Ethernet Connects Across the Atlantic

Ethernet - which first broke the bounds of the local office, then zipped past the metro area - has now darted across the Atlantic Ocean.

Ethernet — which first broke the bounds of the local office, then zipped past the metro area — has now darted across the Atlantic Ocean.

Storm Telecommunications is signing up multinational enterprises that have been lured by the simple familiarity of end-to-end Ethernet, connecting offices in London to Amsterdam, Netherlands; Frankfurt, Germany; New York; and Paris. The company will start moving traffic on Dec. 1.

Yipes Communications said in September that it is using Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS)-enabled gear from Extreme Networks to make transcontinental Ethernet connections for companies with multiple locations. But Storm, based in London, is the first to go transoceanic, crediting the synergy of Sycamore Networks Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) equipment for transport, and Riverstone Networks routers and switches for the IP layer.

"We were lucky," said Juan Manrique, Storms marketing director. "We had the Sycamore network in place, and new developments came out of Riverstone at the same time."

Those new developments include a robust router with an MPLS twist.

Sharing Bandwidth

The Draft-Martini version of MPLS extends the transparent local area network (LAN) and allows offices in, say, New York and London to connect seamlessly — with no Synchronous Optical Network (SONET) or Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) cloud required. Bandwidth can be partitioned for different customers, creating the impression of a private line on a shared network, and capacity can be turned up with a simple click or phone call.

Its a milestone, analysts said.

"Incumbents like Cisco [Systems] will tell you that routing is a complex thing and theyre the only ones that know how," said Michael Kennedy, managing partner at Network Strategy Partners, a management consulting firm in Boston. "But Riverstone has mastered it, and is pioneering a new kind of architecture."

By simplifying the network and using fewer routers, Riverstone has been able to reduce recovery time when a circuit crashes, from an intolerable 20 seconds to 20 milliseconds — quick enough for even the most demanding carriers.

"If you can do more switching and less routing, you get a performance improvement," Kennedy said. "And a full end-to-end international Ethernet network will be considerably less costly. Ethernet technology is easier to work with than the SONET alternative."

Storm had turned to Sycamore first, thinking it would use the companys DWDM equipment to sell wavelength services to other carriers. But the glut of bandwidth at the core of networks soured sales, so Storm decided to become a retailer to the largest enterprises.

"Theyre using our boxes to offer an extended local area network," said Steve Garrison, Riverstones director of corporate marketing. "It allows packets to go through on a seamless network. They never have to be converted to ATM or anything else."

On the Storm network, each city has a point of presence where the Sycamore boxes and the Riverstone routers talk to each other. Storm connects the last mile with DSL, or by teaming with a pure metro optical Ethernet player such as Yipes.

Storm chose Sycamore because it has MPLS-compatible Ethernet ports, and chose Riverstone because it was ahead of vendors such as Extreme and Juniper Networks in using Draft-Martini MPLS, Manrique said.

"Its so simple, it breaks all the rules," Manrique said. "You dont have to think about routers or about any IP addresses, except one. Once the solution is in place, your LAN manager will be able to cope with anything across the continents. Plug each location into one switch, and it looks like a single LAN."

Storm should get good mileage from its wide area Ethernet network in Europe, because it is competing against carriers that have a very heavy debt burden from buying next-generation wireless licenses, said David Gross, senior analyst at Communication Industry Researchers.

Eventually, networks such as the one stitched together by Storm will carry both data and voice, but analysts are split on how long early entrants will have wide area Ethernet to themselves.

Riverstone has a reliable router, but it will have a hard time winning over the regional Bells, which assume routers arent robust enough for their needs, Gross said. "The more traditional carriers are going to be a real challenge."

The incumbent carriers are beginning to show interest, but so far they "are moving at typical [regional Bell] pace," Riverstones Garrison said. "We expect to hear next year how they see this happening."