Verizon launches 100G Ethernet network

Verizon becomes first backbone carrier to deploy the new 100-Gigabit Ethernet standard by setting it up across a 555-mile section of its European IP backbone network.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

Verizon this week successfully deployed a 100G Ethernet network on a large section of one of its Internet backbones in Europe.

This deployment makes Verizon the first backbone carrier to deploy the new Ethernet standard with speeds of up to 100 gigabits per second, according to Verizon. The company was able to establish the 100-Gigabit Ethernet network between routers on a 555-mile stretch between Paris and Frankfurt.

In Verizon's words, this marks the first "standards-based, multivendor 100G Ethernet link for an IP backbone," and it will increase capacity for business customers and organizations that tap into the backbone.

Internet Protocol backbones use high-speed fiber-optic lines to connect the major routers across the Internet, enabling different networks to talk to each other. Separate IP backbones are maintained by different companies and organizations, including telecom providers such as Verizon and AT&T. Providing a major performance boost over the older 1G and 10G Ethernet and the more recent 40G Ethernet, the 100G Ethernet standard itself was ratified by the IEEE (the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) last summer.

To learn more about the new deployment, I spoke with Glenn Wellbrock, director of optical transport network architecture and design for Verizon.

Wellbrock confirmed that although different enterprises may be launching 100G Ethernet networks within their own organizations, Verizon believes it's the first backbone carrier to successfully deploy it. But Verizon was not alone in the effort as two other companies contributed critical pieces, making this a true multivendor project.

Juniper Networks provided the actual routers, while Ciena offered the technology that allows the link to stretch across a distance as far as 555 miles, according to Wellbrock. Known technically as 100G Ethernet coherent optical transport equipment, Ciena's hardware operates from both sides of the connection to allow traffic to move at 100 Gbps from Paris to Frankfurt and back again without having to regenerate. And that was a crucial part of the equation.

"The IEEE [100G Ethernet] standard is only a 10-kilometer (6.2 miles) standard," explained Wellbrock. "It doesn't allow you to go distance. So you couldn't use it as a method to get you from Paris to Frankfurt. So the Ciena portion of this takes that short-reach interface on the client side and uses coherent transmission on the line side or the trunk side to get you down to Frankfurt."

As a comparison, most backbone carriers are still using 10G Ethernet, though a lot of the Tier-1 carriers, such as Verizon and AT&T, are using 40G, Wellbrock said. However, the 40G is not the IEEE 40G Ethernet standard, as that was approved only last year. But no matter what type of connection carriers and companies are offering, the 100G Ethernet offers a giant boost in performance as well as other benefits.

Consolidating network traffic onto a single 100G channel rather than multiple 10G channels, as is currently done, is cost effective as it allows backbone providers to easily ramp up capacity as more customers hop onto their networks. It's also considered less error-prone as it can better handle intermittent bursts of traffic. Upgrading existing backbone networks from 10G to 100G Ethernet can also be done fairly quickly and easily as it doesn't require any changes to the underlying fiber optic infrastructure.

Upgrading Internet backbones to a faster speed doesn't translate into a direct performance boost for the average Internet user, explained Wellbrock. That's because the congestion for most people is in the last mile closer to home. But it does give Internet providers and large enterprises the ability to handle more individual customers.

What are the next steps? The 100G deployment between Paris and Frankfurt was the first step and showed that the right parts and systems could all be put into place. Verizon is now looking to adopt the faster network standard in other areas, however, Wellbrock acknowledged that 100-Gigabit Ethernet won't go everywhere and its deployment won't happen overnight.

"That's a whole lot of bandwidth," Wellbrock said, "and networks don't need 100 -Gigabit everywhere. But certainly it is the kind of thing that we look to leverage going forward. We really think that 100G will become the new industry standard for large connections in the core of the network."