Getting "smart" about improving global Ethernet network performance

Raymond Smith Global CrossingNext-generation enterprise applications--such as financial, media, medical, and packet voice and video--are driving steep increases in the need for efficient bandwidth utilization, flexible traffic management, and high-availability in the Ethernet wide area network (WAN). 

At the same time, as Ethernet becomes more prevalent as a WAN transport technology, service providers are challenged to provide efficient test, turn-up and troubleshooting capabilities that mitigate issues that arise when data passes through multiple networks. Providing these capabilities is especially challenging on converged services networks.  Ethernet Operations, Administration and Maintenance (OAM) tools overcome these issues by providing end-to-end connectivity testing, fault detection, and performance monitoring--all of which can be integrated into a service provider's reporting systems and processes.

Establishing end-to-end Ethernet OAM is key to providing carrier-grade, Service Level Agreement (SLA)-backed services for demanding business applications. Ethernet OAM also will help service providers provide more efficient network operations by giving them the ability to "see out" from their network management centers through to the enterprise customer's premises. 

In addition, Ethernet OAM tools can help create and monitor traffic profiles that conform to the requirements of individual applications, which help maximize throughput and performance. And enterprises and service providers can work together to manage overall Quality of Service (QoS) to ensure acceptable levels of application performance.

As these business needs evolve and intensify, it's becoming increasingly important to deploy strategies that introduce Ethernet OAM into Ethernet WAN transport networks.  One way to do this is through smart demarcation, which uses a Network Interface Device (NID) to provide an extensive end-to-end view of the customer's network, which can help speed service turn-up and troubleshooting. Smart demarcation also helps enterprises improve the performance of their networks by providing tools that mitigate and address many of the challenges associated with applying traditional Ethernet technology to a WAN solution. 

In addition, smart demarcation offers end-to-end service management and administration that can be indispensible to network managers; and for service providers, it can simplify network testing and turn-up with end-to-end visibility into service performance. Lastly, it creates a mechanism between the enterprise and the service provider to better manage traffic to improve the efficiency of network resources and the performance of applications.

Smart demarcation essentially enables connectivity fault management of the IEEE standards (802.1ag) and additional performance monitoring features over multi-technology, multi-carrier and multi-vendor networks. Ethernet OAM addresses the end-to-end challenges of protocol support, Layer 2 troubleshooting, and service configuration coordination between an enterprise and a service provider.

To deliver highly scalable global Ethernet WAN transport with performance comparable to legacy data network services, service providers benefit from the functionality of smart demarcation to provide the flexibility enterprises need to decrease network management costs, to improve connectivity among geographically dispersed locations, and to provide full functionality of the latest IEEE standards and maintenance in any topology, including point-to-point, point-to-multipoint, and multipoint-to-multipoint.

Smart demarcation supports today's high performance applications that require higher quality Ethernet services backed by end-to-end SLAs. This capability underpins the shift towards improving carrier Ethernet services and, ultimately, improving the customer experience through end-to-end service assurance.

Raymond Smith is the Senior Product Manager, Ethernet/VPLS for Global Crossing and a guest columnist for FierceTelecom.