Keep it simple. This mantra has stood me in good stead as global traveler who lives in New York but spends at least half of each year jetting around Asia Pacific. Complexity adds more places for potential failure and more systems that must be managed and maintained.
Simplicity is a good watchword for airports as much as for global travelers such as me, since airports are basically like complex, miniature cities.
While small airports like the Pakse airport in Laos are little more than a waiting room and a runway, most metropolitan airports house hundreds of businesses and potentially thousands of employees that run the airlines, shops, restaurants, service companies, air traffic control and security, and government organizations like customs and immigration.
Airports often deploy a handful of separate networks to handle the communications side of this complexity; there is a network for air traffic management, a network for CCTV video protection, another for land mobile radio/private mobile radio (LMR/PMR) and emergency communications, and at least one for LAN/Wi-Fi communications.
Airports need to keep this mantra of simplicity in mind and start to consider a converged network as the technology emerges for service-aware prioritization and protection. Instead of having to manage multiple networks that often are built with varying communications technology and operated by separate IT teams, it makes much more sense to run a converged IP/MPLS network. A converged IP/MPLS network can bring added robustness, resiliency, and easier management and reduced costs. It also is more scalable.
A recent TechZine article by Nokia (News - Alert) Marketing Manager Hansen Chan, Network Transformation for Tomorrow’s Airports, outlines eight keys that airports should keep in mind as they investigate deployment of a converged network that’s service-aware.
First, the network should have a flexible, service-aware VPN. It needs to be flexible enough to support multiple tenants and Layer 1, 2, and 3 VPNs in point-to-point, multipoint, or hierarchical configurations.
It should be highly scalable to support future growth, and it needs to have tight integration both with optical and microwave technology since it will support a variety of applications.
Service interruptions obviously cannot happen at an airport, so this converged network also should have strong resiliency and high survivability. This can be achieved by leveraging the full capabilities of IP/MPLS to provide multi-layer resiliency and recovery protection.
Network transformation does not mean that existing equipment must be abandoned, of course, as the Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) article noted. So airports also will want to make sure they this network transformation includes rich legacy radio support.
Likewise, the network should have strong network protection. On the infrastructure layer, this means that the management, control and data planes must be protected with comprehensive authentication and logging, packet filtering and IP Security (IPSec). The services layer also should be protected with service-aware network group encryption (NGE), stateful firewall and network resource partitioning.
Further, airports should keep in mind dynamic management and future evolution, since needs will change over time.
This doesn’t sound simple, and it isn’t; network transformation can be complex. But once an airport has completed its move to an all IP/MPLS converged network, things get radically easier (and less costly) than the alternatives.
The journey to simplicity can take time and money, but it is worth the effort in the long run.
Edited by Peter Bernstein