By Ivo Ivanov, Chief Executive Officer at DE-CIX and Chair of the Board of the DE-CIX Group AG
The smart factories of tomorrow – and even today – demand seamless, reliable, high-performance, low-latency wireless connectivity between hundreds of sensors, AI-driven machines, and external networks. This demand for effective on-site communication has given rise to the concept of a 5G campus – a localized, private network tailored to meet the specific needs of a given manufacturing environment.
The problem is that 5G campuses are often conceived as islands, and not everything will be accessible on the campus itself. For a campus network to be effective, it must be designed to encapsulate two distinct goals. First, connecting devices with each other within the campus, and second, connecting the campus to the outside world.
This dual approach to campus connectivity is the basis for a range of applications, including digital twins for design, testing, and predictive maintenance; Robotics as a Service (RaaS); additive manufacturing; virtual and augmented reality for the enablement of customization and remote maintenance, and intelligent and autonomous logistics. A 5G campus has the potential to facilitate all of this seamlessly, but only if the underlying connectivity is effectively configured.
Crucially, devices within the factory environment need to be networked in such a way that ensures latency between the many terminals is kept to an absolute minimum. If a digital twin model detects a potential malfunction in a machine, that detection is only useful if the impacted machine is notified instantly in order to prevent downtime.
Connecting to the external world
The thing to note about campus networks is that connectivity needs don’t stop at the factory gates. Many essential services, from cloud storage solutions to partner networks and even the company’s data center, often lie outside the campus network’s perimeter.
Company data & IoT: The campus network must seamlessly connect with the company’s internal network. For instance, IoT devices in a smart factory might need to communicate with cloud services for data storage or with cloud-based applications like ERP systems for inventory management.
Partner networks & robotics: A smart factory’s operations might involve liaising with partner networks. For instance, if a factory uses RaaS, the robotics provider would need secure access to monitor production quality, make real-time adjustments, and conduct predictive maintenance.
Customer engagement: Some applications, like VR showrooms for luxury car customization, might require data transfer from the company’s network to the end user, ensuring that customers experience real-time interactions without lag.
All of these external connections must prioritize not just speed but also security and resilience.
Building a resilient 5G campus network
Once a secure and resilient high-performance 5G network is set up within campus boundaries, attention should then be turned to the performance and security of connections that leave the network, such as those described above. For the sake of resilience, businesses should avoid being dependent on a single carrier for external network traffic.
The combination of taking a multi-provider approach, and building non-overlapping redundant pathways, offers more robust connectivity for critical data flows. Direct interconnection with relevant and trusted networks ensures the shortest pathways between networks, and thus the lowest latency, as well as offering a greater level of security. The easiest way to achieve this is by connecting to a distributed data center and carrier-neutral interconnection platform that connects a diversity of infrastructure partners and demonstrates network density.
An interconnection platform is a specialized digital infrastructure designed to enable seamless communication and data exchange between disparate networks, systems, or devices. It acts as a bridge, ensuring that data flows efficiently and securely across various platforms, whether they are cloud services, data centers, or private networks. By providing a centralized point of connection, it simplifies integration, enhances performance, and often incorporates security and optimization features to ensure reliable and high-speed interactions.
Once connectivity to a secure and resilient distributed interconnection platform has been established, there are a number of options for ensuring high-performance, low-latency, and highly robust connectivity to clouds and partner networks in line with the service-level agreements (SLAs) that have been set:
- Point-to-point private lines for secure connections to critical networks.
- Peering with trusted networks for efficient and scalable connectivity.
- Direct connections to cloud services, bypassing the public internet for enhanced security and low latency.
- Establishing Closed User Groups (CUGs) for specific use cases, ensuring a secure environment for select participants.
Guarding against real-world disruptions
Physical infrastructure is vulnerable to real-world events, from construction mishaps to natural disasters. In order to protect data flows, redundancy is key. Ideally, the first step would be to create redundant connections from the campus to the interconnection platform via different connectivity providers and different pathways, and connect to the platform from geographically separated data centers. If one pathway is impacted by a real-world event, another pathway can be used to ensure that traffic flows are not disrupted, and downtime is avoided.
5G promises transformative changes for industries, but its success hinges on the strength of the underlying connectivity. By building a resilient infrastructure both within and outside the campus, industries can truly harness the power of 5G. Interconnection platforms can play a pivotal role in this journey, simplifying the process and ensuring that the digital future is built on a foundation of robust and reliable connectivity.
About the author
Ivo Ivanov has been Chief Executive Officer at DE-CIX and Chair of the Board of the DE-CIX Group AG since 2022. Prior to this, Ivanov was Chief Operating Officer of DE-CIX and Chief Executive Officer of DE-CIX International, responsible for the global business activities of the leading Internet Exchange operator in the world. He has more than 20 years of experience in the regulatory, legal and commercial Internet environment.
Having joined DE-CIX in 2007, he has been deeply involved in recent years in the establishment of DE-CIX sites in North America, Southern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, and Southeast Asia, along with several DE-CIX consultancy projects in Africa, Asia and Europe.
DISCLAIMER: Guest posts are submitted content. The views expressed in this post are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Edge Industry Review (EdgeIR.com).
5G campus | digital twins | IoT devices