Ethernet survival: Food, clothing, shelter... OAM?

Remember Maslow’s “Heirarchy of Needs” theory? Usually mapped out as a pyramid, the basic idea is that before we satisfy our more abstract desires we first need to secure the basics – survival necessities, and safety.

Ethernet, apparently, is somewhere at these survival and safety stages – really the bottom of the pyramid – at least when it comes to Ethernet business services and wireless backhaul applications. For anyone deploying Ethernet today, there’s a good chance they’re hunting and gathering information about key technologies they need to deploy to get their services up and running.
We all know Ethernet’s hit prime time – a survey released this month by Vertical Systems group says business Ethernet Services will grow from $10B into $39B market over the next 4 years – that’s crazy growth any way you slice it. They summarize their findings with, “Revenue from each of the regional market segments is expanding at a rate that’s more than double those of competing technologies.”
But in engineering and operations departments, it’s not a question of need, it’s more a question of survival – how do you cost effectively deploy reliable, resilient Ethernet services? It’s still a jungle out there if you’re doing the engineering.
What tools are they looking for? Let’s take a look at the survival kit they’re building.
Some insight comes from a survey we conduct on to customize monthly webinars that introduce key technologies for high availability, low latency, QoS-assured Ethernet services. Attendees complete the survey to tell us what they are most interested in learning about, and we adapt the content to their needs. The results are consistent from month-to-month, for telcos, MSOs and carriers, over North America, Europe, Africa , Latin America and Asia. Over the last 4 months, the pyramid of needs checks in as: (1) Ethernet OAM, 100% of respondents, (2) QoS monitoring, 89%, (3) MEF service mapping, 65%, (4) Edge aggregation, Traffic shaping & rate limiting, 55%, (5) Automated provisioning, 47%, and (6) Turn-Up, Loopback & In-Service RFC-2544 throughput testing, 43%.
The needs have changed as operators move closer to deployment – and from talking to the audience we can tell they are in the thick of it: starting to roll-out large-scale services or in the final planning stages.
A year ago you’d have seen Loopback & Turn-Up as the most important topics – reactionary troubleshooting and provisioning basics to get customers up and running [“survival-level” needs]. Today, Ethernet Operations, Administration & Maintenance (OAM) & continuous monitoring top the list [“safety-level” needs].
Service providers have shifted their focus from testing at turn-up to maintaining performance and reliability over the long-haul. They’re also looking at better ways to create, aggregate and optimize services – the mechanics of provisioning and bandwidth optimization. And deployment hasn’t been forgotten, its taken a new spin – instead of just turning up a circuit, they’re now more interested in automating it. The question we keep hearing is “how can we make deploying Ethernet as simple as possible?” There are big operational issues with wide scale deployment, and urgency in this area often reflects on how close these operators are to wide-scale roll-out.
Just as most of us no longer have food & shelter foremost in on our minds, service providers are focusing forward in the evolution of Ethernet: ongoing service performance, management and deployment automation are the needs of the moment. It’ll be interesting to see how fast these needs get satisfied – with this level of demand the answer I hear the most is: “Not fast enough.”