Agile Network Wins Cloud Future
Enterprise products, solutions & services
Although ‘past success provides no sure guide to the future,’ summing up the past is undoubtedly the basis for looking ahead, especially in the technology sector. Over the past two decades, the network world has undergone three major changes. The first change is featured by fast growing network speed that increased by a hundred times every decade, from 10 Mbit/s to 1 Gbit/s to the present 100 Gbit/s. The second is the convergence of network technologies, from the previous diversity of Ethernet, Frame Relay, TDM, ATM, and POS to the current Ethernet and IP. The third is the emergence and maturity of SDN, gradually extending from data center that supports cloud computing to WAN and campus networks. SDN has the typical IT characteristics and is actually driving the evolution towards an IT-oriented network, which will be unstoppable once started. In other words, an IT-oriented network is the future. So what’s next after SDN?
Over recent years, the cloud has tremendously impacted the transformation of networks. In a sense, networks served to support the implementation of the cloud. Since the cloud itself is also important for future IT, we use it as a technical means to optimize existing networks. Networks of the future will be ‘for the cloud and by the cloud’ to create availability whenever needed and automatically provision services that require minimal management, while ensuring security and reliability.
For example, according to a report published by Gartner, the primary challenge for the current campus network is that high OPEX accounts for around 73 percent of the network TCO. Therefore, an effective reduction in OPEX is the key to improving the network operating efficiency.
To date, the biggest change to campus networks is wireless access on the network edge. As the number of network devices grows and the demand for greater Wi-Fi access increases, the coverage of a campus network usually requires thousands of Access Points (APs). For instance, Huawei has deployed over 3,000 APs for the campus network of the U.K.’s Newcastle University, while the wireless coverage of student dormitories in China’s Tsinghua University requires over 10,000 APs. The deployment of these APs needs complex planning and optimization based on traffic and location. If these devices are managed and configured in the conventional way, the workload can be enormous.
Another change is the continuously increasing north-south traffic over the campus, as the contents tend to converge in the data center and the cloud. For example, the large amount of Wi-Fi accesses will bring changes in traffic as the users’ locations change in such cases as students moving between classrooms for different courses, employees flocking to the cafeteria from the office at lunchtime, and users flocking to shopping centers in a Wireless City after work. As access locations change, some traffic will temporarily become east-west traffic within the campus. Ideally, in the future, the network can be optimized in advance based on the changes in traffic patterns and access locations in order to provide users with the best experience.
Moreover, the campus network is turning from a conventional network that simply supports office connectivity to a comprehensive network that enables new services like video security and the IoT. Meanwhile, the devices accessing the campus network tend to be complex. However, how can we quickly determine whether a problem is in the network or the end devices?
Campus networks nowadays have increasingly higher requirements on the competence of maintenance engineers, who are expected to master not only the conventional equipment such as the switches, routers, and security gateways but also various components including Wi-Fi, SDN, NFV, video security, and the IoT. Ultimately, the employee competency model will evolve towards a full-stack engineer, and the personnel costs will naturally rise.
In the IT field, businesses can adopt the public, private, or hybrid clouds to reduce costs and improve efficiency, due to the concentration of resources, maintenance, and talent. The question is: Can we make similar use of the cloud in the network field?
Following the above idea, Huawei has proposed a new CloudCampus solution.
In 2013, Huawei released an SDN-based Agile Campus solution, whose major components include an Agile Controller and a new generation of switches, the Agile Switch series. Over the past two years, more than 1,000 Agile Campus solutions have been deployed on live networks.
In the SDN-based solution, the SDN controller is deployed locally. In the new CloudCampus solution, Huawei deploys all types of management components on the cloud to implement and manage campus networks. On such a cloud campus network, deployment, O&M, configuration, management, and inspection are automatic, and professionals are centralized to serve more equipment and customers, thereby reducing costs. At the same time, the skill requirements of field personnel are lowered, minimizing OPEX.
In addition to the SDN controller, network management system, and various Value-Added Services (VAS), there are some other specialized tools integrated on a cloud platform and accessible to more people, thereby achieving service rollout in minutes, and saving labor costs in O&M by over 80 percent. On top of that, the entire architecture is open, facilitating secondary development.
Huawei’s CloudCampus solution has three high-lights: all scenarios, all business models, and the full lifecycle.
So far, the market has seen no cloud management solutions that support medium-sized and large campuses. This is because cloud management for a large campus has to support more devices and more complex network topology, which is technically difficult.
From the product perspective, Huawei’s CloudCampus supports not merely a simple combination of Wi-Fi and gateway devices but also all categories of network products, including switches, routers, WLANs, security equipment, and IoT products.
In June 2016, Huawei released the first version of the CloudCampus solution, now available on Huawei’s public cloud at Naas.huawei.com. This version can manage the customer’s branches and small campuses, and deployment is under way by some customers, including automobile dealerships, retail stores, and hotels.
By the end of August 2016, Huawei released the second version, which supports up to 100 models of network equipment, including Wi-Fi, access routers, and switches, as well as security products such as firewalls and next-generation firewalls. It can be used for cloud management of branches and small and medium-sized campuses.
In 2017, Huawei will release a new version of CloudCampus, which supports more products and larger campus networks.
Huawei’s CloudCampus solution offers a network planning tool on the cloud that automatically generates the planned topology and Wi-Fi deployment locations and signal strength graphs after the planning personnel input the network layout. This simplifies network planning.
In the deployment stage, specialists are no longer required for the field installation. Through the scanning of equipment codes with mobile Apps, the configuration can be automatically downloaded to the devices to complete automated deployment.
For acceptance of projects and networks, especially wireless networks, mobile Apps and the cloud can be used in combination to complete the necessary inspection reports.
For O&M, the cloud provides a dedicated platform, on which online inspection, diagnostics, and fault location and rectification can be performed. Specialists are also available on the cloud to help locate and rectify faults via phone calls or Apps.
In the first model, Huawei runs cloud-based network management services, and partners sell products and services to end users. Huawei does not have to deal directly with the customers. This model is now available.
In the second model, Huawei sells platforms and products to the Business-to-Business (B2B) departments of telecom operators or major Managed Services Providers (MSPs), who then provide cloud management services to end users. These B2B departments and MSPs now expect to transform from merely implementing projects to delivering projects, managed O&M, and services in the cloud era.
Such cloud management solutions are still unavailable for large campuses on the market. So, they have to play the role of an intermediary, selling products and services for others. Huawei’s CloudCampus caters to the specific needs of these B2B departments and MSPs, who may provide services for end users on this basis.
The third model is similar to the cloud management mode of private clouds. For some big companies like Huawei, it may be imprudent to entrust the management of their own campus networks to others, especially in the initial stage after their campus networks are launched. Huawei CloudCampus solution can also be sold to these customers, enabling them to operate the platform like running a private cloud, so as to reduce the difficulties in management, deployment, and operation and, therefore, decrease costs. That is to say, the CloudCampus solution can be either rented or purchased by the users.
There is one more question: Does the previously purchased Huawei equipment support cloud management? The answer is yes, and the user can smoothly switch between cloud management and non-cloud management environments.
A quote from Shakespeare may be of benefit to our understanding of Huawei’s network cloudification strategy, which reads ‘What is past is prologue.’ Huawei’s CloudCampus solution is just a typical cloud-based campus network. In fact, the cloud is evolving and is about to change the landscape of enterprise leased-line and optical networks.
As we step into digital transformation, perhaps the CloudCampus solution is just one small step towards network cloudification, but its subsequent impacts can constitute a giant leap in enterprise digital transformation. Huawei is committed to moving forward with partners and customers to embrace a better digital future.