HK Electric: Building Next-Generation Electric Power Data Centre Network
Founded in 1889, HK Electric is one of the longest-established power companies in the world and is the first company to provide electricity in Hong Kong. For over 100 years, HK Electric has been committed to providing a highly reliable electricity supply to Hong Kong and Lamma Islands at a reasonable and affordable price. The company has maintained a world-class record of consistently achieving a supply reliability rating of 99.999% since 1997.
HK Electric operates electricity generation, transmission and distribution, supply and related customer service in Hong Kong and is regulated under the Scheme of Control Agreement by the HKSAR Government. The company has been adopting prudent strategies to select only the most appropriate technologies that synergise with Hong Kong's economic development and provide a better quality of life for the people. HK Electric has been committed to reducing emissions from power generation, including increasing the use of natural gas to achieve sustainable emission reduction targets and creating a greener Hong Kong.
To build a future-oriented next-generation electric power data centre network and lay the foundation for full evolution to a software-defined data centre (SDDC), HK Electric has to encounter three major challenges in its current network environment: Firstly, customer service systems cannot be terminated, and the migration and conversion time must be less than 1s; Secondly, as data centre devices are ageing and a large number of devices are facing EOL( End-of-life), faults frequently occur on these devices, resulting in high management and maintenance costs; Thirdly, there are many types of devices on the live network, which makes management and maintenance difficult, especially with inadequate O&M and troubleshooting methods.
To operate more efficiently and provide the best service to customers, the HK Electric has raised the following key requirements:
1. Services are interrupted for less than 1 second in any cutover step on the live network.
2. Optical fibres between access switches and core switches must be reused.
3. During the migration, if a single DC is faulty, services can be automatically restored.
4. The service path after the migration must be the same as that on the live network.
In order to protect customer interests, HK Electric also proposed that during the migration process, "Zero Service Interruption" and "Zero Single Point of Failure" must be guaranteed. The HK Electric data centre project is the first implementation of the latest scenario solution released by the Huawei data centre network. It involves three data centres and has high requirements for cutover reliability. When providing scenario-based solutions, Huawei analyzed HK Electric's current network environment and found that the cabinet space on HK Electric 's live network was insufficient to release a large number of new optical fibers. Additional auxiliary cutover devices are required to ensure that the service interruption time is less than 1 second. To guarantee that service paths are the same as those on the current network, a large number of services need to be deployed to control service paths during and after the cutover. After analysis, Huawei concludes that the project has three major challenges: DC Network Revamp, Service Deployment and Operation.
DC Network Revamp: Data centre devices on the current network are ageing, and a large number of devices are facing EOL and need to be updated. However, automatic control systems in the electric power industry are sensitive to interruption time. According to IEEE specifications, the switchover time is only 2-4s. With the network interruption time required to be less than 1s, it is difficult to implement the migration by the majority of vendors in the industry.
Service Deployment: Legacy networks mixing different series and models are deployed in the data centre, and the architecture is outdated. Different devices use different configuration models and commands. As a result, service deployment relies heavily on expert experience and manual configuration, which takes several weeks and is prone to errors.
Operation: Networks of multiple data centre are managed separately. Services cannot be deployed and scheduled across data centre, and DC-level redundancy protection is unavailable.
To facilitate HK Electric to successfully transform traditional networks into new software-defined data centre networks, Mr Arthur Wang, President of the Data centre Network Domain, Huawei Data Communication Product Line, shared Huawei's CloudFabric solutions which based on the trends of cloud-based data centres and SDN(Software-defined Networking)-based networks in the digital transformation of the Electric power industry, Huawei's CloudFabric solution which emphasized the unique qualities of “Easy Evolution” “Easy Deployment” and “Easy Operation”. He also shared on the continuous evolution of Huawei's data centre network in terms of open architecture, third-party management, migration automation, and autonomous driving data centre network.
Huawei Data centre Network CloudFabric solution has been successfully deployed by over 20,000 customers worldwide and is widely used in the electric power industry. Its industry-leading L3.5 data centre autonomous driving network(ADN) features “Easy Evolution”, “Easy Deployment” and “Easy Operation”, helping HK Electric overcome its current challenges one by one.
Easy Evolution: To meet the strict requirement of less than 1s migration interruption, Huawei and HK Electric jointly introduced auxiliary devices, such as ARP(Address Resolution Protocol) scanner, ARP filter, and ARP proxy, to solve the MAC(Medium Access Control) address blackhole problem of current network devices during Layer 2 migration, as well as the difficulty of coexistence and smooth switchover of old and new gateways during Layer 3 migration, successfully migrating core services in seconds without interrupting services.
Easy deployment: To transform HK Electric data centres’ time-consuming and error-prone existing architecture, Huawei uses small-sized and large-capacity CloudEngine series data centre switches, Huawei iMaster-NCE platform that integrates management, control, and analysis, highly scalable spine-leaf network architecture, and open protocols such as NETCONF(Network Configuration Protocol) and Telemetry, to build the industry's most advanced SDN network, simplifying HK Electric's data centre network architecture and improving the deployment efficiency from weeks to days. In addition, the simulation engine of the SDN controller ensures error-free deployment.
Easy Operation: To address the problem of separate O&M of multiple data centre on the current network and lack of DC(Data centre)-level reliability, Huawei helped HK Electric to build a dual active data centre with multi-level redundancy, that centrally manages multiple data centres and flexibly schedules services across data centre. In addition, multi-level redundancy protection mechanisms are provided on the data forwarding plane and management and control plane, greatly improving the O&M reliability of the entire network.
Based on HK Electric 's current network environment, the project uses an innovative cutover solution to implement a second-level switchover of core services without interrupting services. Huawei's Cloud Fabric solution builds a future-oriented next-generation electric power data centre network for HK Electric. It lays a solid foundation for HK Electric 's future evolution to its software-defined data centre (SDDC).
Mr. Francis Cheng, Director of Operations of HK Electric noted that HK Electric has been looking for highly scalable solutions that can expand and extend its existing data centre network since 2021. As a leading global ICT solutions provider, Huawei has provided HK Electric with a set of mature solutions with forward-looking and innovative ideas. Although the implementation of the project coincided with the fifth wave of the Hong Kong epidemic, all parties worked together to ensure that the implementation was successfully completed by the end of 2022.
In the future, HK Electric will further promote the virtualization of data centre network IP network segments and border networks to ensure business continuity through fine-grained segmentation to provide better security, improve digital transformation flexibility, and enhance data centre reliability. HK Electric will also continue to deepen cooperation with Huawei to explore more possibilities for ICT infrastructure construction.
HK Electric was looking for data centre networking solutions that can scale up and out with proven records. The solution should provide a smooth migration from the existing environment and conforms to industrial standards. The Huawei solution was a match for HK Electric as it is a cost-effective solution that adheres with open standards. Coupling with the dense wavelength division multiplexing fibre backbone, the architecture opens up a number of capabilities including software-defined networking, as well as network virtualization. The successful completion of the new data centre network provides a solid foundation for the virtualization of data centres in the near future.
"Huawei has been working closely with HK Electric to jointly innovate in terminal-side interaction, power plant perimeter security, low-voltage management system, smart video analysis in power distribution rooms, and monitoring and management of ageing equipment. The project will provide HK Electric with more flexible and open network services.
In the future, the Electric power industry will continue to address challenges such as green energy structure, flexible power grid regulation, interactive power consumption, and collaboration between source network load and storage. We will continue to work with HK Electric to utilise ICT technologies effectively to help HK Electric solve problems and create value," said Mr Sun Fuyou, Vice President of Huawei and CEO of Electric Power Digitalization BU.