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Why you need Software Appliances in Critical Infrastructure OT-WANs

Jul 30, 2018

Network operators of power, water and gas utilities, transportation, safe cities and other critical infrastructure (CI) have their work cut out for them. Their operational technology (OT) networks are currently migrating from TDM to packet-based WANs – Carrier Ethernet, IP/MPLS and MPLS-TP – and they must make sure that they are able to maintain service and network reliability. Some existing network elements must be retired, as legacy equipment is no longer available from most vendors, while new equipment is based on next-gen communications.

Transition Challenges in the CI World

So, they’re facing a mix of RTUs, PLCs and IEDs that run on different connections; there’s an operational nightmare right there! On top of that, operators must prepare their networks for new demands of automation and security to accommodate the new industrial Internet of things (IIoT) era.

In the past five years, communications service providers have already been gradually introducing network functions virtualization (NFV), moving from dedicated appliances to hosted software. While this is definitely the direction in which the communications industry as a whole is heading, such transition isn’t straightforward in the world of critical infrastructure. There, service continuity, uptime and performance predictability are more demanding. That’s why we haven’t seen vendor offerings for the CI market to enable a similar transition. That is, until now.

Benchmarking the transition to Packet-Based Operational WANs

We, at RAD, have been dealing with mission-critical communications for nearly four decades. RAD is also an industry pioneer in network edge virtualization solutions for service providers. We’ve decided to combine these two fields of expertise to enable CI network operators to embark on a low risk, non-disruptive migration to packet-based operational WANs from TDM technology.

The concept is clear: The Megaplex platform, in addition to supporting all network types (packet-based and TDM), includes an x86 distributed NFV (D-NFV) module on which software appliances, such as MPLS, are running. This effectively cuts down the number of physical network devices, so that there is less potential for failure (thereby increasing reliability) and also makes operations that much more simple.   

The Megaplex communications platform also integrates higher-level applications: Routing, firewall, encryption, VoIP Softswitch, SCADA-IP converter, video controller, and even tailor-made apps. These can be added at chosen locations as needed, also enabling the use of fog applications within an intelligent network. Of course, we’re testing and certifying all apps to make sure there are no surprises upon implementation.

If you’d like to see our software-based MPLS OT-WAN solution in action, check out the demo video below.

Network operators are now facing major developments. The secret to address them smartly is by finding ways to continue supporting existing installations, while simultaneously allowing flexibility with future-ready solutions to meet new application needs.

 


 

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About RAD's Blog

We’ll be blogging on a wide range of hot topics affecting service providers and critical infrastructure network operators. Our resident experts will be discussing vCPE, Cyber Security, 5G, Industrial IoT and much, much more.

   

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