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Fiber Optic Metro Ethernet
The advantages of Fiber Metro E network connectivity for your business.

By: John Shepler

You know that there are multiple options for connecting your headquarters, branch offices, warehouses, factories, stores, schools or medical centers. Are you sure that you have an optimum solution for the network performance you need? Let’s take a closer look at at Metro Ethernet networks and see why they might be exactly what you need.

What is Metro Ethernet?
Metro Ethernet or Metro E networks are a special implementation of Metro Area Networks (MAN). MEN instead of MAN give you two big advantages or other networking options. First is that your network protocol remains as Ethernet from end to end. Second is the pricing advantage that optical Metro Ethernet networks have over other solutions.

The Ethernet in Metro Ethernet is also called Carrier Ethernet. It’s the same switched Ethernet protocol that you have running on your local area networks, but extended for transport over longer distances. The big difference between LANs and MANs or WANs is that once the traffic leaves the network you own, it needs a telecom carrier to get it across town or across the country. You can’t provide this transport on your own. You need to contract with a carrier or service provider that has the long distance connectivity.

Protocol Conversions Avoided
If you have been using T1 lines, DS3 bandwidth or SONET/SDH fiber optic services to carry your traffic, you know that a protocol conversion is involved. These telecom services are based on circuit switched technology rather than the packet switched technology running on your network.

The protocol conversion is done inside an appliance or, more often, a plug-in module for your network edge router. This makes the MAN setup unique to the service and bandwidth level that’s engineered for your specific needs. Anytime you need to change something, like make a bandwidth increase, equipment and perhaps network design needs to change. This takes a lot of time and sometimes a bundle of money to implement.

Metro Ethernet networks take a different approach. The core network is IP or MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) so that it can easily transport Ethernet packets without having to convert to and from one of the TDM (Time Division Multiplexing) protocols. This opens up the opportunity to connect your networks at the layer 2 switching rather than the layer 3 routing level.

Metro Ethernet Services
The three layer 2 Ethernet services you should be aware of are Ethernet Line (E-Line), Ethernet LAN (E-LAN) and Ethernet Tree (E-Tree). Ethernet Line is a private line connection from point A to point B. This can directly replace older technology T1, DS3 or OCx connections.

E-LAN is a meshed multipoint to multipoint service that is often the best answer for how to easily and securely connect multiple business locations on a single private network. All locations can talk to each other but each location only needs a last mile connection to the Metro Ethernet network.

E-Tree is a special service of interest to service or content providers. It is a one to many network topology that transfers files form your root out to dozens or hundreds or thousands of “leaves” that can communicate with you but not each other.

The Big Cost & Agility Advantages
Metro Ethernet networks have a cost advantage over dedicated point to point services when you need more than a single line. You pay for use of the multi-tenant metro network plus the last mile connectivity for each location. There is another valuable cost and performance savings that comes from all-fiber solutions.

Remember that traditional Metropolitan Area Network connections are set up specifically for a certain bandwidth level. It’s hard to scale much because of equipment changes that are needed when you jump from one standard bandwidth to another. Carrier Ethernet works differently. An Ethernet connection can handle any bandwidth up to the maximum speed of the installed port. If you have a 10 Mbps port, you can have any bandwidth up to and including 10 Mbps. A 100 Mbps port will handle all bandwidth levels up to 100 Mbps. The service levels are easily scalable, often in increments as small as 1 Mbps.

What this means is that you don’t have to order all the bandwidth you think you’ll ever need just to be sure that you can quickly accommodate increases in business levels. You simply order ports (10 Mbps, 100 Mbps, 1000 Mbps or 10,000 Mbps) to support your expected requirements. Then order the bandwidth you need now with the knowledge that your ports have the reserve to quickly scale up later.

Why do all-optical Metro Ethernet solutions make sense? One advantage is that fiber can easily handle any bandwidth you require now or in the future. Another, more subtle, reason is that many service providers can connect you on fiber they own rather than something they have to lease from the local phone companies. This one-provider solution offers a significant cost savings as well as a single responsible service provider for all issues.

Do you need connectivity to multiple locations within one or more metropolitan areas? Learn more about your available Metro Ethernet options and pricing now.

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