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Tata Communications' Executive Shares Details of Ethernet Network Expansion

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December 01, 2010

Tata Communications' Executive Shares Details of Ethernet Network Expansion



By Rajani Baburajan, TMCnet Contributor


Tata Communications (News - Alert) recently announced its next-generation Ethernet network in 24 nodes around the world, marking the industry’s first use of 802.1ah Provider Backbone Bridging (PBB) on a global scale. The company’s global network upgrade will provide industry-leading network services for both service providers and enterprises, enabling higher speed, enhanced security and improved troubleshooting capabilities, according to company officials. 


Following this announcement, TMC (News - Alert) had an e-mail interaction with John Hoffman, head of Ethernet Product Management for Tata Communications, to get more details about this development. The exchange follows:

TMCnet: Tata Communications has launched its next-generation Ethernet network in 24 nodes around the world. How has been the response from customers -- service providers and enterprises?

John Hoffman (News - Alert): We have spoken to many of our customers, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Customers see this new technology as mature and secure. They understand the benefits of this technology and many are anxious to use 802.1ah (Provider Backbone Bridging) for multipoint services since PBB is a multipoint technology. Several customers have offered to be beta customers on the new network. Whenever a service provider introduces a new technology onto their backbone, we expect some resistance from existing customers. We have seen no resistance and we attribute this to the incredible educational job we have done so our customers understand the new technology thoroughly.

TMCnet: You are claiming higher speed, enhanced security and improved troubleshooting capabilities. Can you measure those achievements? 

JH: Ethernet is a replacement for Layer 1 and as a result, has become a “heavy lifting” technology, delivering large, as well as small bandwidth. The clearest case of Ethernet providing greater bandwidth is the fact that the 10 Gig wavelength market is quickly moving to 10 Gig Lan Phy Ethernet wavelengths due to a much lower cost of ports and a full 10 Gig of bandwidth for the customer, as opposed to just 9.5 Gig for a Layer 1 wavelength. The perception that Ethernet offers higher security stems from the fact that customers do not share their routing tables for Ethernet services, as they do with Layer 3 services. As a result, this sensitive information remains with our customer.  802.1ah (Provider Backbone Bridging) offers a more secure network because PBB wraps the customer frames and hides the VLAN and the customer MAC address.  Every other technology does not hide the customer MAC address. PBB offers greater security because by not using the customer MAC address for frame forwarding and using a B-MAC (or a PBB specific MAC address), a denial of service attack on a single customer on a service providers network does not impact any other customer on the service providers network. 

For troubleshooting capabilities, our new equipment will have the ability to monitor each customer circuit individually throughout the network.  Today, using the common port monitoring, a provider monitors what comes in and what goes out at Layer 2 but monitors what happens within the network at the Layer 1 level. Tata Communications’ new technology will be monitoring the Layer 2 performance of each customer throughout the network. This greater visibility will enhance troubleshooting since we will be able to see the customers Layer 2 experience through our entire network, not just at the edges.

TMCnet: Tata Communications’ new Ethernet network core carries only Ethernet traffic, unlike competing operators who are building converged MPLS and VPLS-based networks to carry a mixture of private, public IP traffic and Ethernet services. What is the uniqueness?

JH: Tata Communications has made a significant investment into Ethernet because we believe Ethernet will be a very important service for years to come. Some predict Ethernet will replace Layer 1. While we think the predictions of Layer 1’s demise is over stated, we do see significant growth in Ethernet and many Layer 1 customers are moving from Layer 1 to Ethernet. As a result of our confidence in the future of Ethernet, Tata Communications has made significant investment to offer the best Ethernet services. Many of our competitors offer Ethernet services over a converged MPLS and VPLS based network. What we observe is that many of our competitors using the MPLS network are not focusing on Ethernet but rather on Layer 3.  Ethernet is a secondary revenue stream to these companies. Tata Communications stands apart from these competitors because we are introducing a global network that is designed to deliver only Ethernet services. Our focus is on Ethernet as a primary service and not a secondary service.

There are many customers that will have issues sending their company proprietary information across a network that carries both private and public traffic. Many companies have a policy not to allow company confidential information over a public network. Public networks are considered a security risk since the public network is largely uncontrolled.

TMCnet: Tata Communications will be launching an enhanced multipoint service, burstability with usage-based billing and will further develop its Dedicated Ethernet Service to scale from 1,000 – 10,000 Meg in 500 Meg increments. Please share more details?

JH: Tata Communications has expanded its capabilities on its Dedicated Ethernet Service to scale from 1,000 to 10,000 Meg in 500 Meg increments. This is not a change in the service but rather just an extension of Ethernet’s flexibility to 10,000 Meg. Previously our dedicated Ethernet service stopped at 1,000 Meg.

Burstability will be an option available on our dedicated Ethernet services. The customer will be able to “burst” up to 1 times their committed information rate (CIR). The customer must commit to a CIR with a monthly billing rate in order to get the burstability option. The CIR with burstability will allow a customer to utilize more bandwidth than the CIR as required. This is beneficial to the customer because the customer will now be able to size their circuit to the average usage instead of the maximum usage. The burstability bandwidth can be used when the required bandwidth goes above the average. The customers cost structure will be reduced and their flexibility increased. The burstability bandwidth will be on a best effort bases and the customer will only pay for the burstability capacity they actually use. 

Tata Communications has offered multipoint services for over two years. Today we offer two different multipoint services: 1) VPLS which was introduced earlier this year; and 2) True Ethernet Multipoint which is a bus configuration that is a typical Ethernet configuration. In the near future Tata Communications will be offering a single Ethernet Multipoint service that will be delivered via VPLS or PBB, as requirements dictate. Our customers will have a robust multipoint service that can be delivered on a variety of technologies, if the customer has a preference. We are also planning on adding options to our multipoint line that will enable our customers to customize the multipoint service, if they desire.

TMCnet: Tata Communications’ Global Ethernet Services span more than 50 locations in North America, Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, as well as more than 120 cities across India and four cities in China. Which are the main geographies which are picking up Ethernet fast? What are the trends in these regions?

JH: Asia was an early adopter of Ethernet, followed by Europe and North America.  As a result, Asia’s market is more mature and the growth of Ethernet within Asia has started to slow. The growth in Europe is still strong and the growth in North America has been very strong. The trend in all markets is a large investment in Ethernet to respond to demand. We are also seeing specific segments, such as mobile backhaul, starting migrating to Ethernet. Ethernet is past the start-up phase in all markets and the trend in all markets is to use Ethernet for more complex solutions.

TMCnet: What are your expansion plans in Africa, Europe and the Middle East?

JH: Tata Communications has opened up two new Middle East PoPs and two new African PoPs in the last year and we are in the process of opening a couple new European PoPs. Our expansion in these markets continues. Presently, Tata Communications will be a member of a new consortium cable that will touch different countries in Africa and Tata Communications has announced plans to build a cable in the Gulf. With the completion of these cables, there will be additional opportunities to build new PoPs.


Rajani Baburajan is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Rajani's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf


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