This article is based on a recent InfoCom study looking at market drivers and obstacles in general for carrier Ethernet while analysing in more details the current landscape in Germany as regards carrier Ethernet providers and offers.
Ethernet is a family of computer networking technologies, standardised as IEEE 802.3, which has been in use from around 1980 and nowadays accounts for over 95% of companies’ LANs (Local Area Networks). Carrier Ethernet refers basically to the endeavour to make Ethernet a carrier-grade technology, as opposed to limited to a single company’s LAN.
Carrier Ethernet has been much talked about in recent years, in particular thanks to the MEF (Metro Ethernet Forum). Many industry analysts have touted carrier Ethernet as a major source of growth for carriers and as basically meaning the end of traditional technologies such as PDH (Plesiochronous Digital Hierarchy: E1/E3 –T1/T3 in the US), SDH (Synchronous Digital Hierarchy – SONET in the US) and ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) or Frame Relay (FR). While there is indeed little doubt about the long term prospects for carrier Ethernet, we will argue in this article that the growth may be rather gradual, and that the traditional technologies such as SDH, directly or as an underlying technology, still have a few good years before them. In addition, we will argue that the real growth for carriers may remain very modest as most carrier Ethernet growth is simply offsetting SDH (for the rest of the article SDH will refer to PDH and SDH) and ATM/FR decline or some limited replacement of layer 3 IP VPN.