Global Ethernet--Making the interconnection

If there's one common truth about a service expanding their Ethernet footprint it's that no one service provider can be everywhere. At the same time, having a global presence is increasingly becoming a checklist differentiator item for Multinational Corporations (MNC) considering a service provider. 

To bridge that divide in providing services outside of their respective network footprints, or off-net, service providers have engaged in a series of access arrangements and, increasingly, Ethernet-Network to Network Interconnections (E-NNIs) with other carrier partners. 

While service providers have been conducting interconnection agreements on a metro basis for years, the more challenging aspect is when they go global.  

Of course, going off-net means that one carrier is trusting the service of another to complete the circuit.  

Although there are various network challenges in terms of making interconnections, there are also three common business issues, or what Vertical Systems Group calls the three gaps that most service providers have to consider in picking their off-net partners to expand their Ethernet footprint out of region:

  • Availability: In considering an off-net partner, a service provider needs to understand what physical facilities does that partners have and where are they are located relative to the locations they need to reach. Obviously, the optimal physical facility would be fiber, but the availability of fiber obviously is dictated by the geographic area where the partner is located and what facilities they have available for a particular end-customer site.
  • Pricing: When a service provider has to go off-net, they have to consider the cost to purchase a circuit to complete their connection to the end site.
  • Quality of Service: Once a service provider hands off their connection to a partner carrier, they are putting their trust into another carrier's hands to provide them with an agreed upon level of service. In addition to each service provider having their own certification processes, the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) has developed a tunneling concept that allows a service provider to buy a raw pipe and within that pipe the service provider can set their own rules to deliver the service with Service Level Agreements (SLAs). Regardless of whether a service provider's Ethernet service is coming over its own facilities or through a partner's last mile network, the end-customer just wants the service to work and if there's a problem they can call that one service provider to resolve the issue. These business issues need to be put in place as carriers establish access and E-NNI arrangements so each party knows what to expect.

"Whether it's linking their own facilities or linking facilities between carriers, those relationships are already in place," explains Rosemary Cochran, Principal for Vertical Systems Group which chronicled six carriers leading the Ethernet interconnection market in its Global Business Ethernet Leaderboard. "You not only have to establish the technical connections in an E-NNI agreement, but also the business piece of it which is how they price it and how they handle quality of service." 

In this latest report on global Ethernet, we chronicle the strategies of five carriers playing a role in the global interconnection process.  

However, to mix things up a bit, I decided to not only chronicle usual suspects (Orange, Reliance Globalcom and Verizon), but also what could be called 'in the cloud' players (CENX and Equinix) that are similar to how data centers emerged in the mid-to-late 1990's to expand the Internet with neutral peering points to get off-net Ethernet connectivity.

Take a look and let us know what you think: