Contributed by Shailesh Shukla, VP/GM Mobile, Access, Routing and Services Business Unit
The FIFA World Cup craze is sweeping the globe as the quarterfinals near, even here in the United States, thanks in part to the next generation of Internet technologies – enabling fans to watch the action at work, at home and on the move. It was disappointing to watch this past weekend’s match end in defeat for the USA, but catching a glimpse of Mick Jagger filming the US goal with the Cisco Flip was heart warming and an example of how technology is creating new consumer experiences. Several media broadcasters and service providers have leveraged the Internet, giving viewers the ability to watch when they want and how they want – games streamed live to any screen, unique content such as ESPN using Cisco TelePresence to host interviews, and even 3D.
While the proliferation of IP-aware consumer devices like smart phones and iPad’s are enabling these new experiences, they are also exerting significant pressures on an operator’s current access infrastructure. Emergence of video, mobile, and cloud compute services are presenting new revenue opportunities for the service provider, but they can only capitalize on them if they have deployed cost optimized, carrier grade IP access infrastructure. Neotel, part of the Tata Communications global network, realized the opportunities by early investment in the IP NGN Carrier Ethernet system with innovative, feature rich and cost optimized access solutions. Last week, Cisco announced the availability of the ME3600X and ME3800X – compact, purpose built, and feature rich Ethernet Access Switches – extending 10GE MPLS capability to the Carrier Ethernet access and pre-aggregation space. These two new platforms bring the proven technology of larger aggregation routers such as the Cisco ASR 9000 and Cisco 7600 into a small form factor to address the power and space constraints of remote and low-density points of presence, but at a more cost-effective price point.
ME3600X and ME3800X bring the following key benefits to the operator:
The scalloped hammerhead is one of the few creatures in the world that has 360 degree vision. Wouldn’t it be great if those of us involved in the service provider market could have the hammerhead’s panoramic view and easy access to the content we need to make the best business decisions? In today’s constantly evolving communications landscape, we can see that content is everywhere…video, events, webinars, podcasts, articles, industry research, white papers.
In this sea of ubiquitous communication vehicles, it’s easy to miss relevant, potentially useful information that’s been swept away by the torrent of articles that are constantly competing for our attention. Fortunately, you now have a new tool that automatically aggregates Service Provider Data Center, Virtualization & Cloud content from a variety of sources and puts it all into one organized and easily accessible place so you can find the content you need when you need it.
For example, we recently posted a video blog that features TELUS, a Canadian service provider, which has leveraged Cisco Unified Service Delivery architecture to unify data center and networking resources. The aggregator widget links to the video, as well as other Service Provider Data Center, Virtualization & Cloud multimedia, so you can quickly find related content.
Recently we talked about scaling up for Zettabyte Era growth. However, what’s important to remember is that traffic will often be carried over many networks to reach its destination – and somewhere, somehow there must be a way to interconnect them. Ethernet is far and away the most popular way to do that not just for its flexibility but also because it is the most cost effective.
As a Local Area Network technology, Ethernet (and let’s not forget to capitalize that “E”!) wasn’t originally designed for interconnecting carriers – a number of innovations were needed before it could be called “Carrier Ethernet.” For example, there was no easy way to troubleshoot connections, to scale the number of virtual local area networks, or VLANs, needed in a service provider environment, or even a set of industry standards that could be referenced to ensure that services across multiple carriers and equipment vendors could interoperate.
Today, those issues are gone. Now Ethernet Operations and Maintenance is much more sophisticated to enable performance monitoring and fault management. Ethernet encapsulation standards such as 802.1ad and 802.1ah (you know, the things you too probably discuss at your weekend BBQs) define how to greatly increase the number of circuits that could be carried, and more importantly to allow for Ethernet tags to be carried across multiple service providers.
Most recently a new standard has been ratified by the Metro Ethernet Forum that defines how service providers should interconnect with each other. Our Cisco representative, Lionel Florit (who is also on the MEF Board of Directors and co-chair of the Technical Committee), reported that the Ethernet Network-to-Network Interface specification (known as “MEF 26″ to Lionel and our standards team but is referred to by people like me as “that thing that Lionel worked on that, you know, made things work better together”) was ratified in January 2010. This will remove many obstacles that affect a service provider’s ability to easily exchange data, voice, and video traffic using a common Ethernet framework with other providers at Layer 2.
All of this is leading to the creation of a new, innovative type of service provider – the “Ethernet exchange” Provider. An Ethernet exchange is a carrier-neutral facility that enables both carriers and enterprise customers the ability interconnect using Ethernet interfaces using standardized service agreements. Somewhat like an airport terminal – everyone meets at the airport but has a choice of different carriers and destinations once they get there. The exchange concept is how carriers will meet the challenge to expand Ethernet service availability to all required customer endpoints while reducing time-to-revenue and reducing operational expenses. The Ethernet exchange also aids providers to scale more quickly and profitably, because connections to the exchange can be augmented as traffic increases.
Awareness of the challenges associated with the forthcoming depletion of IPv4 addresses is increasing in the general public. While we’ve been highlighting some of the challenges and solutions to the problem some time now, the issue is getting more and more attention in the mainstream press. Last month CNN.com raised the issue with “Are you Ready for the Big Internet Crunch” which mentions the current estimate of September 2011 as being the exact time when we exhaust all IPv4 addresses.
What’s pretty amazing when you compare the estimates now to those of a similar article published over a decade earlier (September 1999) by CNN as well: “The Great IP Crunch of 2010.” Being off by only 10% a decade out is quite an accomplishment in the fast moving technology industry! What’s just as interesting, from my standpoint at least, is that the 1999 article mentions only one company by name that was preparing early: Japan’s NTT.
That preparation is now paying off for NTT Communications.
We had a chance to sit down with NTT America’s Chief Technology Officer Douglas A. Junkins to discuss demand for 100GE services and the importance of an IPv6-ready network. They are at the leading edge of the transition that will only make their perspectives all the more valuable for this industry. I encourage you to watch.
Omar Gallaga, tech reporter for my local paper The Austin American Statesmen, pointed out a recent NPR interview discussing the fact that World Cup opened during the work week here in the U.S., forcing many to watch via the web on their work computers or even their mobile devices (for the record, on Friday, I was very busy entrenched in an individual strategic planning session and can in no way comment on the crazy offsides call in the 84th minute of the United States vs. Slovenia match).
Fans are now more than passive viewers (albeit animated ones…especially when crazy penalty calls are made…are you kidding me!) and the gap between a live experience and a viewing experience is getting ever more narrow. I was looking at this amazing infographic depicting the evolution of following and watching the World Cup over the last 80 years and was struck at the reality that technology is the enabler. And, for the first time ESPN and others are delivering 3D HDTV that is capturing every corner kick, pass, and goal scored (and, the ones that almost were…or should have been counted…but I’m not bitter or anything).
All of this is bringing the world together in ways we’ve not yet imagined. Certainly, we’ll know more after the champion is crowned and the vuvuzelas mercifully silence, but I’ve seen some initial estimates that have the cumulative viewership of the tournament is expected to reach 28 billion. That’s astounding, but it’s just the beginning of where we will go in the future and it certainly reinforces the trends that we’ve mentioned in our recent VNI forecast where video is at the heart of nearly every major networked experience.
Are you seeing your co-workers and friends following the action from work or their mobile devices? How do you think it’s different from 2006 and where to you think it will be in 2014?