Ethernet is the most popular LAN protocol by far. It’s hard to remember that not that many years ago there were all sorts of competing network protocols. Now switched Ethernet is almost universal. Something similar is underway with telecom services. We’re in the process of changing over from switched circuit technologies popularized by a century of telephone development to packet switched networks more compatible with computing devices. As you might suspect, Ethernet is making its bid to become the universal protocol of metropolitan and long haul networks.
Ethernet originated at Xerox PARC as a short distance communications technology to interconnect computing equipment. It was intended for use within an office or building. Communication farther than this required interface to telecom technologies, such as T-Carrier, SONET and Frame Relay.
Over the years, Ethernet has been extended and improved with the introduction of switching to eliminate the problem of collisions and fiber optics to increase network speeds. What has remained the same until recently is that connection to the outside world required conversion to a different set of protocols and back again at the other end. This is the last frontier of Ethernet networking that is now being addressed by Carrier Ethernet.
What is Carrier Ethernet? It’s the same as Ethernet, only extended to work over long distances on a telecommunications network. Carrier Ethernet standards have been developed by the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF), an industry standards body. By introducing MEF compliant Ethernet services, carriers can be assured that their services will work with readily available customer and provider interface equipment and that network providers will be able to exchange traffic. They do that through an Ethernet Network to Network Interface (E-NNI).
Two of the most popular Ethernet services are E-Line or Ethernet Line Service and E-LAN or Ethernet LAN service. E-Line is a point to point dedicated line service that replaces traditional private lines such as T1, DS3 and OC-3. One end of the line can be connected to an Internet Service Provider give you Ethernet Internet service. In addition, E-LAN offers a many to many or meshed connection so that numerous business locations can be tied together on one large Ethernet network.
How about bandwidth? There are two physical layer options available. They are Ethernet over Copper (EoC) and Ethernet over Fiber (EoF). Ethernet over Copper is a direct T1 line replacement. It uses the same twisted pair copper telco wiring that T1 is provisioned over. Multiple pairs are employed to increase line speed. Popular EoC speeds are 2 Mbps, 3 Mbps, 5 Mbps, 10 Mbps 15 Mbps and 20 Mbps. Copper based Ethernet is distance sensitive, so the closer you are to the central office, the higher speed you can obtain. It’s not uncommon to get 25 Mbps, 50 Mbps, 100 Mbps or higher bandwidths for connections under a mile.
Ethernet over FIber picks up where Ethernet over Copper leaves off. Bandwidths from 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps are readily available, meeting the needs of just about any business.
In addition to easy interfacing and options such as E-LAN, a major draw of Carrier Ethernet services is their reduced cost. It’s not uncommon to get twice the bandwidth for the same money with Ethernet versus other telecom services. Also, that bandwidth is more easily scalable. The carrier equipment design makes it easy and fast to increase and decrease bandwidth as needed, up to the maximum speed of the installed port.
Are you interested in what Carrier Ethernet can do to support your business? If so, get instant online pricing for Ethernet services up to 1 Gbps and prompt quotes for other services to 10 Gbps.
Note: Ethernet patch cords photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.