An Ethernet Private Line (EPL) has been the standard among carriers for years. It is typically built with a standard Ring topology. You will have a primary and a secondary route. The secondary route will be used as a failover only and does not count toward the bandwidth of a circuit. In other words, if you purchase a 1Gig EPL, then each Route will be Gig capable, but you can only use one at a time. It’s not 2Gig total bandwidth.
An E-Line is what many will refer to as a “virtual” circuit. It is built with Cloud-based routing. With the advent of SDN and NFV, this is quickly becoming the standard with many carriers when it comes to new Ethernet-based Private Line products. As SDN and NFV technology gets better and as more and more carriers move to the new platform, the service is becoming more reliable, better performing, and predictable; at the same time, it saves carriers’ capacity in the network core.
What we have learned doing this every day for 18 years is this: When going down this road, it is imperative to ask a lot of questions. The only real standard among the hundreds of carriers who are offering Ethernet-based Private line options is Ethernet (IEEE 802.3). Although the IEEE tries to keep up, it would be near impossible to stay abreast with the incredible rate of innovation coming from the network hardware vendors. There are many ways a carrier can design Ethernet services in order to reduce costs, increase performance, save bandwidth etc. Different carriers will have different assets at their disposal and build the products around what their existing network will support. In addition, general business goals, target clients, and budget can come together to create slightly different products. Basically, just because Carrier A and Carrier B have an E-Line product, don’t assume that all E-Line products are the same.
Two of the main of the differences between E-Line and EPL you want to watch out for are:
- Is the network Shared or Dedicated? – Not all carriers have the same capacity built into their network. Some carriers by default will quote the Shared network product because it is better priced and to the carrier’s benefit that they don’t need to reserve extra capacity. Unless you pay close attention and ask the right questions you don’t find out until you’ve installed the service and run into a performance issue. By that time you are stuck in a contract and the service is installed. To switch to dedicated at that point involves a new installation with new paperwork. Don’t get caught in that trap, it’s no fun for anyone. If you require dedicated bandwidth with higher SLA’s then you need to ensure you get a quote for Dedicated service. If your concern is budget then the Shared network may be right for you.
- Is the service Core Protected? – Depending on your availability expectations, this could be a big concern and one that requires an investment of time from you and the carrier to review the fiber maps, etc. Many carriers do not have the Long Haul capacity of Level 3 or Centurylink. Some products may be designed with redundancy within in the Metro region but collapse once the traffic reaches the long haul network. Of course, the opposite could be true as well. The long haul network may be diverse, but there is only a single lateral built into the end user location. If latency is a potential issue, be sure to have a look at the alternative routes. Does the secondary route between your markets go 1500 miles out of the way? In some cases that additional latency may make the secondary path on a circuit all but useless. Many carriers will have 2 or 3 protection options when it comes to E-Line, so make sure you fully understand the design and Service Level details of each flavor of service.
- Is the product you are reviewing capable of scaling to your future needs? Many E-Line products, for example, are limited to 1Gig of capacity. If you believe you are going to exceed that limit you should look into something like an Ethernet Virtual Private Line (EVPL) or even a Wavelength circuit.
Needless to say, when it comes to sourcing a Private Line there are several variables to take into account. We have only scratched the surface here. All the extra details not openly provided by a carrier’s sales team matter. Remember, the Direct Carrier Sales Representative has a quota to hit every month. Their entire job is based on the quick sale and then passing it to someone else within the company to implement and then someone else to manage. Once you sign for something, what happens afterward is no longer their problem. Because of this, it is not uncommon for many sales reps to skip over a lot of the details that may otherwise slow down their sale. When you work with GCN, we have no quota with the carriers. The only concern is taking care of our clients. GCN will take the additional time necessary to ensure that every client gets the right product to fit their individual business need, whether that is uptime, carrier diversity, latency, price, or any number of other requirements.