David Gutierrez

COMMENTARY

Ethernet: An answer to federal networking needs

Connection-Oriented Ethernet overcomes many IP vulnerabilities

David Gutierrez is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and former officer in the submarine service. He has 10 years of optical transport experience and is responsible for optical transport product strategy at Fujitsu.

The government has long sought a single, coherent, secure and globally accessible network that can ensure actionable information is available to those who need it, when they need it, wherever they might be.

There are many challenges to overcome in making that vision a reality. First, there is a technical and cultural divide that must be bridged. Second, the existing communications technologies that underlie networks must evolve. The good news is that we can take a phased approach to this change and accomplish our goals by using a technology with which many are already familiar: Ethernet.

Built over decades, government networks contain a great deal of aging equipment based on older technologies that were originally designed for telecommunications. Those technologies, such as Time Division Multiplexing and Synchronous Optical Networking (Sonet), are widely deployed optical technologies that deliver reliability, security and performance. However, networks in general are transitioning away from those circuit-switched technologies to packet-centric architectures.

High-performance, packet-based networking is necessary to efficiently support emerging and next-generation applications, including videoconferencing, voice over IP, 3-D imaging, and streaming audio and video. There is a substantial body of evidence that the transition to a packet-centric architecture can best be facilitated using Ethernet in both geographically dispersed, wide-area transport environments and local-area networks where it is traditionally found — thanks to the latest generation of Ethernet, called Connection-Oriented Ethernet.

COE is a high-performance implementation of an earlier standard, called Carrier Ethernet. Defined in 2005 by the Metro Ethernet Forum, Carrier Ethernet possesses five attributes that allow it to provide the level of performance that telecom carriers expect from mature transport technologies. Those attributes are:

  • Standardized services.
  • Reliability and protection.
  • Quality of service.
  • Service operations, administration and management.
  • Scalability.

COE uses those attributes and adds a sixth: security.

Because COE does not use IP protocols, it provides immunity from the all-too-popular IP-based attacks to which common routed networks are susceptible. COE also does not use any Ethernet bridging or Media Access Control-based protocols, so it is immune to MAC-based denial-of-service attacks that are possible with traditional Ethernet switching architectures.

COE also facilitates the implementation of government-mandated IPv6. Because COE is a Layer 2 solution, it does not depend on the version of IP traffic sent, making the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 completely transparent. An architecture based on traditional routers, on the other hand, would need to provide an IPv4-to-IPv6 gateway function to support that transition. With COE as a new WAN technology, the economies of scale are present to lower the costs of the network.

COE also provides determinism, a highly valued characteristic of incumbent transport technologies, such as Sonet, that guarantees bandwidth for applications. It delivers the lowest possible latency and jitter performance and Sonet-like high availability with tools to precisely manage network weaknesses. But unlike Sonet, COE introduces a feature that is common in routers and switches: statistical multiplexing. Multiple applications and sources can access the transmission links on essentially a first-come, first-served basis. The results are better use of the government’s networks and scalability required for an IP-centric world, while also ensuring that mission-critical applications are not interrupted.

Finally, COE works in conjunction with the government’s movement toward transport networks that make use of all optical technologies, including reconfigurable optical add/drop multiplexers. As a result of the enhancements that COE has brought to Ethernet, demand for higher quality, scalable wide-area networking can be addressed cost-effectively and securely. With COE, Ethernet has truly come of age and addresses the challenges of government networking.

About the Author

David Gutierrez is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a former officer in the Submarine service. He has 10 years of optical transport experience and is responsible for optical transport product strategy at Fujitsu.

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