Cut the Gordian knot of metro network complexity

13 Jul 2009

In 2008, the worldwide Carrier Ethernet switching and routing equipment market became a $5.4 billion market. IDC is predicting that by the end of 2012, the market will grow to $7.5 billion.

Clearly, there is ample opportunity for incumbent vendors as well as new vendors entering the market to take advantage of this growth.

Metro networks are now complex, expensive to operate and don\'t deliver the service velocity providers need.
Eve Griliches
Program Director, IDC

Service providers are beginning to see success in rolling out IP services, whether they are wireline providers competing for television services or cable operators adding VoIP and streaming media to their existing high-speed Internet offerings.

Building on this success, service providers now need to scale their IP services, which are often media-rich applications that are bandwidth hungry and require stringent guarantees for that bandwidth. At the same time, they must increase the speed of offering these services while reducing the cost of operating the overall network.

To achieve the service quality needed to deliver media-rich applications, service providers have had to compromise their original infrastructure goals of building simple and cheap metro Ethernet edge/aggregation networks. Instead, they have built multi-service metro networks with high-functioning equipment. Adopting this approach has gotten the job done, but metro networks are now complex, expensive to operate and don\'t deliver the service velocity providers need. Service providers need to consider a few alternative solutions.

Rethink how multi-service networks are built. Instead of incrementally adding service delivery features to expensive equipment, perhaps the time is right to extract the critical service management features into a purpose-designed session layer. This would have two benefits:

First, by simplifying the requirements on routers and switches, service providers would have more options to reduce the cost of packet transport.

Second, it would encourage innovation and discussion on how best to deliver critical service management functions. It might also give rise to a new category of product, which could deliver the dynamic, adaptive session-by-session Quality of Experience (QoE) required to support a world rich in media-heavy IP services.

Break the current paradigm. This will require a new approach, as well as a new vision of how to manage the metro edge. We believe that vendors and service providers open to new approaches will become more competitive and will be able to deliver services with velocity and quality as never before.

Examining the carrier edge

The past 10 years have seen increasing pressure on service providers to cost-reduce their networks. Their top line has been threatened by the accelerating decline in the traditional voice market, and their bottom line has been challenged because the price of bandwidth has been declining faster than the cost to produce that bandwidth.

In response, service providers came up with a two-part plan. First, increase bandwidth and reduce costs by rebuilding the metro network with Ethernet to take advantage of Ethernet\'s lower cost base. And second, introduce new IP services over this high-speed metro Ethernet network, generating more than enough revenue to fill the gap left by declining legacy voice revenue.

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