Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Metropolitan Area Networks

We’re all familiar with LANs. Those are the local area networks used in nearly every business to interconnect computers, centralized storage, printers, wireless access points, WiFi hotspots, scanners and, increasingly, telephones and video equipment. When we want to connect to the outside world, we might think of a long haul or WAN connection to the Internet or distant business location. But there is another important type of network in-between the LAN and the WAN. That’s the MAN or Metropolitan Area Network.

Find Metropolitan Area Network pricing and availability for your business locations.The Metropolitan Area Network is an important service in its own right. For many companies, the only long-haul connections they may need are a dedicated broadband Internet and long distance telephone services. Most all of their traffic stays local. Not local as on the LAN, but geographically local. That means within the bounds of a city, suburbs and nearby locations.

This is where the term Metropolitan Area Network got its name. It’s a network that spans a given metropolitan area and not much further. You don’t find MAN services out in the countryside. Not that there aren’t important customers beyond the city limits, mind you. It’s just that MAN networks tend to be build upon fiber optic networks and very little fiber exits out in the boonies right now.

As you might suspect, the greatest concentration of MAN services will be found in business districts of major cities. That’s simply because the greatest population density and number of businesses are also found downtown and in the business districts of adjoining suburbs. Fiber optic cable construction and equipment are expensive. Service providers need lots of traffic from lots of customers to justify the expense of building out a MAN.

It’s possible to construct your own private MAN by ordering point to point lines between each of the locations you want to connect, or by establishing a star network with corporate headquarters at the center. Many companies buy MAN services instead because the costs are lower for a given bandwidth level. That makes sense, since the network infrastructure cost can be amortized over a large user base. A properly run MAN will give you the performance and security you require at a savings over creating your own private network.

How do service providers build a MAN? A classic approach is to construct a fiber optic SONET ring around the city, linking all the important office buildings, industrial parks, data centers and carrier hotels. SONET is the Synchronous Optical NETwork standard for legacy switched circuit telecom services. It features two lit fiber strands sending traffic in opposite directions for redundancy. If one fiber fails, the other picks up the load within 50 mSec.

Newer MAN services are build upon Carrier Ethernet or Metro Ethernet. The core network may still be running SONET or it may be an IP core network. Either way, the customer only sees an Ethernet interface. It may be an E-Line point to point connection or an E-LAN multipoint to multipoint connection. MPLS networks implemented as a MAN have the advantage of being able to handle nearly any type of traffic.

Downtown, you may also have the option of using a wireless MAN. These are based on fixed wireless transmissions between a carrier’s tower and radio equipment at each location served. These are short range services and require line of sight between buildings. If it happens to work out for you, wireless has the advantage of fast installation and low construction cost compared to bringing in fiber to locations not already lit.

Does your business need to communicate between two or more locations in town? If so, Metropolitan Area Networks are what you are looking for. Get prices and availability for now.

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

Note: Photo of New York City courtesy of I, Laslovarga on Wikimedia Commons.

Follow Telexplainer on Twitter