A self-healing and self-adaptive wireless network infrastructure is expected to become a reality in June, following pilots of wireless meshed network technology conducted by Nortel Networks and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The wireless meshed network architecture incorporates auto-discovery and self-healing algorithms to simplify deployment and reduce service outages by optimising radio link communications and minimising interference. It creates a Community Access Network (Can), which is a cluster of wireless access points that form a mesh, expanding the WLan hotspot.
"The administration work increases exponentially when the access points increase from two or three to 200 or 300 access points," said Philip Goldie, product specialist for the Alteon portfolio within Nortel Networks.
The self-organising nature of the architecture removes the need for radio frequency engineering or commissioning, enabling installation in any location where power is available, significantly increasing the reach of wireless Lan coverage. Previously, a detailed radio frequency design had to be done to ensure that coverage of each access point did not interfere with another.
"The wireless meshed network is a self-healing network," said Goldie. "When a failed access point appears, the network can dynamically raise the strength of surrounding access points to provide coverage for the missing area."
This is achieved by using another radio frequency to communicate between adjacent access points in order to understand the status of adjacent access points as well as route data through the other access points. The self-healing, self-discovery functions allow the system to reprovision itself dynamically.
Furthermore, the architecture also makes the job of identifying illegal or unauthorised access point set up by individuals within an enterprise easier. "The wireless meshed network would be able to automatically detect a rogue access point, whenever they appear," said Goldie.
The architecture was designed to provide the appropriate level of network access and security while supporting the unrestricted mobility of end users.
The Wireless Mesh Architecture is especially advantageous for wireless deployments in open areas or where no Lan infrastructure exists, such as warehouse and university campus environments.
This solution replaces the wired backhaul or transit link with a wireless link, eliminating the need to install additional Lan cabling and other infrastructure to extend WLan service beyond the reach of the existing Lan.
A meshed network also provides consistent quality of service, said Goldie. When the strength of the access points are being affected by other appliances such as microwave oven, the network would be able to detect and provide continuous support by bringing up the strength of the access points.
Each access point is AC powered and needs a power outlet, however, future development may include embedding solar technologies into the access points in order to form meshed networks not limited by the positioning of power outlets.
The architecture also requires a wireless gateway to advertise reachability within the enterprise for one or more IP subnets assigned to WLan Can subscribers and network entities.
The Optivity Network Management System (ONMS) will provide centralised facilities for monitoring and managing the network operations.
The trial projects were started late last year and are expected to be completed soon. Goldie said there will be more trials to be set up by educational centres and carriers entering the market.
Louis Chua writes for Computerworld