Leading Campus Networks into the Intelligent Gigabit-Wireless Era to Power Digitalization
Driven by technologies such as cloud, Internet of Things (IoT), and edge computing, ultra-fast reliable network connections available anytime and anywhere have become one of core competitive strengths for enterprises, society, and even countries.
Today, Chief Information Officers (CIOs) in almost every enterprise are re-thinking about how to apply the new connection technologies, such as 5G, power-efficient short-range IoT, and Wi-Fi 6, to improve collaboration, production, and operational efficiency, as well as accelerate innovations.
Although digital scenarios vary in different sectors, digital transformation is required in all sectors to achieve the following objectives: improve enterprise office and operational efficiency, reconstruct enterprise production environments, and streamline communication with customers. Digital transformation takes place not only in enterprise headquarters, but also in global branches, and even in their global manufacturing or logistics partners.
Every enterprise knows that high efficiency is beneficial. The email-based non-real-time communication services on traditional enterprise office networks can no longer meet today’s requirements for efficiency in communication. The current enterprise communication market is seeing a large number of instant communication applications to realize real-time communication, video interaction, collaboration, and project management. Such a change in applications increases the required average bandwidth per user from 3–5 Mbps to 100 Mbps. To meet the requirements of today’s Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) training and design as well as the requirements of 4K telepresence video conferencing systems, the peak wireless rate of each user needs to reach 100 Mbps to 1.5 Gbps.
For enterprises with many branches globally, emerging digital applications are redefining their production efficiency. Here are a few examples of digital applications in different sectors.
In the warehousing sector, Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are being used more extensively for automated warehouse management, as they can improve the efficiency of warehousing 100-fold. However, this requires wireless networks to ensure zero packet loss during roaming.
In the education sector, teachers use remote or VR classrooms to provide classes for students from multiple locations at the same time, improving the quality of learning. However, the latency of VR applications must be less than 10 ms to ensure a high-quality learning experience.
In the retail sector, Electronic Shelf Labels (ESLs) are widely used in stores to enable prices to dynamically change based on the shelf life of commodities and climate change. However, integrated deployment and management of Wi-Fi and IoT networks must be achieved to make full use of this application.
Wireless connections are the basis of digital applications. However, different applications have strict, or even harsh, requirements on wireless networks. This raises concerns for many enterprise CIOs as IT personnel are worried about deploying wireless networks in production scenarios and being unable to monitor the quality of applications on networks or quickly resolve issues.
Many CIOs may ask their IT department directors: “Is our network ready for digital transformation? What kind of network do we need?”
We believe that the future campus network has three unique features:
Super capacity: gigabit speeds and beyond
Intelligent experience: Continuous Self-Organizing Networking (CSON)
Autonomous driving: service provisioning and troubleshooting in minutes
Such a network is ready to support enterprises’ digital services for the next 10 years. In addition, we believe that the current network architecture should not be abandoned. Rather, we need to evolve the current network architecture to a gigabit fully-wireless network architecture in phases.
In the new era, the campus network architecture will undergo three key changes to meet the future requirements of fully-wireless access for offices to production services and provide ultra-high-speed connections exceeding one Gbps for each user. The first is implementing fully-wireless access. Wi-Fi 6 has already been put into commercial use in a small number of enterprises since 2019. By 2024, 80 percent of enterprises will be using Wi-Fi 6. Huawei’s brand-new AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 series APs are unique in the industry with 16 smart antennas embedded. They provide full coverage for each user and offer a throughput of up to 10.75 Gbps. The second change is in the port rate. With the upgrade of Wi-Fi networks, wired access switches need to support the new IEEE 802.3bz standard, which requires multi-GE switches. These switches provide multiple port rates, including 2.5 Gbps, 5 Gbps, and 10 Gbps. The third change is that one network for multiple purposes is required to support all-round connections. The fully-wireless access of IoT terminals requires a wireless network to provide access, authentication, authorization, access control, and device management for short-range IoT terminals of various types, such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), ZigBee, and thread terminals.
As an increasing number of key services are carried on campus networks, network experience directly affects user collaboration efficiency and service operational efficiency. Service- and user-oriented End-To-End (E2E) experience assurance is the key to measuring the quality of campus networks. To provide an optimal network experience, a campus network must cope with the following three core challenges:
First, it needs to reduce radio interference. Wi-Fi networks are easy to obtain and deploy, but use the limited unlicensed 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands. Therefore, co-channel interference is still an issue for Wi-Fi networks. Based on the Basic Service Set (BSS) coloring feature, Huawei AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 APs use Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to proactively learn network traffic behavior and radio information and greatly reduce interference, improving network-wide performance by 58 percent.
