Part 2: New Answers for Bringing Scale to the Carrier Ethernet Metro Edge

Sep 10, 2013

How do you define an optimized architecture vision that enables service providers to scale up their service capacity and speed of delivery and migrate from a non-MEF edge/aggregation network to a MEF-compliant network?

In Part 1 of this series, Problem?  What Problems? we looked at the challenges facing service providers at the network’s metro edge.  In this article we consider options for a potential solution, focusing on the merits of extending MPLS from the core to the edge versus building CE 2.0 on-ramps from the edge to the core.  In the third segment series we will explore an optimized solution that addresses the problems.

Options to Scaling the Metro Edge
Some operators are exploring expansion of MPLS core topology to their access and aggregation networks (what we refer to as the “metro edge”) in order to have a single technology to manage.  MPLS promises advantages for complex mesh networks because it provides protocols for path determination and load balancing.  It is for networks such as these that companies like Overture build or plan to build MPLS into edge products.

However, most networks are comprised of many point-point or tree topologies.  In these scenarios, the added protocol complexity of MPLS offers few advantages.  Additionally, service providers building networks with inter-operator wholesale handoffs have found that Carrier Ethernet 2.0 standards provide the most reliable and ubiquitous interface at the ENNI boundary between operators.

The most significant challenge of MPLS in the edge for many service providers is in the operational cost of maintaining the network. Service providers tell us that MPLS has a higher “hidden” cost to support the technology than Ethernet. Tier II support staff are the most highly skilled and most highly compensated people in a service provider’s support team. The complex network problems escalate to them.  As shown in the figure below, greater complexity in the network means fewer nodes can be supported per Tier II staff and the operational cost is higher.

Overture - Layer 2 versus Layer 3 equipment support requirements

Service providers who are looking to extend MPLS to the edge and aggregation network are searching for a way to simplify end-end service provisioning.  Interestingly, new software control and orchestration solutions, like Overture’s Ensemble OSA™, with open API support for flow through service provisioning appear to be a viable alternative.  And with support for Network Function Virtualization (NFV), these new software solutions may actually deliver a broader solution to the challenges of service creation, activation and assurance.

Overture’s new CE2.0 edge and aggregation solutions, coupled with Ensemble OSA, provide a unique opportunity for service providers seeking to build an entrance to a smarter network.

In Part 3 of this series we will look at how this new implementation offers an optimized solution to the challenges service providers face at the metro edge.

About the Author
Brian Van Voorhis, is Senior Product Manager for the 6500 Service Delivery Platform and Ensemble Network Controller at Overture Networks.  He is also a Carrier Ethernet Certified Professional (MEF CECP).  With extensive experience in edge an d aggregation networks Brian has successfully launched and managed high profile product development initiatives during his career, leveraging Carrier Ethernet, Active Ethernet, GPON, DSL, and SONET/TDM technologies.   Brian has a BS Degree in Electrical Engineering from University of Cincinnati and an MS in Electrical Engineering from Florida Atlantic University.

Part 2: New Answers for Bringing Scale to the Carrier Ethernet Metro Edge was last modified: July 1st, 2015 by Brian Van Voorhis

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