The ability to deliver converged services depends on how robust and broad the underlying platform is. New flavors of an old local-area network (LAN) standby -- Ethernet -- have risen to the challenge of providing those big pipes, and in recent years have been aggressively deployed in the telecommunications network.
Demand keeps growing, and the body that oversees Ethernet is planning the next step. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.3 Higher Speed Study Group (HSSG) has decided to have its cake and eat it too by planning for two future speeds: 40 and 100 Gigabit per second Ethernet (GbE).
This internetnews.com story describes why the organization went with the dual speeds. The short answer: There are two dominant uses for Ethernet.
The 40 GbE element of the eventual standard will accommodate server and computing applications, and the 100 GbE rate version will provide tools for aggregation and core networking tasks. In addition to different throughput needs, demand in each area is growing unevenly. The story says that core bandwidth needs are doubling every 18 months, while server bandwidth needs are doubling only every two years.
The IEEE deliberations should be considered against a backdrop of steadily increasing demand for all things Ethernet. This EFYtimes.com story paraphrases a warning from Frost & Sullivan: Service providers who ignore the capital and operational expenditure advantages of carrier Ethernet do so "at their own risk."
Deployments will continue to be aggressive due to the protocol's ability to seamlessly extend LANs, support broadband triple-play services and provide backhaul for cell sites.
The same tone underscores this report from The Insight Research Corp. The group says that the Carrier Ethernet market will grow from $1.4 billion this year to almost $6 billion in 2012. As important as these numbers is the prediction that the main growth driver will shift from metro Ethernet -- linking points within a metropolitan area -- to longer-haul applications.
A good example of what Frost & Sullivan and Insight Research are alluding to is the introduction of voice over Metro Ethernet by Optimum Lightpath, a division of cable television operator Cablevision. The company claims that the service, available in its New York City-area footprint, is the first-ever carrier-class Ethernet-based voice service from a cable operator. Vendors to the project include NEC Unified Solutions and Cisco.
The type of rollout envisioned by Insight Research is under way in the upper West. Earlier this month, Dakota Carrier Network chose Nortel to provide services -- based on the vendor's Provider Backbone Transport (PBT) approach -- across North Dakota. The network provides Ethernet connectivity to carriers and enterprises across the state, according to the story.
The ambitious plans laid out by the HSSG only reinforce what most people accept: Ethernet's profile will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.