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Easier setup for Carrier Ethernet gives rise to new telecom services

At a time when many service providers are scrambling to build and monetize new telecom services, peering point provider Telx has simplified interconnections for its customers' Carrier Ethernet services.

Running fiber through an enterprise data center is one thing, but doing it in a 20-story carrier hotel that houses the equipment of hundreds of service providers is another. Peering point provider Telx saw half of its customers do exactly that for their Carrier Ethernet services, taking

You go into one of these data centers, and there are gobs of fiber draped all over the place and racks of gear. It's a big manual process [to interconnect multiple carriers].
Mike Capuano
Director of Marketing for Service Provider Routing and Switching SolutionsCisco Systems
days to manually snake cables throughout skyscrapers. Telx engineers recognized an opportunity to launch new telecom services at a time when service providers are struggling to redefine their "dumb pipe" heritage.

Just as Telx enables its customers to remotely configure Internet and voice interconnections between their networks, the carrier collocation provider is incrementally upgrading seven of its sites over the next year to extend that capability to Carrier Ethernet and launch a new telecom service, Ethernet Exchange, according to Brad Hokamp, chief marketing officer at New York City-based Telx. The company is building these new services with Cisco Systems' new core routing platform, the Aggregated Services Router (ASR) 9000, its Active Network Abstraction network management software.

"Instead of physical cross connections, [carrier customers] wanted to move to a more virtual environment … so it can be a much faster time to market, offer greater efficiency and be cost effective," Hokamp said. "[But] we didn't have a switch infrastructure to build and support Ethernet Exchange at a virtual level."

The ASRs won't replace any existing infrastructure; they are the foundation for the new network Telx is building to support Ethernet Exchange and other new telecom services, according to Greg G. Smith, a marketing manager within Cisco's service provider unit. Although the ASR 9000 supports both Layer 2 and Layer 3 functionality, Telx is only using its ASRs for switching, Smith said.

The ASR 9000 series offers up to 400 Gbps per line-card slot, enabling aggregate speeds up to 6.4 Tbps. Its operating system, IOS XR, uses a microkernel architecture that allows engineers to conduct upgrades or module changes without disrupting service.

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For carriers, wrestling with wires in the carrier hotels was more palatable than trenching miles of fiber to remote locations, he said. But many service providers are scrambling to build and monetize new telecom services, and spending days wiring up manual Carrier Ethernet interconnections to other carriers wasn't very efficient.

"It's a natural evolution of our Internet connection services and … we see it being a very prominent service offering in our connection services portfolio," Hokamp said.

In addition to its network upgrades, Telx has also partnered with fellow peering point provider Neutral Tandem to expand coverage to 14 markets across 21 sites.

New routers, new telecom services

Telx is eliminating the manual setup and configuration with its new ASR 9000 core routers. Each of its seven sites will have two ASRs for redundancy.

Once hooked up to the ASRs, operators will be able to log into a portal to provision interconnections within minutes instead of days, said Mike Capuano, director of marketing for service provider routing and switching solutions at Cisco.

"You go into one of these data centers, and there are gobs of fiber draped all over the place and racks of gear. It's a big manual process [to connect multiple carriers]," Capuano said. "Instead of me having to go down, pull the port, find the fiber, get it up in there and try to connect it, I can go to the keyboard and 'tap, tap, tap.' I'm done."

But just as its carrier customers aim to offer more than a dumb pipe, Telx is using ASR's platform to offer new telecom services, Hokamp said, including real-time performance monitoring on metrics such as latency and packet loss on Carrier Ethernet interconnections.

"On the physical cross-connect side, there was no management [we could offer] … in a real-time environment," he said.

Telx engineers expect some difficulty with quality of service (QoS) mapping -- harmonizing interconnected carriers QoS policies -- but Hokamp quantified as less of a technical challenge and instead an issue likely resolved by working closely with carriers.

Telx evaluated two other vendors, which Hokamp declined to name. But he said that Cisco offered "more flexibility for provisioning and real-time performance [management]."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Jessica Scarpati, News Writer

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