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Ethernet WAN Supports the Future
The shift from telephone based network technology to IP networks favors Carrier and Metro Ethernet

By: John Shepler

The nature of wide area networks is changing. Once the exclusive domain of telephone technologies, core networks are being re-engineered for packet switched services. Voice will always be important, but data and video are now the dominant forms of network traffic. How does this affect your business connections and should you be doing anything to stay ahead of the curve?

Business Bandwidth Needs Increasing
Most businesses and organizations are being affected by increased requirements for bandwidth. As their line service contracts come up for renewal, savvy managers are taking a look at what’s available now and rethinking their options. Do you simply renew the T1 line contract that you’ve had for years or switch to a newer Ethernet service?

Carrier and Metro Ethernet
I mention Ethernet because Ethernet in the WAN, also called Carrier Ethernet and Metro Ethernet, are becoming the network connection resource of choice. What’s behind it is a recognition that virtually all business, organizational and home networks are based on standardized Ethernet. That includes the wildly popular WiFi wireless routers and hotspots that have Ethernet inputs and outputs. It seem intuitive that Ethernet would make a good metro and wide area connection technology.

Ethernet Technology vs Traditional Telco Technology
What’s held back Ethernet WAN services is the entrenchment of telephone technology line services. Until deregulation, there was a century of monopoly ownership and development of analog phone lines, carrier telephony, T-Carrier digital line service and SONET/SDH fiber optic services. All of these services were designed to support the basic core element of the individual two-way telephone conversation. Even the vast cellular networks were designed with telephones in mind first and data piggybacked on later as an afterthought.

Ethernet and MPLS Networks
With data and video dominating digital traffic, it makes sense to take another look at what network characteristics make the most sense for now and in the future. Network providers, including incumbent telephone companies, have done this and are moving rapidly to IP networks and connections. The two most on the ascendancy right now are Ethernet and MPLS Networks. MPLS is an excellent choice for creating a virtual private network cloud that can transport nearly any type of traffic across the country or worldwide. It readily supports Ethernet, making those two network technologies a powerful combination.

Everything Over Ethernet
While there are other network protocols for specialized applications, it looks right now like we are headed toward an everything-over-Ethernet world. It’s an easy connection from your switches and routers to the carrier that transports your packets to remote destinations. You just plug-in and go. You also have the option of ordering a layer 2 Ethernet service so that you can make all your distant sites connect like they are on the same bridged LAN. In a way, Ethernet makes the WAN portion of the network disappear.

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