As enterprise leaders work to create more seamless connections among office locations, data centers and cloud applications, they are increasingly choosing private connections like Ethernet. With growing interest comes growing expectations and demands for higher reliability and performance.

In today’s fast-paced, data-driven environment, it’s time to adopt a new standard for Ethernet services.

From real-time collaboration to increasingly complex cybersecurity threats, the face of enterprise IT is changing – and the stakes have never been higher. Network failures and performance constraints are no longer tenable because the cost of downtime or a breach is far too high.

Ethernet services that support the needs of enterprises are critical for growth as demands on the network continue to expand.

So, what is the new standard? Performance-grade Ethernet.

This article aims to help enterprises make the right network decision by explaining the differences between standard Ethernet and performance-grade Ethernet.

What Is “Performance-Grade”?

Performance-grade Ethernet, sometimes referred to as “carrier-grade” Ethernet, is designed to be robust enough to support high-bandwidth organizations as they provide network services and connectivity to customers. While these networks were once primarily used by carriers, the needs of enterprises are growing, and more and more organizations are seeking the benefits performance-grade Ethernet provides.

To meet the unique business objectives of organizations that rely on the highest levels of network performance, the network is built and maintained to be as resilient as possible, with uncompromising uptime. As such, performance-grade Ethernet has a reputation for its zero tolerance for failure, incorporating the possibility for diversity all the way down to the entrances.

Performance-grade Ethernet is also known for its scalability, allowing enterprises to rapidly increase bandwidth when needed and scale high-capacity services to 100 Gbps and beyond.

Another defining characteristic of performance-grade Ethernet is its flexibility. Enterprises can easily customize the network, paths and end points to meet their specifications and incorporate the latest architecture.

Enterprises are increasingly adopting performance-grade Ethernet to ensure resilience, maintain diversity and enable scale while securing the network and adjusting it to meet their needs.

Why Performance-Grade Matters

Purpose Built

A common characteristic of performance-grade infrastructure is its foundation. Oftentimes, performance-grade Ethernet means that it was purpose built from the beginning, while standard Ethernet was an afterthought for some providers. Many standard Ethernet providers started out serving residential areas, only expanding into enterprise and carrier services in response to growing demand.

Performance-grade Ethernet providers also typically own their entire network, as opposed to standard Ethernet providers that often buy last-mile services from other providers and stitch together a network without a holistic infrastructure in mind. Without absolute ownership or control over the network end to end, providers cannot guarantee the level of resilience or customization performance-grade Ethernet offers.

Designed for Resilience

Details matter – the cost of downtime is too great for missteps in the network planning process. Performance-grade Ethernet networks can be designed with diverse entrances and routes, making failover and rerouting traffic possible. Even if one route goes down, another is up and keeping critical business processes running.

Even when Ethernet providers claim to offer diverse services, it’s important to audit the details. Consider the following example:

Some of the largest hospitals in the Northeast recently cut ties with a national Ethernet provider due to multiple failures. Like many standard Ethernet providers, last-mile services for the network were bought from another provider. Rather than utilizing diverse routes to prevent downtime, both circuits came directly through the same city. Insufficient network architecture meant major weather events could take down the entire network – an untenable situation for hospitals that rely on the network for critical, life-saving systems and application.

Focused on Performance

There are a few key indicators as to whether a provider is focused on its customers and their needs – or focused on their own shareholders and profits: SLAs and continual investment in the network.

For standard Ethernet, most providers’ SLAs are mere suggestions – not ironclad commitments. SLAs built on jargon rather than on stable infrastructure and good intentions can be extremely damaging when enterprises build business plans dependent on high-quality service and have few options for recourse. With an uptime guarantee of less than four or five nines in typical Ethernet offerings, enterprises are sometimes unwittingly agreeing to the potential for multiple days of downtime. On the other hand, performance-grade Ethernet’s resilience is backed by SLAs that guarantee the most uptime possible and keep the provider accountable.

Beyond the focus on network performance and SLA adherence, the investment in the network is proof of a provider’s intentions and evidence that the network qualifies as performance grade. Ask tough questions about whether a provider is trying to extend legacy technology or continually invest in the underlying infrastructure and technology. You’ll usually find the answer by following the money. For providers offering performance-grade Ethernet, their network is their business, so they are constantly working to improve and grow it.

Why Choose FirstLight for Performance-Grade Ethernet

At FirstLight, we designed our network architecture to perform at the high-level carriers and enterprises need. FirstLight Ethernet offers the resilience, efficiency, security and redundancy to support mission-critical traffic when it is needed, without interruption.

Because FirstLight owns the network, our customers own the result of a purpose-built infrastructure – and the peace of mind that goes with it. Enterprises will have dedicated bandwidth and a direct fiber route between data center locations that provides high throughput.

Complete with our own construction services, it is simple for enterprises to customize the network to meet their exact needs rather than trying to fit existing routes. The flexibility of FirstLight’s performance-grade Ethernet complements new architecture like SD-WAN and hybrid networks, enabling them to operate at the highest level.

FirstLight is a facilities provider, meaning we don’t call someone else in the rare event of a service issue – we fix it ourselves because we own the fiber. With multiple backbone rings, interconnecting rings and reroute capabilities built into out backbone, we provide the resilience and uptime enterprises depend on for their critical business objectives.

Our industry-leading SLAs for performance, availability and restoration timeframes are unmatched, guaranteeing up to five nines (99.999%) reliability. Because we built the network for carriers and high-bandwidth organizations, it always has to be on.

To learn about the advantages of performance-grade Ethernet, visit: