Much has changed since Ethernet service was launched in 2000. Ethernet services have become the de facto standard for business communication thanks to the Metro Ethernet Forum. Businesses can take advantage of Ethernet services that rival dedicated circuits but with the improved flexibility, scalability and cost effectiveness of Ethernet.
One advantage of Ethernet services is that it uses the same fundamental Ethernet technologies that are familiar to existing IT personnel. Businesses can leverage this to have a common pool of resources to manage both their LANs and WANs. However, not all service providers are created equal, and businesses must be able to evaluate and compare specific plan features to ensure they’re getting the Ethernet service best suited to their needs.
Companies need to evaluate three main components necessary to order Business Ethernet service: Ethernet ports, Ethernet connectivity and Ethernet service bandwidth. All Ethernet services consist of these three components to deliver basic service functionality. However, a growing number of applications require more service capabilities such as classes of service, which address the unique service performance requirements for different applications. In order to differentiate a specific type of data traffic that you prioritize or use heavily from the rest, you could purchase an Ethernet service with two classes of service.
When evaluating an Ethernet port, look at the port speed and connection type — electrical or optical. The chosen speed will determine your bandwidth abilities, so look for services that support port speeds ranging from 10 Mbps to 100 Gbps. Also keep in mind that you may require bandwidth upgrades to meet future needs. The significance of the Ethernet port speed you select will depend upon your initial bandwidth requirements and your anticipated upgrades to bandwidth needs.
Services address two basic types of connectivity: point-to-point, allowing a site-to-site connection, or multipoint, which allows any site to connect with any other. Consider how many locations you will be connecting, as well as the type of applications to be supported, application performance requirements and traffic flow patterns.
If multiple locations are expected to be connected and interacting, multipoint connectivity enables additional sites to be more easily added to the WAN. Additionally, it allows for simple traffic prioritization, effectively supports VoIP and data traffic over the same WAN and better handles applications requiring significant amounts of any-to-any site communication.
The Committed Information Rate (CIR) defines the amount of service bandwidth that will be subject to the service performance objectives in the product specification. Service providers may offer an Excess Information Rate (EIR) or a CIR and EIR for a given service. EIR-based service with no CIR is a best effort service, with no assurance that any traffic will get through the network. A service with a CIR and EIR will assure that traffic conformant to the CIR will meet the specifications. Traffic bandwidth that exceeds the CIR is considered excess traffic and is provided no bandwidth assurances. EIR traffic may get through the network if there is no congestion.
Once the fundamental service components are selected, there are additional, more advanced, components to select to ensure that the service best meets the needs of your applications. For example, if you have a call center using VoIP, you may want to differentiate the VoIP traffic from the data traffic used to interact with customers. This could be accomplished by purchasing an Ethernet service with two classes of service.
The service performance metrics indicate how your service will perform and should be an important consideration when selecting an Ethernet service. For example, the frame packet loss should be less than .01 percent over 30 days, and the mean time to restore service should be four hours. In addition, service availability should be 99.99 percent over 30 days.