Campus Trends for 2017 for Campus Networks

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In this post, I will highlight some key trends for campus networks. Which technologies are important for 2017 and which campus trends can make your life easier in the future.

For the year 2017 I see the following campus trends for campus networks:

  • The wireless only office is there
  • Layer 3 mobility for wired clients
  • Locations based services
  • Internet of Things

This is a list of the key trends for campus networks for the year 2017 and you should consider all of them for every new project.

Campus Trends: The Wireless only Office

Last year, mostly all vendors introduced 801.11ac wave 2 products. Those products bring a lot of bandwidth, which is enough for even the bandwidth hungry people. But most of the users are normal office users, like me. We do Email and use some web apps. There is sometimes the need to transfer some large files using services like Dropbox or onedrive. But even those applications can live with wireless. And according to the new laptops, which are arriving the market, wifi is the only network connection they can use and users find a way to connect them. Do not wait until you users find a way. Build a way for them, now!

So what are the key points to consider when talking about the wireless only office? First of all, and I will be very clear on this one. Make a site survey! This step can decide about the success of the whole project. Consider not only coverage, but bandwidth needs of your clients. Also consider voice. Not necessarily voice phone, but every device can be a voice device with Skype for Business or FaceTime or any other SIP client. So make sure this is done correctly.

Secondly, look for Wireless vendors with application aware products. This makes sure, that only the important traffic is prioritized and the ondrive upload is not starving the phone call.

Thirdly, find a solution which helps you to get all the devices online. You need some kind of on boarding process for new devices. Not all people are that familiar with IT functions than we are. The solution should help your clients to get online to a secure SSID without the need to interact with the IT stuff.

Last but not least, make sure your switching environment can handle all that traffic coming from the AP’s. The key word here is Smart Rate. Smart Rate or Multi Gigabit is used to deliver 2.5 or even 5 Gigabit to the AP, together with Power over Ethernet. You can find a Wikipedia article about this standard here:

Those points are my personal most important points. But do not forget the basics. They are important as well.

Campus Trends: Layer 3 Mobility for Wired Clients

If all clients are wireless, why should I care about wired clients? Even for wireless only offices, some wired clients are still there. Like the printer, which has no wireless adapter or the heavy developer, which needs his 1 gigabit pipe to the network. There are other reasons to have some wired clients and the main question is, how to integrate those clients in the overall solution.

Sure, you can bring your VLAN’s to every access switch, but this brings an additional burden to the network, as the Layer 2 domain is getting bigger and you also have to consider the additional effort for every change. Or you campus infrastructure is already a layer 3 network and you’re not able to span VLAN’s between different buildings or even switches.

There are two possible solutions. One is the more standard based way of doing it, and the other is HPE Aruba propriety. The first option would be to use the already known VXLAN together with the full Layer 3 backbone in the campus. The benefit of VXLAN is, that only the access switches and the core routers need to be VXLAN aware. All other switches in the distribution do not need to be aware of VXLAN. The problem with this approach, I’m not aware of any vendor, which has control plane function within their access switches. VXLAN is mostly there, but no protocol to automate the process of interconnecting the VTEP’s. Maybe, we will se something in the near future as this would be a great vendor neutral implementation. But for connecting VLAN’s via a Layer 3 backbone statically, maybe at the distribution layer make life much easier.

The second option is the Tunneled Node feature in the HPE Aruba switches. This tunnels the traffic of a specific port to a WLAN controller. This controllers handles the client the same way wireless clients are handled. This is the perfect integration into an existing wireless only office. I will write a post on this feature to describe it in more detail in the near future.

SDN can also play a role in this and is the third option to make Layer 3 mobility possible within large campus networks. Make sure, the switches supports at least the SDN story of you vendor of choice.

Campus Trends: Location Based Services

Bringing the above two together with location based services and you start to automate the office. I see locations based services as one of the big trends this year. If your vendor of choice supports location based services, plan ahead and be prepared. For retailer and other businesses with direct customer contact this is nothing new and they already planning to implement location based services or have already implemented those kind of services.

I will not start to talk about indoor navigation, as this one is obvious. But there are other areas for location based services which help to be more productive. Ever worked in an open space office? You’ll never know, where the next printer is. After finding a printer, you have forgotten the IP address or whatever you use to connect to the printer while heading to your desk. What about a digital map, which will show your location and the next printers around you, together with the information on how to use this printer. And after the print job is sent, the printer starts printing as soon as you arrive at the printer.

Another example is the yearly process of getting the site utilisation. This is an automated task with location based services. And even more. If you know the location of your employees, you can guide emergency personnel in case of an accident. This can help, saving lives.

Do you have the problem of fully booked conference rooms and whenever you need one, there is no room available, but all are empty? What, if the room detects, that the room is not used for an arranged meeting and clears the status of taken to free. This and more is possible with location based services.

The above are just some examples of location based services. During various meetings with my customer I discovered thousands of examples. Prepare your network and include location based service in to new projects.

Campus Trends: Internet of Things

Internet of things is well-known but most of the people I talk to are now aware what the implication of IoT for the network is. We connect thousands of devices to our network and expect it to be stable and secure. But this is not the truth. The first and probably the worst problem with IoT is security. We make the same mistakes in regards to security as in the beginning of networking. Sure, we fixed most of them, but with IoT we start again by zero. My first advice for IoT, make it secure. Ask the vendor of the IoT device, ask your networking vendor and work together with them to find the secure solution, not the cheapest or fastest.

Prepare for a large amount of devices. Our current networks are built for people. They use the network for mail or surfing the web or whatever. But in the future, we see many many devices talking to devices. Machine to machine communication is the secret behind IoT. Most of the current networks are not prepared for this kind communication and for the amount of devices. If you are an IT person, talk to the business people. They are the ones, buying the IoT devices and help them. Help them to build a secure and stable network.

I know, IoT is more than security and machine to machine communication. but from my point of view, this is the stuff, IT can do this year. Prepare for IoT.


Those points are my personal point of view. I’m sure, if you ask other people you get a different opinion. But this, the opinion of other people and your own assumption will bring you to success. Feel free to write me your opinion below as a comment. I appreciate any discussion about the topic.

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