Is Ethernet the Holy Grail of Transport?

The network of the future is under construction as we speak. It is a project that has no clear beginning and likely no end. However, there are some clear goals for this network. First and foremost is to support highbandwidth, any-to-any services like video, gaming, telecommuting, e-commerce, mobility, etc. As grand as the vision might be, the blueprint must take into account profitability objectives for service providers. Thus, few would argue that re-architecting the network means collapsing it by eliminating layers of gear and maintenance requirements that eat into margins.

There are varying opinions on exactly how this might be done, but Ethernet appears to be a common denominator. A panel of service providers and vendors will discuss the question of whether Ethernet is the “Holy Grail of Transport,” in a session moderated by Khali Henderson, group editor of xchange magazine.

Panelists include Emanuel Nachum, vice president of Americas marketing for ECI Telecom; Mike Rouleau, senior vice president of strategy and business development for Time Warner Telecom; and Paul Savill, vice president of data and professional services for Level 3 Communications.

Ethernet is the defacto networking standard in the enterprise LAN and becoming more prevalent in the carrier access and metro space. According to Infonetics Research, every year Ethernet will account for a larger portion of metro capex, driving a 33 percent CAGR growth rate from 2005 to 2009, led by carrier Ethernet switches and routers. And, now Ethernet is creeping into transport networks.

An emerging approach is called Carrier Ethernet Transport (CET), which stands in contrast to two common approaches intelligent packet-overoptical transport (e.g. IP MPLS routers over a dumb transport network) and intelligent Ethernet overlay on an optical network. CET calls for the integration of optical and Ethernet technologies to create Ethernet tunnels in the same transport architecture as the optical domain.

The idea of CET is being manifested in the marketplace by the emergence of provider backbone transport (PBT) and transport MPLS (T-MPLS), both of which are ways of creating point-to-point tunneling within the transport architecture. The ultimate goal is to transform Ethernet from connectionless to connection-oriented, which is required in the transport network.

ECI Telecom
Time Warner Telecom
Level 3 Communications Inc.

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