Second, it needs to reduce the packet loss rate during station (STA) roaming. Service interruption during STA roaming can occur for a number of reasons. For example, STAs stick to the previous AP due to having different requirements on signal strength. In some other cases, services are interrupted due to STAs failing to set up links with the target AP during roaming. To prevent packet loss during STA roaming, Huawei AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 APs use AI technology to dynamically detect and predict the roaming characteristics and paths of STAs. With the help of the optimized 802.11k/v/r fast roaming protocols, the APs can increase the roaming success rate of STAs to 100 percent and reduce the service packet loss rate to nearly zero.
Third, it needs to increase the usage of network resources. A fully-wireless campus network differs from a traditional campus network in two major aspects, which may cause bottlenecks in network performance. First, due to the swarm effect of STAs, burst high-density access may occur anywhere in a fully-wireless campus. Second, as cloud applications produce large north-south traffic on the campus network, burst traffic may cause congestion on the ports of aggregation and core switches, affecting the quality of applications. In addition, the occurrence of these issues is highly unpredictable. Huawei provides two innovative technologies to effectively solve issues. Firstly, Huawei innovatively integrates both Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) and Multi-User Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MU-MIMO) into AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 products for joint scheduling. This prevents traffic congestion on the wireless side in the case of service concurrency. The second innovative technology is user- and application-based intelligent Hierarchical Quality of Service (HQoS). This technology ensures a satisfactory experience for VIP users using key applications when the wired network is congested due to traffic bursts.
The management of networks was not originally a major challenge for campus networks. However, as the number of branch networks increases and wireless coverage applies more widely, simplifying network management, O&M, as well as management of user experience becomes a new challenge. Different networks may have different management requirements, but all require simplified management and O&M regardless of the size of the network. Against this backdrop, Huawei CloudCampus Solution introduces iMaster NCE, a one-of-a-kind Network Management System (NMS) that can centrally manage and maintain LANs, WANs, WLANs, and networks at enterprise headquarters as well as their branches. Huawei also provides customers with much flexibility in networking. iMaster NCE can be flexibly deployed in on-premises, public cloud, or MSP-owned cloud mode. With the help of iMaster NCE, customers can roll out networks and services within minutes. Furthermore, the CloudCampus Solution uses the industry-leading AI-powered intelligent O&M system — CampusInsight. It has been widely proven at Huawei and global customers across industries. At Huawei, CampusInsight can evaluate and analyze the network experience of up to 190,000 employees in real time and proactively detect potential network faults, helping IT managers quickly locate and rectify these faults. With CampusInsight, enterprise O&M personnel can gain full visibility of the network quality for the first time.
Campus networks are main venues for digital service innovation of enterprises. Since initiation of its commercial use in 2017, Huawei CloudCampus Solution has been serving customers across various industries in more than 100 countries and regions. Huawei is recognized as a mainstream provider of differentiated campus network solutions and services by analyst organizations such as Gartner, IDC, Forrester, and Dell’Oro Group. Huawei is also a leading vendor in the campus switch and WLAN fields.
In the past few years, Huawei CloudCampus Solution has been applied in various sectors to build digital-ready networks. Typical examples include fully-wireless office environments for enterprises and governments; unstaffed retail stores for retailers; VR multimedia classrooms for educational institutions; digital production lines and flexible manufacturing for manufacturers; and fully-wireless 24/7 business branches for financial service institutions. We also help ISPs and MSPs provide cloud-managed network services for their customers. We believe that the next-generation gigabit-wireless intelligent campus networks — built with Huawei CloudCampus Solution by adopting disruptive IT technologies such as Wi-Fi 6, short-range IoT, AI, automation, and Autonomous Driving Network (ADN) — will be the cornerstone for the digital transformation of enterprises for the next 10 years.
Since early 2020, the COVID-19 virus has swept the world, affecting 210 countries and regions. For this reason, enterprises, schools, and other organizations during the lockdown have to continue business through working remotely. This shows that the enterprises' work and production are becoming remote and mobile. As such, the requirement for high-quality wireless networks has increased to new heights.