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Carrier Ethernet: A Viable Alternative

Telecom Review had to chance to sit with Michael Tenn, Regional Director of Business Development & Solutions Sales (Middle East and Africa Region) at Accedian Networks. Accedian Networks is the leading provider for Service Creation and Service Assurance Solutions for today’s Mobile Backhaul 3G, 4G/LTE networks.

Why is Accedian Networks currently focused on Carrier Ethernet?

Driven by the explosive growth of smartphones and mobile broadband devices, mobile carriers are seeing an exponential growth in data traffic within the mobile backhaul network. Smartphone growth coupled with the deployment of 4G/LTE is creating a demand for bandwidth that simply cannot be met using legacy mobile backhaul networks.

Mobile operators have been increasingly turning to Carrier Ethernet as a viable alternative, but the service performance requirements of these precision networks has frustrated early attempts. Accedian was founded in 2004 with a vision to help accelerate Carrier Ethernet deployments worldwide using a combination of product innovation, education and support. In 2006 we launched our High Performance Service Assurance platform enabling service providers and operators to leverage the best of Carrier Ethernet without sacrificing on network service quality or performance while at the same time reducing overall capital and operational expenditures.

What are some of the specific challenges that service providers face with Ethernet mobile backhaul?

Millisecond delay and delay variation requirements, high availability and committed throughput are major challenges facing mobile backhaul networks based on Ethernet technology. That’s because unlike legacy TDM networks with their predictable performance based on pre-determined constants, Carrier Ethernet networks are dynamic in nature. As such, performance can vary significantly based on network topology, distance and network load.

In addition, Ethernet has traditionally been a best effort service. It lacks the standardized Operations, Administration and Management (OAM) and service level agreement-backed performance guarantees that are required for 4G/LTE/WiMAX backhaul networks. To enable the cost-benefits and bandwidth efficiencies of Ethernet-based mobile backhaul, providers must establish carrier-grade Ethernet services and monitor them with performance assurance solutions.

What differentiates Accedian’s High Performance Service Assurance platform from other service assurance solutions?

A key differentiator of this platform has been and continues to be Accedian’s patented Fast-PAAs engine - the industry’s only Fast Performance Assurance Agent silicon processor that enables the measurement of Key Performance Indications of network health without adding delay to service traffic as it transits the demarcation device.

Specifically, our platform performs in-service measurements with microsecond resolution, in-service RFC-2544 testing that doesn't affect customer traffic and intelligent layer 1-4 loopbacks for complete network and application QoS testing. Fast-PAAs eliminate the store-and-forward processing delay of Ethernet switches and routers and provide microsecond measurement resolution and real-time processing for every packet flowing through the unit. It is the lowest delay solution currently available with intrinsic 1-way delay and delay variation of less than 3.3 and 0.1 microseconds, respectively.

Our platform also provides complete end-to-end OAM and SLA assurance functionality over any network, even multi-vendor, multi-technology and multi-carrier networks. The result is the most scalable, highest performing, lowest delay Ethernet OAM implementation available today.

In essence, our solutions take the risk out of deploying Ethernet in LTE backhaul networks and pave the way for a next generation of high capacity and highly reliable backhaul infrastructure to deliver excellent quality of experience to mobile users worldwide.

Can you briefly describe Accedian’s family of products?

Powered by Accedian Network's High Performance Service Assurance platform, our EtherNID, MetroNID and MetroNODE 10GE family of demarcation and OAM aggregation devices enable end-to-end service provisioning and assurance with carrier-grade performance.

They feature the industry's most comprehensive remote test and performance monitoring functionality as well as advanced service creation and traffic management capabilities that enable premium services backed by assured service level agreements (SLAs). And with their unique hardware-based architecture, they deliver the most precise in-service measurements available without adding delay or delay variation to pass-through traffic.

How does your PAA feature work?

PAA is a hardware-assisted active measurement function that performs continuous in-service monitoring of Layer 2 and Layer 3 (IP) SLA parameters, and accurately measures one-way and round-trip delay, delay variation, packet loss and continuity. It operates by sending active probes to a peer device which sends back replies containing timing information. No upper layer protocol, such as TCP, is used. Each peer then computes various metrics.

The PAA does this operation on a continuous basis and is capable of concurrently testing and maintaining multiple flows of active probes using layer 2 or 3 test packets. The characteristics of the test packets for each flow are set to match the layer 2 or layer 3 characteristics of the services being monitored. These packets may be independently destined to different peers or to the same peer using different class of service (CoS) and/or VLAN ID as appropriate.

Why do you measure and monitor performance at both Layers 2 and 3?

Simply stated, to properly assess the performance of Ethernet services testing at Layer 2 is essential as these metrics cannot be adequately extrapolated at Layer 3. By enabling the measurement of Quality of service (QoS) performance metrics at both Layers, we provide a complete view of network performance.

What can you tell us about the automated provisioning capabilities of your equipment?

Accedian’s unique Plug & Go automated remote provisioning system accelerates the remote installation of our equipment. With Plug & Go, NIDs ship directly from Accedian with factory default settings for installation anywhere in the service provider network. Upon deployment in the network, the NIDs acquire a management IP address and send a homing beacon back to a NID already operational that has been configured to be the “inventory tracking” NID. Once discovered the new NID is directed to the address of the Plug & Go server where its identity is verified. The NID is then added to the inventory, receives its unique configuration file and provisioning information, and is then able to start doing its job. Plug & Go eliminates the need to pre-stage or pre-configure the NIDs (and keep track of unique inventory for each remote location).

Several Accedian customers have successfully used this feature in their networks and have saved thousands of dollars and significantly reduced the time to turn up the new devices in the network. In fact one US-based service provider was able to use Plug & Go to turn-up as many as 100 remote cell site locations in a single day!

How can carriers reduce OPEX with Accedian’s NIDs?

All our devices include a Plug & Go feature which enables automated zero-touch provisioning, auto-configuration and inventory tracking leading to significant reduction in OPEX. Once plugged in, the device’s integrated intelligence senses which ports are connected, detects other NIDs on the network, scans for valid links, then automatically configure ports and media (SFP/copper), and negotiates line rates. Simple click-through access to any deployed device enables quick configuration of service creation and service assurance functionality and quick set up of fully monitored Carrier Ethernet services.

In addition, advanced Layer 1-4 Loopback testing for remote QoS testing of Ethernet, IP / MPLS and triple-play services enable service providers to accelerate the diagnosis and repair of network and QoS issues - without a far-end test set, truck roll or waiting for maintenance windows - leading to a further reduction in OPEX with less repair time and test sets in the field.

Accedian is MEF compliant. How important is that to Accedian and this industry?

Accedian is committed to industry standards and actively contributes to several telecommunications standards bodies, including the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF), IEEE and ITU. Iometrix, the MEF’s authorized test lab, has certified that our equipment is compliant with both the MEF 9 and MEF 14 specifications which is an important distinction for service providers considering deploying our NIDs in their networks. Accedian has also contributed to the development of the MEF’s forthcoming UNI 2 certification program which will certify the compliance with advanced UNI functionality.