How the ‘Third Network’ could create the Internet we’ve always wanted

MEF co-authors a white paper which suggests online experiences could soon look a lot better — and safer

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MEF Third Network Canada

Everyone wants the same kind of Internet: super-fast, super-safe and super-easy to use. Unfortunately, that’s often not the Internet we experience today.

As I explained in my last post, Carrier Ethernet is one of the ways the industry is moving towards providing the kind of quality of service and security that’s essential to business. Over the long term, though, Carrier Ethernet may be seen as part of a larger transition, to something the Metro Ethernet Forum is calling the Third Network, which will take the Internet and Carrier Ethernet and put them together.

In a recently-published white paper by InfoVista and MEF (where Allstream is an active contributor and I’m a board member), we define the concept as follows:

The goal of the Third Network, based on network as a service principles, is to enable agile networks that deliver assured connectivity services orchestrated across network domains between physical or virtual service endpoints.

Let me walk through each of those ideas to explain what they mean, and why they’re important:

Agile: The on-demand model of computing has sprung up almost everywhere over the last five years. In our personal lives, we use cloud computing or software-as-a-service to back-up our music collections, photos and other data. Large organizations, meanwhile, are using infrastructure-as-a-service to reduce the cost of running their own hardware and other IT infrastructure. And of course, we were among the first to introduce unified communications-as-a-service to Canada with the Allstream Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS). The Third Network vision brings that same approach to the network, giving businesses the potential to set up services that use Carrier Ethernet based on specific purposes and needs. Network-as-a-service (NaaS) will eventually become as commonplace as other forms of cloud computing are today.

Assured: As the rash of high-profile DDoS attacks and other cyber-attacks have accelerated over the past year, companies are realizing they need to pay more attention to how they protect data. The Third Network will take CE 2.0 connections, which use transport technologies such as Ethernet, MPLS, and OTN (Optical Transport Network), to deliver services with guaranteed performance and security. In other words, Internet service with a higher level of reliability and safety than ever before.

Orchestrated: It’s irritating when you click on a link and you end up on a page with a 404 error, because we expect the Web to be connected properly. It can actually be even more difficult on the “back end” of things in networks of various operators, where different systems handle the various things that need to be managed. When you make one change, it can affect everything else, and working out the kinks can be a time-consuming challenge. A big part of the Third Network initiative is to create application programming interfaces (APIs) that will make this a lot easier.

Businesses may not be immediately aware how the Third Network will change the way they work today, but as it unfolds they will be quick to appreciate the benefits of improved QoS, security and more automated Internet services. Some people say bad things come in threes, but in this case it’s going to allow the best online experience possible.

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