At a recent training day in London, we asked our reseller partners what they think about Ethernet as a data network solution for the WAN. Every single one said they expect their Ethernet sales to grow this year.
This is not surprising if you consider market trends. Cost reduction - or avoiding unnecessary costs - is the top IT priority for many UK businesses. But bandwidth needs are growing all the time and networks have become absolutely critical to business efficiency and market competitiveness.
Advances such as unified communications, virtualisation and disaster recovery all demand more and more quality bandwidth.
For businesses that want to manage their network themselves, Ethernet is a way to reduce network costs. We believe that Ethernet equipment is about 20 to 30 per cent cheaper than older technologies for the same bandwidth.
You also get higher and more flexible bandwidth so that the IT department can easily keep up with demand. Ethernet is also easy to manage because most IT managers are used to working with Ethernet in the LAN.
It is tempting to assume that networks are a commodity and all the different products on the market are the same. We did a Forrester study that suggested all service providers are now using Multi Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) core networks to carry and deliver next-generation Ethernet services.
However, their technical approaches vary considerably, affecting the performance of the resulting services in terms of resilience, latency and high availability.
Enterprises and resellers must understand the products they are buying, how they are built and what their capabilities are.
We also asked our reseller partners what they think about when deciding on a service provider with which to partner. The top criteria cited were reliability, coverage and resilience of network, knowledge base and product support and robust market reputation.
To really understand how each service provider meets these criteria, it is important that resellers question their service providers closely about how they have designed their network and what technology they have chosen.
For example, do you fully allocate bandwidth for your Ethernet services? Do you nail up the routes for both main and back-up paths? How do you ensure high availability?
Ethernet will become the norm for WANs eventually, because it offers all the benefits that businesses need right now and for the future. The key will be in finding the right service provider with the right technology approach for your business. One size does not fit all.
Andy Horn is head of SME business for Colt UK
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