Thursday, January 24, 2013

Business Ethernet Facts

Developed by Xerox, Ethernet competed in the early days with Token Ring and Token BUS applications that were largely proprietary. It is used today because it is the only early network protocol that got the backing of the ECMA and eventually the IEEE so that a series of standards (802.3) could be put in place to dictate what the requirements were for interconnectivity using that standard. Ethernet had the backing of multiple companies (Xerox, Intel, & Siemens among others) which probably led to its early adoption vs. other more proprietary offerings.

Ethernet is the "preferred choice" for businesses today because it is really the only choice available. Nobody is extending a Token BUS circuit to businesses these days. "Business Ethernet" is no different than any other form of Ethernet - it's all just a technology used for connectivity. As such, it's hard to address the pros and cons of the technology since there is really no competing technology out there (perhaps wireless, but even that relies on Ethernet at some point). The real pros and cons come in to play with the mechanism used for the delivery of Ethernet.

- T1 - Pros: higher reliability, dedicated bandwidth. Cons: higher cost, lower bandwidth

- Cable Modem - Pros: lower cost, higher speeds. Cons: shared bandwidth

- EoC - Pros: dedicated bandwidth, higher speeds. Cons: distance limitations

- Fiber - Pros: highest speeds, dedicated bandwidth. Cons: usually highest cost

- DSL - Pros: low cost. Cons: low bandwidth, shared bandwidth, distance limitations

- Wireless - Pros: no wires. Cons: Cost, lower bandwidth (usually), signal interference

Ethernet (whether fast ethernet or gigabit ethernet) is certainly helping to change the landscape for many companies. I recently helped a client upgrade their network to 10Xs the speed at roughly the same cost. So the cost per megabit is certainly attactive. The biggest CON is availablity. During the RFP process, we had many carriers come through stating that it was available everywhere, but when push came to shove, a few sites had to settle for traditional DS3. Additionally, construction delays as well as equipment upgrades to handle the additional bandwidth needs to be taken into account.

Carrier Ethernet services are also easily managed end-to-end - including provision of user level information on the SLA metrics, using Ethernet OAM standards such as Y.1731.

Having dealt with WAN resiliency for many years with IP based networks/services then the approach of Y.1731 for path based monitoring and link loss forwarding to client CPEs makes things fairly simple and effective.

I realize that MPLS does provide similar functionality but with the benefits already listed I think OAM component rounds off the technology nicely.

In the future - I would think that Mac Sec deployments will also provide a bonus in terms of the security feature set of Ethernet services.

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