Metro Networks Cut Costs, Complexity

BOSTON (06/02/2000) - Instead of leasing high-speed phone lines for thousands of dollars per month, Matt Kesner chose a metropolitan-area network (MAN) based on Ethernet standards running over optical fiber.

Kesner, CIO at law firm Fenwick & West LLP in Palo Alto, California, is among the first people to use an emerging infrastructure that promises to bring more bandwidth, lower costs and easier connectivity to companies lucky enough to have unused fiber running by their buildings. He uses a MAN - a high-speed network that covers a geographic area such as a city or suburb - to connect the law firm's offices in San Francisco and Palo Alto.

While MANs have been used for years, some of the biggest names in technology are investing billions of dollars to allow customers to use them for the first time at relatively low prices and on common standards such as Ethernet.

Just last week, Lucent Technologies Inc. in Murray Hill, New Jersey., announced that it would buy Chromatis Networks in Herndon, Virginia, for $4.5 billion.

With the deal, Lucent gets Chromatis' technology for increasing performance in MANs.

And Nortel Networks Corp. in Brampton, Ontario, has announced its Optera line of MAN products.

Dark Fiber Used

But some users aren't waiting for these products and are getting MAN service from providers such as Yipes Communications Inc. in San Francisco and Telseon Inc. in Denver. Both companies purchase existing dark (unused) fiber and use it to create Gigabit Ethernet MANs.

"We were using four T1 lines from a local telephone company," Kesner said. "We were spending thousands a month; we've reduced that to about $1,000."

It took 10 days to set up the MAN, Kesner said, compared with the eight months it took the local telephone company to install a separate circuit to handle voice traffic.

Another early adopter is Philip Kwan, an associate director of network infrastructure at Incyte Genomics Inc., a biotechnology research firm in Palo Alto, California.

Kwan said Incyte had an optical fiber Gigabit Ethernet on its main campus but it needed to send hundreds of megabits of data to remote sites where its e-commerce applications are hosted and it needed to manage those applications remotely. "If we were using a telco to manage these boxes, it wouldn't be possible," he said.

Tom Jenkins, director of consulting at TeleChoice Inc. in Boston, said the use of such MANs may be limited because most unused fiber is in downtown areas, not suburbs.

Yipes spokesman Jonathan Marshall said he disagrees. "There's a lot of dark fiber out there. Energy utilities, municipalities and carriers have buried it.

You just have to know where it is."

Analyst Peter Sevcik at NetForecast in Waltham, Massachusetts, also said there's plenty of fiber available. If not, he said, new high-speed technologies such as dense wave division multiplexing and 10 Gigabit Ethernet could boost the bandwidth of the fiber that can be used.

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More about Chromatis NetworksFenwick & WestIncyte GenomicsLucentLucent TechnologiesMetro NetworksNortel NetworksTeleChoiceTelseonYipes Communications

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