The future of the networked world: Cisco's Metro Ethernet

The future of the networked world: Cisco's Metro Ethernet


The future of the networked World is called 'Cisco Metro-Ethernet' - a revolution?

On October 30, 2002, a press event took place at Cisco Systems in Berlin under the name 'Ethernet to the X' Topic broadband networks instead. Around 50 journalists from all over Europe were invited to listen to Cisco's visions of the future. Buzzwords like “Accessibility”, “Bandwith on Demand” and “Multiple Services” made the rounds and were clearly presented using practical examples. We from were also there and now want to give you a little insight into a not too distant future.


Metro-Ethernet, the big initiative of Cisco-Systems, is to become the future of the networked world and ultimately means nothing more than broadband access for the masses. What has already been successfully tested in Sweden, Austria and Italy is set to become a global standard in the near future. To make this possible, Metro Ethernet uses open standards developed by Cisco that are freely accessible to everyone.

Metro Ethernet is supposed to be the end of all conventional networks - what is currently still being distributed via separate networks, that should soon be merged. Voice (Voice over IP), data (Internet), video (TV, video on demand), all of this should, if Cisco has its way, be transmitted over a single large network. Cisco speaks of unlimited bandwidth with its 'Ethernet to the X' technology. What currently sounds like a dream of the future is already becoming successful in some large European citiestried. In Paris and Vienna there are already networks based on Metro Ethernet. Six Italian cities have already joined together to form an LRD (long range distance) ring and Sweden is also working feverishly on setting up such networks.

Why Ethernet?

With the term “Ethernet “Many administrators will probably put their hands over their heads. 'Everybody shares anyones data', which is still desired in company networks, has no place in public networks, one could argue. But Cisco also offers the solution for this problem - MPLS (Multi Protocol Label Switching) is the magic formula.

The basic requirement for networking is a fiber optic cable to the house. The conversion from glass fiber to Ethernet then takes place via active components, preferably in the house basement. In the house itself, networking takes place using structured Cat.5 cabling, which ultimately means that everyone has a network connection in their home. All desired services of the customer are then carried out via this connection. Telephone, television and internet are only available through a single connection. The current state of technology is that theoretically every household could have a connection with 10 Gbit/s. The individual ports are virtually separated from each other via so-called V-LANs (Virtual LAN), so that the security of your own data is guaranteed.

One Network - Mulitple Services

Cisco does not offer this a lot of new things. Comparable network topologies can already be found in the most varied of forms in a large number of company networks. But what's new now? First catchphrase: 'Accessability'. Access from anywhere at any time with little effort.

Imagine you're the boss of a small business. Telephone is now in every workplace andthe individual PCs may already be networked. If you thought about something, structured Cat.5 cabling was even thought of, of course, future-oriented, every workstation has at least 2 network connections. Networking took a lot of effort, a company had to come, drill, chisel and cause a lot of noise and dirt. In the end, the bill came, probably not cheap. But suddenly the idea that the entrance area should be video-monitored. So one more company bring the video lines with a lot of noise, dirt and costs?

Is it up to Cisco, such trains of thought are already history. Once structured cabling has been carried out and that's it. All kinds of services and applications can now be carried out via the company's internal network. There are no separate components for telephone, computer and video systems. Everything in one device, everything in one network. Telephony can either be done via the computer or via special Voice over IP telephones. Anyone who is still attached to their old, analogue devices, here you go, no problem. Keyword fax: Imagine the costs if every employee had their own fax machine. Cable routes and devices would devour huge sums of money, not to mention expensive maintenance. No problem with the new network. A computer application makes it possible for every employee to have their own fax reception and also have their own voice box if they are not at their desk. Video conferencing in DVD quality is no longer a pipe dream. Surveillance cameras at critical points? No problem! Simply plug the cable into the next data socket and you're done. This service can be used immediately from any PC in the company.

The principle of the low 'total cost of ownership', i.e. the low operating costs of a network and the uncomplicatedExpandability, were implemented optimally. But what still sounds like relatively normal network features is now getting the ultimate icing on the cake.

Unlimited networking

Let's stick with our example, the small company. A few years later, a branch is to be set up in another city, but broadband data exchange in both directions must be guaranteed. Once again, the company has to face enormous costs.

The aforementioned virtual LANs and company networks can now be used not only within a networked building complex, but also globally. By simply configuring a V-LAN, it is relatively easy to add the company network to the existing Metro LAN. Now parts of the company all over the world can be networked as if they were connected in a single large company network. This means that employees can work on their PC from home as if they were at the company. All without having to forego bandwidth, of course. And that's the crux of the matter. So far, such solutions have only been possible cost-effectively over conventional telephone lines. The employee had to dial into the company in the morning, then did his job more badly than right, had to wait ages for large amounts of data and the redirection of phone calls resulted in additional costs. With Metro-Ethernet or 'eTTx - Ethernet to the x', where the x stands for the most varied of locations, all of this is no longer a problem. With bandwidth on demand, everyone who is connected to the network is provided with the same amount of bandwidth as he needs right now. This makes it possible to work from anywhere in the world as if you were sitting at a PC directly in the company network. Since the public Metro Ethernet can be used for this purpose, the company does not have to pay immense costs for its own network.


All of this is far from being fiction. The infrastructure in the form of fiber optic cables is already partially in place and the active technology is available at Cisco and is just waiting to be finally used.

Companies such as HanseNet (Germany), Wienstrom (Austria), Cap Gemini Ernst & Young (France), and Fastweb (Italy) are already using this technology on a large scale. All companies unanimously confirmed that the technology was fully operational and identified it as very inexpensive. The Austrian provider Wienstrom is already offering a 10MBit connection for € 69 per month.

If you can believe Cisco and everyone else involved in this workshop, there is currently a huge optimism around the world. Broadband connections, which have been demanded by the market for some time, will soon be available to everyone and will also remain affordable. Internet and telephone have had their day in their current form. Everything will merge with one another, the many individual networks will be combined into one large network. According to Cisco Marketing Manager Johann Strauss, you don't have to worry about the security of your own data.

What is now the only problem is local responsibility problems and the nationwide expansion of a fiber optic network. This is where the network operators are in demand. The fact is, however, that business and many private households are demanding more bandwidth at lower prices. To make this possible, Metro Ethernet is a possible step into the future.

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