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Experts warn over Ethernet quality of service

Ethernet connectivity involving multiple operators could lead to businesses receiving a lower quality of service than they might expect, industry executives have said
Written by Richard Thurston, Contributor

Technical issues with international Ethernet mean businesses do not always get the level of service they expect, experts have acknowledged.

Speaking at Light Reading's Ethernet Europe conference in London on Monday, executives from several companies said issues with interconnecting operator's Ethernet networks were leading to classes of service (CoS) and performance metrics not always being consistently offered from one end of the network to the other.

"There are only two factors inhibiting growth [of Ethernet services]: the availability of fibre... and providing a business-class experience across all the different networks," Metro Ethernet Forum chairman Dennis Kruse said.

James Heney, partner at the fibre firm Canoga Perkins, agreed. "As an industry, we do not have standards for what the quality of service is going to do [when interconnect is required]. Matching up the quality of service between providers can be difficult," he said.

Wide area ethernet services are typically sold with specific CoS, so real-time traffic like VoIP can be sent with the highest priority. Closely linked to CoS is quality of service (QoS), which defines metrics that govern the performance of the network. Problems with CoS or QoS can result in poor application performance, meaning users can experience long delays in receiving data or suffer poor quality audio or video.

CoS and QoS are easily possible over a single operator's network. However, international enterprise networks are often provided by a combination of operators, even though they are ultimately sold by one individual operator. Interconnect problems caused by patching together multiple operators' networks could result in performance issues with time-sensitive applications such as VoIP, the executives said.

The difficulties in establishing interoperability between operator's networks has led to the establishment of some wholesale services which help to provide ensure end-to-end quality of service, said Sander Berens, commercial director at Expereo. Expereo provides a service to BT Global Services and Verizon that tries to give those operators' customers end-to-end CoS and QoS even if BT or Verizon uses a third-party operator to provide connectivity, Berens said.

The interoperability issues are also being addressed by testing, currently being completed in Germany, that involves eight operators such as international carrier Level 3 and Belgium-headquartered operator Belgacom. The tests are being carried out by testing company EANTC and involve the simulation of traffic sent between seven major cities.

Speaking at the Light Reading event, Carsten Rossenhoevel, managing director of EANTC, said the tests had been successful and showed that CoS "does work".

Stan Hubbard, senior analyst at Light Reading, acknowledged the importance of the testing and the existence of quality of service offerings in the market. However, speaking to ZDNet UK, he warned that "service providers are not necessarily provisioning the visibility for their customers in terms of how the services are performing".

Other delegates at the conference said some enterprises were choosing not to purchase quality of service-based offering from operators, preferring to manage the connections themselves.

Jeff Schwartz, global ethernet product manager for Verizon Business, said: "On the layer 2 [Ethernet] side, some customers want to control that environment. They want to handle it from a protocol perspective if they have the expertise and skills to do it."

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