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If enterprise customers want the convenience of Ethernet everywhere, both retail and wholesale carriers have an opportunity to make that possible. How? By offering both on-net and off-net carrier Ethernet services that can be deployed in a timely fashion today.
Enterprise cloud service adoption, increased mobility and the desire to move away from carrier time-division multiplexing (TDM) services are driving the need for Ethernet access everywhere. But to make end-to-end Ethernet-based wide area network (WAN) services a reality, a lot has to happen in the next year or two. This includes streamlining standardized Carrier Ethernet 2.0 (CE 2.0) service and equipment buying practices, testing and implementing faster multi-carrier deployment with well-understood performance service level agreements.
At a webinar last week, Infonetics Research co-founder Michael Howard projected that customers will pay operators $238 billion for Ethernet services between 2013 and 2017. But the wholesale carrier-to-carrier Ethernet services segment that enables end-to-end Ethernet connections will grow its revenue to about $11 billion by 2017, up from $7 billion now. Infonetics also projects that carrier Ethernet equipment bought by operators will drive $147 billion in spending from this year through 2018.
So what’s holding back the carrier Ethernet market? Metro Ethernet Forum representative Bob Mandeville, president and founder of network testing company Iometrix, said that service providers today sell the majority of carrier Ethernet services to customers whose sites are on the provider’s own network. “This is depriving service providers of additional business they could do by extending their carrier Ethernet services to off-net sites that aren’t on the service provider’s own network.”
To make that connection easier, MEF in 2012 created Carrier Ethernet 2.0 standards, adding the specification to the carrier Ethernet certification program MEF launched for providers and equipment vendors in 2005.
More recently, the organization wrapped up an interconnection standard to help carriers further accelerate their end-to-end carrier Ethernet service.
The goal is to push the idea of both carriers and vendors getting Carrier Ethernet-certified, thus streamlining and shortening the Carrier Ethernet service procurement and testing process. If service providers buy certified CE 2.0 equipment and do business with other carriers for locations they don’t reach with their own networks, the carrier Ethernet service deployment process could go from months to weeks, Mandeville said.
Comcast Director of Product Management and Data Innovation Chris Connor represented both carrier Ethernet buyers and sellers during the discussion. He emphasized that one of the challenges Comcast faces is being able to deliver technically robust Ethernet services quickly enough to meet customers’ internal requirements.
“One of the biggest challenges is the lack of standardization for implementing agreements between the buyer and seller, so each relationship is really kind of customized. That made it difficult for us to deliver a consistent set of services,” he said, adding that it’s been easier to do business since CE 2.0 created standardized ways of doing business.
The certified provider database helps locate providers that can deliver standardized e-access services, so Comcast, now a certified CE 2.0 provider in the United States, knows it can deliver consistent services with a high level of confidence, Connor said. “We can deliver the service quicker than we could in the past, which helps grow revenue faster.”
In a recent survey of MEF-certified professionals, 65% said they expect RFPs to ask about carrier Ethernet 2.0 certification in the next 12 months, as opposed to only 20% now. At the moment, however, only 56 service providers across 22 countries are e-access certified.
“It’s just a matter of time before CE 2.0 is what carriers are asking for. Not everyone is certified now, but it won’t be long before you won’t be able to do business with people unless you’re compliant on the buy and sell sides,” Howard said.