Transforming metro enterprise networking

The widespread market adoption of disaster-recovery solutions speaks directly to growing enterprise interest in storage applications. Up to 70% of Fortune 1000 companies worldwide rely on metro optical solutions for their disaster-recovery networks. So, at the right price, managed offerings of high-availability server clustering, remote access, and storage virtualisation would blossom in the same way. Through the introduction of managed storage-over-optical services, carriers are faced with the opportunity to transform enterprise networking in the metro. Many European and North American carriers are already turning their metro visions into added value. The time is right for managed storage over optical.

Current advanced storage applications — such as data-centre backup and recovery, server consolidation and centralised disk storage — require tremendous levels of bandwidth. Only optical networking solutions can deliver the required performance at the right cost.

Consider EMC's Symmetrix 8830, launched in 2001. This 69 terabyte disk-storage system is equipped with up to 384 Fibre Channel ports. Executing a full mirroring (or full recovery) of such a system over a single STM-1 connection across a metro area would take nearly two months. The same exercise via a 32-channel DWDM system on a single optical-fibre pair would require three to five hours.

Furthermore, DWDM and coarse WDM provide native transport for applications of any protocol. DWDM and CWDM make a converged networked infrastructure possible. A carrier-class optical-networking platform such as one of Adva's Fiber Service Platform solutions could support Enterprise System Connection, Fiber Connection, Sysplex Timer, Coupling Link, Fibre Channel (1G and 2G) and Ethernet (1 and 10G) protocols as well as supporting tomorrow's applications such as Infiniband. The protocol-conversion complexity, performance trade-off and premium cost customary of SDH environments are absent in optical networking, where integrating new protocols frequently requires only a few mouse clicks at a management interface.

DWDM and CWDM enable carriers, for the first time, to extend enterprises the flexible, cost-effective performance they have come to expect from their private local area networks in a fully managed metro-area optical network. Employees separated across a metro area "feel" as though they are working in the same physical building. In short, carriers offer customers LAN performance in the MAN.

The second reason that managed storage over optical is gaining ground is that enterprises are concentrating their personnel and capital expenditures around their core competencies. Metro optical networking is a challenging endeavour for many enterprise IT departments. There can be significant implementation hurdles, such as procuring and provisioning enough dark fibre to all locations with proper route redundancy, and there is the issue of maintaining a suitable IT staff.

Network outsourcing is increasingly popular in today's business climate. A carrier offering competitively priced, fully managed ESCON, FICON, Fibre Channel and Gigabit Ethernet storage services has a complementary message to current strategies in enterprise boardrooms.

There is an understandable reluctance to threaten E1/E3 revenue streams with the roll-out of wavelength-services packages. But the trend within the enterprise market is clear, and the more entrepreneurial carriers are seizing this opportunity. Best-of-breed metro optical networking solutions — by supporting LAN performance in the MAN — makes this diversification possible.

Furthermore, the cost savings and performance boost are huge. An E3 link delivers an enterprise 34Mbit/s of bandwidth for roughly EUR2,000–4,000 per month. Carrier-class metro optical solutions built with a commitment to low total cost of ownership give carriers the networking muscle and capital efficiency to offer enterprises 20 times the bandwidth at the same cost. That's an unprecedented value proposition, worthy of the full attention of Fortune 5000 businesses. DWDM and CWDM's unique combination of networking power, flexibility and cost-effectiveness, coupled with the increasing enterprise interest in network outsourcing, are creating substantial market momentum for managed storage over optical.

Forward-thinking carriers have an opportunity to forever alter the landscape of enterprise networking in the metro.

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