology
The main reason for popularity of Ethernet services lies in the fact that those services are leveraging already existing low-cost infrastructure, another important point being the pure scalability of services.
Ethernet over copper enables scalability for future bandwidth needs, at the same time it provides predictability, reduces risks and offers certification, such as MEF 14 that gives first performance certification in communications industry. Carrier Ethernet allows a common world-wide service profile independent of local providers.
Reliability is a key attribute of carrier Ethernet, based on redundant equipment architecture and fast re-routing algorithms.
Standards and costs – the two main advantages of Ethernet over copper
Carrier Ethernet offers simple enterprise management that puts the user in control. The service is dynamic and granular, while bandwidth-on-demand offers additional control.
These services offer performance of layer 2 transport, but with simple architecture. Users can control converged network performance over relative application value.
With carrier Ethernet, a virtual transparent LAN environment is created – reducing risk and costs with the highest bandwidth available.
Advantages of Ethernet and expected market growth
The adoption of Ethernet services is expected, since for service providers, those services have a dramatically low-cost implementation. For end users, Ethernet services offer a low price per bandwidth, as well as a simple interface and implementation with standard ethernet IT products.
Carrier Ethernet services can connect multiple geographically disperse sites in a scalable and efficient manner. Ethernet can be a point-to-point or point-to-multipoint service (or a multipoint to multipoint service), with bandwidth ranging from 512kbps to 10Gbps.
Potential for further scalability
With Ethernet service bandwidth is typically dedicated, therefore not shared with other customers of the carrier. Multiple VLAN is supported to logically separate data traffic streams to satisfy both real-time and non-real-time requirements of business-critical applications and general administrative traffic. Typically, traffic is transported in the carrier’s MPLS backbone. In delivering carrier Ethernet services, the physical layer can be either fibre or copper. According to Telsyte, for many Australian businesses, Ethernet over copper remains the selection of choice, primarily due to its cost-effectiveness, which caters for the growing demand of bandwidth at incremental costs (scalability to 45Mbps and its value in terms of Mbps/$)
Many Australian businesses are currently evaluating cloud computing for the future. However, businesses have indicated that security and reliability of telecommunication carriage services are the main concerns of cloud computing that need to be addressed.
Service providers should consider increased bandwidth demand, higher level of QoS and CoS required on the network to cater for real-time and business-critical data traffic. LAN/WAN network redundancy and availability became essential for ensuring business continuity – SLAs on with service provider and carrier needs to be monitored and upheld; and end-to-end security across the network. All these factors likely increase the overall telecommunication carriage and leverage the lower cost per Mbps of Ethernet access and transport service. At the enterprise level, the inherent scalability of Ethernet, coupled with the ability to implement quality and class of service over standardised carrier Ethernet services, brings a new level of flexibility and a lowered cost of service proposition for implementing cloud computing services.