A Metro Ethernet is the use of Carrier Ethernet technology to create a computer network that covers a metropolitan area and is based on the Ethernet standard. It is widely used as an access network that connects subscribers and businesses to other larger networks or the internet. Metro Ethernet can also be used by businesses to deploy a network within their own business, forming an intranet.
Ethernet is an old technology, well known for decades, but only properly put to use in recent times. Compared to Sonet or PDH interfaces the Ethernet interface is not only a lot less expensive, but also much more cost effective in terms of bandwidth usage and capacity. Another advantage of Ethernet-based access networks is the fact that they can easily be connected to by a customer network, thus, introducing Ethernet into the local are connections within cities and within the internet can bring a lot of advantages to the table for both the customer and the service provider.
A typical Metro Ethernet network consists of an optical fiber cable system connecting layer 2 and layer 3 switches and routers. Any one of the numerous types of topology could be used for the network a ring or star formation or even the full or partial mesh.
The network must also have a certain hierarchy, for example, the core, distribution and finally the access. The most widely used core is the IP/MPLS backbone, but then again, more advanced versions of Ethernet Transport have become available, increasing the speed yet remaining reliable, that might be deployed at a higher cost.
As stated earlier Ethernet can be used in many different forms and networks. Ethernet on the metropolitan area networks can be used as a pure Ethernet, Then you get Ethernet over SDH, Ethernet over DWDM or even Ethernet over MPLS.
Those Ethernet deployments that are considered to be pure are cheap but on the other hand, are more prone to bugs and problems within the network itself so in most cases it is used on small scale deployments. If a SDH infrastructure is already in place a SDH-based deployment could be very useful, the main shortcoming however, is the low flexibility in bandwidth management due to all the protocols invoked by the SDH network. The most efficient and reliable deployment by far is the MPLS based deployment, but this choice is extremely expensive and is mainly used by large service providers.
There are a lot of myths revolving around pure Ethernet, most of which simply are not true. One of the most frequent myths to pop up is the believe that pure Ethernet have 4094 VLANs are available on the entire network for any service provider. Another common myth is that of RSTP convergence taking a long amount of time. Or even that L2 Ethernet connections the need for the use of L3 routers and switches erase. As stated earlier these are nothing but myths.
At the end of the day, one must understand, regardless of all the truths and myths, Metro Ethernet is an extremely effective wide network system that is guaranteed to stay with us for quite some time.
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