Why? Three reasons: First is cost. On a per-megabit-per-second basis, carrier Ethernet can run 25% to 50% lower than other technologies. Second is bandwidth: with Carrier Ethernet, users are able to procure up to 10Gbps of bandwidth (the equivalent of 2.5 OC-768 circuits). As a result, as bandwidth requirements increase, carrier Ethernet becomes more appealing. Finally, there's the ease of deployment and management. Users report that carrier Ethernet is straightforward to install, and performs reliably. "Right off the bat, it worked like a charm," says the CIO of a midsized professional services firm.
Data center-to-branch, and branch-to-branch, connectivity: Most organizations (80%) have deployed MPLS, and plan to continue using it for site-to-site connectivity (at least for midsized-to-large sites). Some firms -- mostly leading-edge organizations -- are also looking at rolling out carrier Ethernet for the "core" WAN. The primary challenge? Availability. Carrier Ethernet isn't as widely-available as MPLS.
Remote-site and microbranch connectivity: For smaller sites, companies are exploring a range of connectivity options. An Internet VPN is one approach (and one that's increasingly common). A more innovative approach is to deploy 4G wireless technologies, either direct to the router or to each individual employee. Again, the challenge here is availability: Most carriers are just beginning to roll out broadband wireless (in the U.S. at least). Another problem is capacity: Carriers haven't designed their networks for use as wired-WAN replacements.
The bottom line? When designing your next-generation WAN, think out of the box --- and be sure to match services to traffic flows.
Johnson is president and senior founding partner at Nemertes Research, an independent technology research firm. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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