Discussing Ethernet Circuits is complicated. Most service providers now rely on a combination of their own transport network (on-net services) combined with additional circuits provided by 3rd party access vendors. These out-of-network Ethernet Circuits are considered “off-net” and having one of these circuits typically results in complex Ethernet transport that crosses multiple carrier boundaries.
While it may be convenient to have circuits clearly delineated, there are many reasons service providers require off-net circuits. Some of the most common ones are:
Data center demands
Regional vs. national coverage
Limited metro circuits
As seen above, data center demands are one of the most common reasons for using off-net circuits. Enterprises in one data center require high quality that includes guaranteed connectivity to their cloud services provider in a different data center. As a result of this, enterprises find themselves connecting via an off-net circuit supplied by an alternate access vendor in order to meet data center requirements.
Over the last decade, alternate access providers offering these circuits to the service providers has been a big and lucrative business. There can be significant recurring monthly expenses for these service providers. In the provisioning space, service providers have many OSS tools to manage their own on-net circuits, but for anything that is off-net they have limited visibility.
How this looks in the real world:
At Calero, one of our customer’s off-net circuits went down and the service provider wasn't aware of the service disruption. It took time to determine which segment of the transport network was impacted. Our team went through the customer’s services inventory data to identify the access vendor responsible for the non-functioning transport circuit and discovered that the information was wrong. We contacted the provider on their SLA, and asked key questions including:
What penalties are not being covered under the current SLA structure?
What about circuits that may no longer be in service but are still being billed because there is no accurate mechanism to track off-net circuit inventory?
From an auditing perspective, a lot of tier 1 service providers are generating upwards of 1000-1500 orders per month for off-net circuits. This is a highly manual process between the service provider and the alternate access provider. These orders are often full of errors, inaccurate provisioning data, and delayed processes, so much so that it takes an average of 150 days to turn up an Ethernet circuit. The Ethernet product brings differing service definitions that need to be reconciled between Ethernet access vendors and the service provider, adding further complexity to the problem.
Off-net inter-carrier Ethernet transport will continue to be a necessary service going forward. With SD-WAN, it will only get more complex. These networks compound the challenge by introducing different network types and new applications. Virtualized network functions and operational systems need to be designed to handle that complexity. This brings a new approach that extends across multiple carrier networks, IP, and next-generation SDNs.
Networks also need to have the ability to derive off-net inventory data from a diverse set of data sources and types, such as excel, OSS, and activation notices. Then, they can provide an accurate and complete view of all Ethernet assets – both off-net and on-net. It’s critical to manage SLA performance, with detailed fault sectionalization and factors in scheduled maintenance checks.
It’s important to get a handle on what’s really going on in your transport network from end-to-end. Having a comprehensive, actionable view across on-net and off-net circuits is key to understanding all of the components of your network.