8 Ethernet predictions for 2014

Comcast Business sees Ethernet services broadening in addressable markets, capabilities next year

Among the many expectations for IT in 2014, Ethernet is projected to broaden its penetration in the metro area and the WAN. The ubiquitous technology will become further entrenched as a broadband access, cloud interconnect and wide area medium, further distancing itself from legacy TDM services. Here are eight predictions for Ethernet in the New Year, from service provider Comcast Business Services:

1) 10 Mbps Ethernet is the new T-1

The city of West Haven, Conn., has a combination of 10Mbps and 20Mbps Ethernet connections that link City Hall with 17 other municipal locations. This is becoming the norm in cities around the country, according to Mike Tighe, executive director of data services at Comcast Business. It will continue throughout 2014, especially as fiber becomes more prevalent, he says.

2) It’s the beginning of the end for TDM as the primary access technology

And as T1 gives way to Ethernet, so does TDM in favor of packet and wavelength services. Citing data from Vertical Systems Group, Comcast says 2012 was the first year that saw global bandwidth purchased for business Ethernet surpass installed legacy services bandwidth. That gap will widen next year and beyond.

[THE DRIVER: Data centers drove Ethernet sales in Q3, says IDC]

[MORE: 20 milestones in Ethernet's first 40 years]

3) The distinction between Ethernet LAN and WAN blurs

McMenamins, a family-owned business which operates numerous pubs, breweries, music venues, hotels and theaters in Oregon and Washington, is using Ethernet, services to connect a number of locations in both states. WAN bandwidth used to be the bottleneck between Ethernet LANs across distances. Ethernet will continue to remove that bottleneck in 2014.

4) Metro Ethernet will be redefined – taking the “metro” out of Metro Ethernet

In keeping with the three previous predictions, snack maker Utz Quality Foods replaced T-1s with Ethernet to connect facilities in Hanover, Pa., and Sterling and Fitchburg, Mass.. Tighe says he lobbied the Metro Ethernet Forum to take “Metro” out of its name and replace it with “Carrier,” to no avail. But clearly, he says, Ethernet’s applicability is moving beyond the metro area into just about every market telecom touches. He believes the “metro” qualifier will be dropped for Ethernet services next year.

5) Private cloud dedicated interconnect really starts to matter

One of those expanded markets for Ethernet services is in cloud interconnect. Union Station Technology Center in South Bend, Ind., is a provider of wholesale data center, carrier and digital services that uses Ethernet to provide connectivity options to its hundreds of regional, national, and international customers. Indeed, we see Ethernet switches from vendors like Cisco being positioned more as data center interconnect devices. Increasingly, more and more cloud providers will do likewise, Tighe believes.

6) A breakthrough year for carrier Ethernet interconnection – through CE 2.0

In February 2013, Comcast achieved Carrier Ethernet 2.0 (CE 2.0) certification from the Metro Ethernet Forum for Ethernet-based E-Line and E-LAN services. CE 2.0 expands the number of MEF-certified Ethernet services, adds application-oriented class-of-service objectives, and manageability enhancements. The number of Ethernet services providers being certified for CE 2.0 will expand in 2014, Tighe believes.

7) SDN enables faster delivery of Ethernet services

This falls in line with what we’ve been hearing from SDN vendors and consumers for the past year or so now: ease of provisioning through automation. Having all the Ethernet service provisioning equipment orchestrated under one software management discipline will facilitate this. And this facet  of SDN will become more prevalent in 2014 and beyond.

8) Footprint remains the Holy Grail for Ethernet providers

By footprint, Tighe refers to the ability to use existing facilities – cabling, equipment, space, power, racks, etc. – to provision and deliver Ethernet service. Sports arenas are becoming the glitzy, flashy Ethernet service showcase du jour. An example he provides is the Boston Red Sox. They use Ethernet for Fenway Park in Boston and for JetBlue Park, their spring training stadium and facility in Ft. Myers, Fla, to support Jumbotrons, immediate score and statistic updates, and for fan engagement. Ethernet at these facilities processes transactions at concession stands, supports fan WiFi access and gives the press box Internet access for posting stories, blogs and tweets. 

Another is the Denver Broncos, which uses Ethernet to deliver facility-wide HD video and more at the team’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The combined company of Extreme Networks and Enterasys is doing the same for the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles. Tighe says these highly-visible, high-profile showcase accounts will expand in 2014. Now, if they can only improve the experience outside the ballpark….

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 27 years, 22 at Network World. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy.

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