By Jim Poole
This year’s Carrier Ethernet World Congress looked at ways to keep driving the growth of Ethernet service from several perspectives.
On day two, a panel of industry experts were looking at the challenge and framed a sentiment that could be heard in many of the presentations, panels and debates.
“What we’re saying is don’t talk about Ethernet… our customers don’t care,” said Justin Fielder, CTO, easynet.
However, this was not the surprisingly frank public capitulation it might appear to be.
In fact, what Fielder and many of his peers are getting at here is that the industry’s enthusiasm for its own technology can at times get in the way of selling to customers, who are far more concerned about the potential benefits for their particular business.
In Fielder’s own words, “They (customers) just want an Ethernet connector that works, and if it doesn’t work they want to know they’ll have someone to fix it.”
SURFnet Network Architect Dr. Richa Malhotra added, “Don’t tell people about 10GB, 100GB lines: Show them the value; show them the extra services [this technology can enable].”
Really what this distils to is the need for the industry to occasionally take a step back and apply the most basic principles of marketing.
Who Is Your Customer? What Challenges Can You Solve for Them?
Put in those terms, the case for Ethernet services can be compelling to a wide variety of businesses – large enterprises, research, and academic institutions, governments and public sector organisations and many more.
“Although we use the word MPLS because most people ask us for it and the analyst community like talking about it, that’s not the conversation we have (with our customers). We say: ‘Where’s your data? What are you trying to do with it? How is that going to change over time, and what challenges do you see that we can solve for your business?'” said Fielder.
It’s worth bearing in mind that in the past few years, some of the biggest consumers of Ethernet services have been carriers themselves, as they seek to reduce the cost and increase the performance of their networks. In this scenario, it’s easy to understand how technical considerations are at the forefront of the discussion.
However, most would agree that Ethernet has great value as a business service, in mobile backhaul, and as a “digital fuel for the cloud,” in the words of Informa analyst Camille Mendler. There is huge potential to grow the market by making more companies aware of the business benefits of Ethernet.
Emphasize the Business Benefits
The industry could make more of a collective effort to emphasize the business, rather than the technical, case for Ethernet services. This can increase Ethernet adoption rates outside of the telecoms industry. In short: Simplify the discussion to broaden the appeal; focus on issues that have value outside of the telecoms industry.
After all, growing the market works in everyone’s favour, irrespective of individual competition for market share or a particular niche.
To this end you’ll see that Equinix often talks about its ecosystems, because it sees the value of a network as being largely defined by what it allows you to connect to.