Right-Sizing Enterprise Networks with Microwave
By Ola Gustafsson, SVP & Chief Product Officer, Aviat Networks [NASDAQ:AVNW]
The complexity and operational demands of enterprise networks continue to grow rapidly as user applications multiply and enterprise connectivity and service delivery infrastructure work to keep up. The evolution is never-ending, and enterprise IT faces new challenges in the areas of capacity, cost of ownership, ease and speed of deployment (for both physical infrastructure and new services), cloud connectivity, and reliability. New devices and business practices, such as one person’s use of multiple devices—tablet, laptop, and phone—during a single online meeting, and capacity-hungry applications, such as remote connectivity and online video, are just a few examples of these new challenges.
These issues are true for business, education, healthcare, all levels of government, and all types of utilities—particularly for sites that have not yet deployed fiber. Those with T-1 or narrowband Ethernet-connectivity will benefit from the advantages of a microwave strategy, especially in more rural areas, where laying cable can be cost-prohibitive. Enterprises are finding out that a wholesale investment in fiber connectivity or leased services based on fiber can lead to too high an ownership cost and unacceptable deployment delays.
When enterprises plan a new or expanded network or consider business-level broadband, one of the first things they come up against is the expense, difficulty, time, and logistics (including government red tape) of laying fiber in the ground. Stringing fiber overhead can be a reliability challenge—it’s susceptible to wind, storms, and vehicle collisions knocking over power lines. IT organizations are beginning to see that microwave connectivity—whether network-wide or strategic segments as fiber extension—easily meets the demand for the reliability required by 4G/LTE, high definition video, and other enterprise applications. Speeds up to 10 Gbps support the full and evolving service demands for a small, medium, or large campus. New or remote sites can be far more easily integrated into the enterprise at large using microwave. When topological challenges, such as hilly terrain, existing structures, or bodies of water are involved, microwave becomes an even better fit.
"Capacity over microwave scales with the same physical laws as all radio technologies and it’s easy to connect microwave to fiber"
Government and industrial organizations committed to building private backbone have benefited for years from a microwave strategy. This is especially true for utilities, such as power, oil/gas, or transportation network operators who wish to economically bridge longer distances in rural areas. This type of private network operator is particularly concerned with reliability, and microwave offers always-on, high-capacity connections. With integrated IP/MPLS capability, hybrid microwave is designed from the ground up to support packet transport features and offers smooth, low-risk, low-cost migration from existing TDM infrastructure, with reliability greater than 99.999 percent.
As an alternative to building their own infrastructure, many enterprises lease broadband services based on microwave technology. A host of microwave-based service providers offer high-speed metro Ethernet and IP/MPLS-based services. Leasing services on microwave-based facilities has two distinct advantages over fiber solutions: 1) service turn-up is generally faster, since microwave can be deployed with greatly reduced red-tape, and 2) reliability is generally better, since microwave solutions can be engineered specifically for the unique conditions of that particular connection.
As a high-capacity, high-reliability solution, microwave also offers great advantages for cloud-based applications. While cloud enterprise connectivity offers many benefits, it also presents risk: when cloud connectivity is interrupted, productivity goes down, so reliability becomes even more critical. Today, enterprises are deploying backup connections, and a media-diverse fiber and microwave-based strategy offer considerable cost, deployment, and reliability advantages.
Finally, the benefits of microwave as an enabler for effective service delivery can’t be underestimated. Advantages include time to service rollout, service availability, and service management. Productivity and competitive strategies dictate that enterprise users get much-needed services as early as possible to give an organization the edge it needs to succeed. Once rolled out across the enterprise, users will expect services to be there at the same level every day.
Bottom-line benefits for enterprise connectivity include gigabit capacity to the enterprise, lower implementation and ownership costs, higher reliability, faster, easier turn-up of enterprise services, and an easier, more flexible strategy for deploying your own network. For capacities up to 10 Gbps, there is no cheaper way to get connectivity to a new physical location than to deploy microwave. Moreover, capacity over microwave scales with the same physical laws as all radio technologies and it’s easy to connect microwave to fiber. There is no lack of microwave frequencies, especially not in the U.S., but regulation can be a hindrance, depending on location and other factors.
To ensure the overall success of the organization’s mission and the right-sizing of the solution, enterprises should consider the benefits of microwave deployment and/or leasing. For campus and enterprise-wide connectivity, this point has been reinforced by various statistical analyses and in case studies—both published and anecdotal—showing that fiber isn’t always the ideal or the sole solution for the unique demands of the enterprise.