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Ken Mercer

Vice President of TBI

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5 Ways Carrier Ethernet Edges Out MPLS

August 12, 2015

When it comes to network connection options, Carrier Ethernet has become one, if not the best option for enterprises.

When it comes to network connection options, Carrier Ethernet has become one, if not the best option for enterprises, offering operational and business advances that are tipping the scales in favor of the LAN-turned-WAN technology. Carrier Ethernet represents a very viable alternative to MPLS, one that increasingly focuses on scalability, provisioning speed, and simplicity for on-network sites, be they main offices, branch locations, or data centers.

Jim Kleinsmith, national accounts director for Ciena, which provides networking gear to top cable companies and telcos, confirms that Carrier Ethernet is gaining market share on MPLS.

“Carrier Ethernet has the advantage of lower cost, lower latency, higher performance, easier scalability to 10 gigabits, more control over network routes, and better network management,” said Kleinsmith. “And then there’s connectivity through all service providers, data centers, and Ethernet exchanges. What else could you want?”

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Many are under the mistaken impression that service providers lack the expertise and manpower to handle Ethernet delivery over fiber. The thinking is that cablecos focus on coax resources, and telcos do the same for copper technologies. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as many service providers have dedicated fiber-savvy engineers and technology to Ethernet service deployment efforts for businesses.

And, when it comes to Ethernet over fiber, service providers are committed to offering these services, lighting dark-fiber facilities and selling to those already on lit networks.

When deciding on whether Ethernet is right for your business, think about these benefits:

  • Scalability:
  •  

    By utilizing flexible fiber networking equipment, carriers can often give businesses that request, for example, a 100-megabit connection on a 1 gigabit port, the ability to scale their bandwidth by up to nine times to 900 megabits per second. Carrier Ethernet can help businesses meet demand quickly, without the need for additional onsite equipment as capacity needs climb. Once the order for additional bandwidth is processed, it’s off to the races.

  • Data Center Connectivity:
  •  

    Businesses looking for high-speed services to connect data centers are focusing on Ethernet connections, since the maximum available bandwidth is often nearly 10 gigabits per second over fiber links, with the option in most instances to far exceed that “ceiling.”

  • Security:
  •  

    It’s always a top decision point, and Carrier Ethernet services can provide greater security than MPLS in specific scenarios. A Carrier Ethernet service delivery switch operates at Layer 2, and its in-band control channel is a virtual LAN (VLAN) that cannot be accessed via a Layer 3 network (read: the Internet). “A hacker would have to be on site at the customer premise or at [the cable provider’s] head-end to gain access,” said Kleinsmith. In contrast, MPLS routers can be accessed remotely.

With Ethernet, a switching approach, sites are given a fiber connection that’s something of a dumb pipe and that supports Ethernet service from the LAN to the WAN. MPLS, a routing-based approach, requires heavier-lifting routing work, and complexity consumes more resources.

By comparison, provisioning a T-1 could take up to 45 days. Also, with Carrier Ethernet over fiber links, neither channel bonding nor reconfiguration is required.

  • Simplicity:
  • Beyond the benefits of an end-to-end, LAN-to-WAN Ethernet network, traffic doesn’t have to contend for often-fluctuating bandwidth. And, while MPLS can employ QoS to assign priorities to sensitive traffic types to manage network congestion, this is time consuming. In contrast, Ethernet WAN connections feature VLANs that can easily be created and dedicated to separate types of traffic, and businesses benefit from abundant bandwidth, minus congestion and contention concerns. Expect less latency and overhead versus MPLS with QoS.

  • Flexibility:
  •  

    Technically, businesses don’t have to choose between MPLS and Carrier Ethernet — it’s possible to run an MPLS network over a Carrier Ethernet service. Though this approach will add complexity for IT managers tasked with keeping a Layer 3 service running over an Ethernet infrastructure, smaller and rural sites not lit for Ethernet could be added to the WAN this way.

When comparing the differences between MLPS vs. Carrier Ethernet, the discussion extends far beyond the basic strengths and differences. Ethernet services offer enhanced business benefits and operational advances that can help to simplify your network infrastructure.

This article was originally published on TBI.

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