Sunday, December 16, 2007

What is Ethernet WAN?

The most exciting development in business broadband since the plunging prices in T1 service is Ethernet WAN. Just what is Ethernet WAN and why should you be interested?

As you probably know, Ethernet has become the reigning standard in LANs or Local Area Networks. One might say that Ethernet is now ubiquitous. Every PC desktop and notebook computer comes with an RJ45 Ethernet jack. You may or may not get a CD ROM drive, probably won't get a floppy disc drive, and may never use the telephone modem jack anymore. But you will get an Ethernet connection. The speed of that connection has been creeping up from 10 Mbps to 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps and, soon, 10 Gbps.

Now consider that your company's LAN runs at 1 Gbps. Your computer's Ethernet drop is likely running at 100 Mbps and your connection to the outside world is an astounding 1.5 Mbps. No, that's not a misprint. It's 1.5 Megabits/second not 1.5 Gigabits per second. That's the typical dedicated Internet bandwidth for many small and medium size companies. It represents the bandwidth of a T1 line, which is 1.5 Mbps for both upload and download speeds. That's less than 2% of the bandwidth your computer can support.

Now there are a couple of good reasons for this. First, There are usually many more computers on a company LAN than accessing outside resources at any given time. That means the LAN backbone needs much higher bandwidth than the outside or WAN (Wide Area Network) connection. Second, WAN bandwidth is orders of magnitude more expensive than LAN bandwidth. Only the T1 line price reductions of the last few years have made T1 connections affordable. Larger companies might bond multiple T1 lines together to get higher bandwidths. Or, take the next step to DS3 bandwidth at 45 Mbps.

What's changed the picture recently is an increasing demand for higher bandwidths brought on by the need to move larger files faster and the convergence of voice and data onto a single network. VoIP telephony gets rid of a completely separate telephone network, but taxes the LAN and WAN bandwidths of the data network. Video uploads and downloads can really swamp a WAN connection. So can overnight file backups for off-site storage.

The service that offers the best chance to relieve this network congestion is Ethernet WAN. It's just what you might guess. Ethernet extended off-premises or into the Wide Area Network. How wide? Metro Ethernet services a single town or metropolitan area. Long Haul Ethernet can easily span the country or the world. It's not at all unreasonable to connect two or more locations separated by thousands of miles and have the network behave like they are right next door. That's the beauty of Ethernet. There's no fancy protocol conversion required to transport it on legacy telephone company services, such as SONET OC3, OC12, OC48, etc. It comes to you on an RJ45 jack that plugs into your switch or router. If you can connect two buildings on your site, you can connect the New York office to the one in Los Angeles. This long haul service is also called Carrier Ethernet and there are many carriers offering it.

The other big advantage of Ethernet WAN service is that it is far cheaper than traditional fiber optic services on a Mbps basis. You can save as much as half the cost on a Fast Ethernet vs DS3 connection, a Gigabit Ethernet or GigE connection vs SONET OCx service, and even traditional T1 lines. Prices vary as does availability. Metro areas are the most highly connected, with many buildings already wired for Ethernet service by competitive carriers. If you are in one of these office buildings or within a mile or so, you could be getting a huge price break on your bandwidth needs right now. Even if your area isn't lit with fiber optic cable, Wireless Ethernet is becoming available at very attractive prices with quick installation times.

So, how do you cash in with Ethernet WAN services? You can check for fiber lit buildings near your location using our handy Ethernet Buildings Instant Locator. Whatever the results, talk it over with our Ethernet consultants and see what can be done to get you a better deal on voice and data network pricing.

Click to check pricing and features or get support from a Telarus product specialist.

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