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Carrier Ethernet Tackles Storage

Carrier Ethernet is becoming a key transport for storage, sources say, though carriers and their suppliers offer uneven input on the trend.

Carrier Ethernet, also known as metro Ethernet, lets corporate customers link to remote sites and branches via 10-Mbit/s to 1-Gbit/s Ethernet links, usually within a metropolitan area. Storage traffic -- for business continuity, offsite replication, and remote backup applications -- can be shipped with other data, as long as customers can convert SAN protocols for use on the net.

Up to now, most carriers haven't seen a need to offer more than this, since they don't distinguish SAN payloads from other Ethernet-borne traffic.

In the "2006 Survey of Ethernet Service Providers," for instance, Heavy Reading senior analyst Stan Hubbard reported that among 50 Ethernet service providers surveyed, 24.3 percent offered storage extension (native SAN interfaces over Ethernet) among their applications, but 38.8 percent had no plans to add offerings in the future. Further, 44.2 percent of respondents believed there was "little or no" demand for Ethernet-based storage extension services at any data rate. (See Flirting With Storage Services.)

That seems to be changing, particularly as Ethernet services become more prevalent and users look to extend their investment in them. AT&T now offers FibreMAN, a 1- and 2-Gbit/s Fibre Channel service, as part of its metro Ethernet offerings in the 13 states formerly associated with SBC -- Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wisconsin.

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