Extreme Networks Executive Touts Ethernet

LAS VEGAS (05/11/2000) - In the final keynote address of the week here at the NetWorld+Interop conference Thursday, Extreme Networks Inc. President, CEO, and Chairman Gordon Stitt offered a vision of the networking infrastructure of the future in which Ethernet extends beyond the enterprise LAN to usher in a new age of broadband services.

Fresh thinking is needed on an infrastructure level, Stitt said, in order for networks to make the transition from the age of circuit-switched voice traffic to the new age of data. Data now comprises more than 80 percent of the traffic speeding across public networks, Stitt said, and that amount will continue to explode. Because data requires fatter pipes, the infrastructure needs to be able to scale in order to keep up with demand.

Stitt targeted SONet (synchronous optical network) technology in the MAN (metropolitan area network) as a key hurdle to scalability. Although SONet is a highly reliable platform for voice, it is complex, expensive, and difficult to manage, Stitt argued. SONet is also inefficient for data transport because it does not scale, he said.

The process of optimizing SONet for data transport will be expensive and incremental, whereas the demand for data is not incremental, Stitt said.

In order to remedy the SONet bottleneck, Stitt envisions extending the reach of Ethernet beyond the corporate LAN into the MAN.

As the rate of data traffic continues to outpace voice, Ethernet is a strong contender to replace SONet because it is a data-optimized technology with inherent scalability, Stitt said. Because of large investments and its reliability, SONet will not go away, Stitt said, but Ethernet will emerge as the data transport technology in the MAN.

Another key benefit of Ethernet in the MAN, according to Stitt, is the potential it holds for revolutionizing service provisioning. Ethernet's scalability will enable a new level of IP services such as provisioning incremental rates of bandwidth, usage-based billing for services, and bandwidth service level agreements.

Stitt predicted that in one year, the development of 10-Gigabit Ethernet will deliver OC192 traffic speeds in the MAN at a much cheaper rate than SONet.

"Ethernet [brings] limitless possibility of bandwidth coupled with advanced IP services," Stitt said. "You will eventually see Ethernet end-to-end."

Extreme Networks Inc., in Santa Clara, California, is at www.extremenetworks.com.

Cathleen Moore is an InfoWorld reporter.

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