What is metro Ethernet service? Put simply, it is an advanced form of metropolitan area network, or MAN, which uses Ethernet standards to connect its subscribers. It is sometimes known as metro E, or as Ethernet MAN service. It can connect its subscribers to an internal network, or “intranet,” which is inaccessible via the internet as a whole—but which functions similarly. It can also connect its subscribers to the internet itself.
With the rising cost of high-speed internet access, as sold by certain service providers within the United States and elsewhere, many cities are opting to set up their own metro Ethernet networks. This enables residents of those cities to connect to the internet more affordably, and at the high speeds to which modern internet users have become accustomed. Some internet service providers have themselves begun offering Ethernet MAN service arrangements to major metropolitan areas.
What a Computer Network is
A computer network is simply a group of computers which are capable of locating each other via a connection, whereupon they may share information back and forth.
Technically, every computer is a network within itself: its various parts, such as its motherboard or its hard drive, each have an internal address by which the computer’s programming recognizes their respective locations and shares resources between them. What most people think of as a “computer network,” however, likely begins with two computers connected only to each other.
In the early days of the internet, computer gamers could connect to each other one at a time over the phone lines. They could play multiplayer games this way, and chat with each other through text messages. In fact, the earliest precursors of the internet were simply computers that were capable of dialing in to each other directly.
Now, of course, we have the world wide web—the largest computer network in history, which shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Many of us are connected to the web 24/7, via connections that no longer rely upon the telephone system, but a computer can withdraw from and rejoin the internet at its operator’s discretion.
The web is not the only computer network in existence, however. Examples of other networks include a Local Area Network, or LAN. A LAN usually consists of a group of computers networked together within the same building—sometimes, in the same room. LANs are common in the business world, as well as in academia and higher education.
The Nature of MAN
Metro Ethernet functions through the creation of a distinct network, separate from the internet as a whole, but which covers a much larger area than a LAN. This “metropolitan area network” allows for computer networking functions that require access to the MAN itself—thus, they can be easily secured from detection or access via the internet at large.
Metro Ethernet providers often market this functionality to businesses and universities. By using the MAN as a sort of gateway, these institutions can create their own private intranets, with an extra layer of protection between themselves and the public internet. This can be used to keep confidential data safe, or to provide a certain level of exclusive service—as during the old days of dialup AOL, when AOL subscribers had chatrooms and sites made available to them which non-AOL internet users could not conveniently access.
Featured image by Hannu Oskala, Flickr CC