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Ten Tidbits on Carrier Ethernet in a Software-defined World

Karl Horne, CTO Asia Pacific, Ciena | June 3, 2016
Ciena’s Asia Pacific CTO Karl Horne which shares 10 useful-to-know tidbits about Carrier Ethernet that many I.T. practitioners may not even be aware of.

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

Karl Horne, Chief Technology Officer of Ciena in Asia Pacific 

With all the buzz around Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), it is easy to overlook a modern telecommunications networking technology that has become a foundational-enabler for enterprise broadband connectivity into the cloud: Carrier Ethernet.

In the '80s, enterprise connectivity used to be low-speed, expensive and somewhat inflexible. The emergence of Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL) in the early '90s created explosive growth in web and cloud-based services. Carrier Ethernet was the right technology at the right time. It helped address demand for high-speed yet economical broadband connectivity, combining carrier-grade availability and performance with service-level agreements (SLAs).

Today, Carrier Ethernet is ubiquitous across Asia. Speeds range from one Gbps to as much as 10 Gbps, it is easy and effective to deploy, and there are a host of new applications. Below are a few facts you may not realize about this popular networking technology.

'Ethernet' has been around since the early 1970s
Like many things associated with the internet one must go back into the latter part of the 20th century for the origin of Ethernet. The term was coined in a doctoral dissertation by Bob Metcalfe in the 1970s, developed under the auspices of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. The term 'Ethernet' has its roots in the Latin term aether, a mythical medium once believed to fill all 'empty space' on Earth while providing for magnetic wave transmission.

Carrier Ethernet grew from 100m to 100km
Carrier Ethernet is based on Ethernet, which was envisioned to connect a few devices in the same building. The protocol was limited to a range of 100 meters. But as the internet grew, Ethernet was adapted to connect entire campuses with hundreds of devices like computers, printers etc. With its low cost and management simplicity, Carrier Ethernet was introduced at the turn of the millennium to extend the Ethernet protocol to provide wide area network (WAN) connectivity.

Carrier Ethernet is not just for carriers
As its name implies, carriers appreciate Carrier Ethernet because it enables a variety of network services that can be sold to other carriers (wholesale) and end-users (retail). However, the technology is not just for carriers. It is for all enterprises, government agencies, and utilities needing high bandwidth, reliability and interconnect across multiple locations for services like business services and data center interconnect.

MEF was originally established to support the expansion of Ethernet beyond the LAN
The MEF (formerly, Metro Ethernet Forum) is responsible for accelerating the worldwide adoption of carrier-class Ethernet networks and services, maintaining Carrier Ethernet standards and running certification programs. It was established in 2001 to develop standards expanding the use of Ethernet beyond the LAN. The MEF's work has evolved over the years to be global and well beyond the metro network.


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