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Alcatel-Lucent Extends Carrier Ethernet

Carrier Ethernet is a technology that is often thought of as being something that exists in the core of carrier networks. Networking vendor Alcatel-Lucent has released a new access switch this week that it claims will extend Carrier Ethernet right to the enterprise front door.

The new Alcatel-Lucent 7210 Service Access Switch is a device that will sit on the customer premise and will provide managed WAN and Ethernet services from a service provider. With the move, Alcatel-Lucent is trying to take a larger piece of the Carrier Ethernet services market.

It's a market that could be worth as much as $12 billion by 2012 according to IDC figures cited by Alcatel-Lucent. Carriers globally are transitioning away from older optical technologies and moving to Carrier Ethernet which is a long term trend that Infonetics Research forecast could take 15-20 years.

"This fills in a gap in our portfolio specifically at the customer edge for managed Ethernet WAN services," Lindsay Newell vice president of marketing at Alcatel-Lucent's Internet Protocol division told InternetNews.com. "It's a fairly new market, and we see the opportunity here to expand our footprint from core networks all the way to the customer premise."

The 7210 is an appliance that will sit on the customer premise delivering what Newell claimed would be higher levels of service levels since it is an extension of the Carrier Ethernet infrastructure.

He explained that prior to the 7210 Alcatel-Lucent had sometimes positioned regular enterprise Ethernet switching products in this space.

Carrier Ethernet provides a higher degree of carrier control and manageability than regular enterprise Ethernet. Newell noted that one of the additions that the 7210 will benefit from is the ITU-T Y.1731 standard which provides fault management and fault monitoring capabilities. What that means for a carrier is that they will have new management capabilities right down to the customer premise to help measure delay and jitter in an effort to provide better levels of service and reliability.

Three layers: Transport, service and applications

Newell commented that in order to understand the benefit of extending Carrier Ethernet, it's a good starting point to think of Carrier Ethernet as having three layers. At the top end is the transport layer which is all about replacing SONET/SDH (Synchronous Optical Network ) with a packet transport network which improves manageability and reduces cost.

The second layer is a service layer which is all about Carrier Ethernet service ubiquity that can scale and reach any point.

It is at the second layer where Newell sees the 7210 fitting in by extending Carrier Ethernet managed WAN services to the customer premise.

The third layer is where Carrier Ethernet is headed, in Newell's view, which is all about applications. Those applications could range from improved IPTV service delivery for residential customers to WAN optimization and acceleration capabilities for enterprises.

"We see an opportunity once Carrier Ethernet is established for application enablement rather than just connectivity and bandwidth," said Newell. "For service provider that means further capabilities to monetize their networks."