• United States

Users want metro Ethernet, if it’s reliable and cheap

May 17, 20043 mins

* N+I roundtable discussion on metro Ethernet

Enterprise network professionals say metropolitan Ethernet services have promise as an alternative WAN transport, but carriers must focus on making the services more reliable and cost-effective.

In a roundtable discussion last week at NetWorld+Interop, several enterprise IT professionals met with metropolitan Ethernet service providers and integrators to discuss the needs and issues of metropolitan Ethernet in corporations. 

Moderating the discussion was John Gallant, Network World editorial director, and Gary Southwell, director of the Metro Ethernet Forum, an industry organization. Panelists included AT&T, Time Warner Telecom, Memphis Networks, Verizon and Looking Glass Networks.

“I can’t emphasize latency enough as an issue,” said William Stewart, network director at Logitech, a consumer electronics manufacturer. While Logitech does not use metropolitan Ethernet, Stewart said latency in ERP applications and jitter in VoIP applications are more of a concern to him than running out of bandwidth.

Willis Marti, associate director of information services and networking at Texas A&M University, agreed that not all applications for metropolitan Ethernet necessarily need huge bandwidth. “Latency and jitter can be a real big deal,” Marti said. Texas A&M uses metropolitan Ethernet services from SBC to connect campuses in a few metropolitan areas. He added that several healthcare facilities are on the school’s metropolitan network, where many jitter- and latency-sensitive applications are used, such as voice and video. “You just can’t assume that all [metropolitan Ethernet] customers have the same needs,” he added.

Verizon, which offers metropolitan Ethernet services, says it is seeing steady growth in the offering. On the latency issue, Mike Tighe, director of advanced data products and services for Verizon, said his firm is addressing it by upgrading all of its Cisco-based metropolitan switches with quality-of-service (QoS) capabilities in the fourth quarter.

Clearly, Tighe said after hearing users’ comments, “you want QoS and rate limiting, and they want resiliency to their locations.”

For UBS Financial Services, which runs its own multi-Gigabit metropolitan-area network in New York over dark fiber with dense wave division multiplexing technology, the idea of outsourcing the management of its MAN is attractive.

“Maintaining staff with the skills to troubleshoot an optical network is a challenge,” said Mark Katz, manager of network engineering at UBS.

As with other users, Katz’s concerns about metropolitan Ethernet involved the reliability of Ethernet as a service. Security was also a concern, he said.

“If [carriers] can offer a solution that solves those problems,” it would help UBS cut network costs, Katz said. “But in no way will we pay more for it” than for traditional telco WAN services.