Carrier Ethernet Still Struggling to Find its Niche


Carrier Ethernet is an important convergence topic because the use of the same protocols in the telecommunications portion of the network and local-area network (LAN) can lead to significant changes in the management layers that control the way corporate data is trafficked.


Vertical Systems Group says the number of business Ethernet computer ports in the United States grew by 16 percent during the first half of the year. AT&T leads the charge with a 21 percent share. Verizon is second with 15 percent. The five other providers of note are Time Warner Telecom 13 percent; Cox 10 percent; Qwest 8 percent; Cogent 7 percent and Time Warner Cable 6 percent.


The business/carrier Ethernet sector seems to be at a crossroads. On one hand, there is no doubt that it has tremendous potential for enterprises and, increasingly, smaller business. However, this category hasn't taken off as quickly as some expected. This Telecommunications Online feature says the slow uptake can be attributed to three reasons: spotty availability, the 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) of bandwidth available is far greater than many companies need, and price points are low -- but not low enough to justify a full-scale change-out.


There is more than a hint of skepticism in this Viodi piece, but the writer doesn't seem to have completely abandoned hope for carrier Ethernet. The writer begins by suggesting that there has been plenty of action on standards and attention paid to the protocol at shows and in articles, but that it still hasn't amassed a clear market. It has identified last-mile distribution of IPTV, provisioning of virtual private networks (VPNs) to enterprises and copper backhaul of wireless services as a potential markets. The relatively brief overview is followed by links to numerous worthwhile articles.


One place where carrier Ethernet truly has taken off is Europe. Forrester reports that it is challenging VPNs and multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) for supremacy among enterprises. The growth this year has been stark: Forrester says that 42 percent of enterprises have site-to-site Ethernet, an increase of 17 percentage points in a year. The report says that in the same brief time period, the sophistication of carrier architectures has grown and that the carriers all have announced "massive plans to upgrade and extend" services.


The world of networking is complex. The first point of this 1st Laptop piece comparing the attributes of Metro Ethernet and MPLS is that the decision to use one or the other will have significant ramifications on the underlying architecture that will be created. The blogger provides interesting insight into which way he would go. MPLS, he suggests, is more appropriate for multiple sites with higher diversity, while Ethernet is a good way to connect more homogenous users. There is overlap between the two approaches. The writer favors MPLS but, in the final analysis, suggests that the right protocol depends on precisely what the organization is trying to accomplish.