There was a time, decades ago, when the telephone party-line system was in effect. Because it was too expensive to run single phone wires to individual houses, neighbors shared a single connection and were required to take turns using the phone line.
Today’s phone systems only share a passing resemblance to the copper-wire phone lines of yore, and the same case is now being made for the evolution of Ethernet. A recent blog post from John Hawkins, senior product line manager at Ciena, discusses how the steady transition to Carrier Ethernet resembles the evolution from party lines to the phone systems of today. Interestingly, the concept of Carrier Ethernet also resembles the party line in some ways.
Ethernet was originally conceived to transmit data over crowded networks. If the data happened to collide with other activity, the sender would wait and attempt to resend the data. Of course this type of networking simplicity doesn’t cut it on today’s busy, crowded, high-speed networks, and this has led to the dawn of Carrier Ethernet.
Ciena are big proponents of Carrier Ethernet, but as Hawkins points out, the technology is not just for carriers. “Unsurprisingly, carriers appreciate CE because it enables a variety of network services that can be sold to both other carriers (wholesale) and end-users (retail),” wrote Hawkins. “However, it isn’t just for carriers — it’s a feature-rich solution perfect for all network operators (carriers, enterprises, and government) who provide networking services to end-users, internally and externally.”
Carrier Ethernet certainly offers advantages when used in the wide area network (WAN), where it performs faster and at a lower cost than frame relay, ATM and SONET solutions. It also provides inherent management capabilities that are critical for both carriers and enterprises alike as they look for more efficient ways to navigate the crowded world of cloud communications, applications and services.
Some of the key benefits of Carrier Ethernet include quality of service, scalability, service management, reliability and standardized services. Ultimately, the goal of this valuable networking technology is to drive efficiencies and lower costs by creating converged networks – just like the party lines of the 1950s. These networks will combine business, residential and wireless traffic on a broad scale, enabling granular management and automation to meet the demands of a huge range of bandwidth-intensive applications and services. Unlike the shared party lines, however, these converged networks will handle massive volumes of traffic concurrently and efficiently while scaling to grow at the pace of network traffic.
Edited by Maurice Nagle