If you aren’t familiar with the concept of an Ethernet exchange, it’s a fairly simple one. An Ethernet exchange is a place that enables service providers or large enterprises to interconnect on a neutral basis using Ethernet -- instead of SONET/SDH -- to provide higher bandwidth at lower costs. The real issue for a service provider or enterprise is not if, rather it is how to choose the right exchange to join? Or, at least which one to join first?
All of the major players offering an exchange are members of the Metro Ethernet Forum and are adhering to the latest standards. All seek to offer resilient carrier class services and a mix of Gigabit and 10 Gigabit Ethernet service rates. At first glance they might seem similar, but there are actually three critical factors that differentiate the experiences and that should be considered when evaluating an Ethernet exchange operator.
Does the operator take a network-based approach to extend its reach?
Can it provide a personalized service portal?
Is it able to help with end-to-end interconnect oversight and management?
The network-based approach is critical to making it easier to offer Ethernet services. Consider that the value of an exchange is largely based on the number of possible connections enabled by membership in that exchange. For example, a service provider linked to a one exchange with five members means that up to five connections could be made. However, if that same SP was connected to a networked Ethernet exchange in five different cities, each with five members, then that SP could connect to (and buy from / sell to) 25 other exchange members with just one Gig-E connection. Some exchanges take care of this inter-exchange network for you.
The second point is around portals. The whole point of the exchange is to make it faster and easier to connect disparate customer locations. Being forced to manually look up which buildings are “lit” wastes time and slows down the sales process. User portals that can be personalized and provide details on which buildings are “on network,” which cell towers are connected, and what circuits are available are just as important as the actual physical hardware itself.