What does the manufacturing industry and network infrastructure have in common? They’re both all about performance. Let’s see how a hyper-reliable, easily managed and highly secure Fabric network can shift your factory to a higher gear!
Ask any IT leader from the manufacturing industry: digital transformation is not an easy task but it’s critical to increasing profitability and improving overall business performance. As IoT devices continue to proliferate, applications become more networked, and security ever more paramount, the network is the key to this transformation.
Alas, the complexity of today’s networks often hinder enterprises’ ability to quickly introduce the so-called MAC’s (Moves, Adds and Changes).
According to a study conducted by Extreme Networks, 90% of companies admit that the complexities of their current network limit the timing and type of services and applications they’re able to deploy. This research also showed that businesses end up waiting an average of 27 days for an appropriate maintenance window to implement any significant network change or to roll-out new applications. Even then, over 80% of these businesses still experience network downtime due to configuration errors in their network core…
But enough with statistics. Let’s take a look at some real-life examples!
All for one, one for all: effortless virtualization with Extreme Fabric Connect
Škoda Auto, the largest industrial company in the Czech Republic and one of the oldest car manufacturers in the world, struggled once with a very complex network infrastructure, with operations spread across numerous locations nationwide. To reduce costs and increase efficiency, multiple networks needed to be condensed into one.
To cover all sites and converge multiple separated physical networks into one fully virtualized network, the manufacturer decided to deploy Extreme Fabric Connect – a standards-based fabric solution that allowed virtualization of the entire network.
"We needed a stable infrastructure, so virtualization was a must. Our IT team had to have a way to deploy new services quickly”, says Martin Polak, Coordinator for Network Planning at Škoda Auto. With the help of Extreme Fabric Connect, Martin’s team is now able to create and configure virtual networks in one hour instead of one day. “We removed the strain on our network that was hindering business growth and performance of our applications. Our new Extreme infrastructure optimizes staff performance across all areas of business”, Martin Polak adds.
Delivering a comprehensive array of network services, including Layer 2 and Layer 3 virtualization with optimized routing and IP multicast support, Extreme Fabric Connect allows organizations to phase out multiple complex legacy technologies gradually and enables all services through a single, next-generation technology. “Simple end point provisioning can extend any service anywhere in the infrastructure. Physical topology becomes irrelevant and complex design rules are eliminated, enabling network operators to build any logical topology wherever and whenever it’s required”, Claude Lepoivre, System Engineering Manager at Extreme Networks, explains.
Extreme Automated Campus: plug-and-play deployments and zero-touch core
What’s equally important for the IT professionals working in such large manufacturing organizations, Extreme Fabric Connect delivers a simplified, agile and automated infrastructure that makes network configuration and deployment of new services much, much faster and easier. When you’re operating in a network environment such as Volkswagen Poznań, the largest car manufacturer in Poland and the biggest employer in the west-central part of the country, the ability to provision services in any location within the network infrastructure is simply a must.
“Earlier, when we had to quickly deploy the same service in the welding shop, as we had done on the assembly line, two geographically separated locations, we needed to introduce many changes manually. Executing it quickly and, more importantly, safely, was very difficult”, says Paweł Stakuć, Senior Information Technology Specialist, IT Infrastructure at Volkswagen Poznań. “The new solution allows us to quickly reconfigure and expand the service to other locations without affecting other services running at that time. What convinced us to choose Extreme’s solution was also the fact that it guaranteed high flexibility and took complexity out of network management by offering a healthy dose of automation”.
By leveraging Extreme Fabric Connect as the core routing infrastructure in an Extreme Automated Campus, all routing needs are handled by one routing protocol – whether for IPv4 or IPv6 bridged, unicast or multicast traffic, including VRFs. This reduces overhead and simplifies deployments significantly. Extending network services across the Automated Campus network is typically done at the network access point only and does not require any configuration changes in the network core. The dramatically reduced time for change requests, incidents and requests for delivery of services makes troubleshooting and making decisions much easier for IT teams in organizations like Volkswagen Poznań.
Protecting against cyberthreats
A simpler and more flexible network architecture is one thing, one that doesn't require a trade-off with security or resiliency is quite another. In modern manufacturing sites, basically every piece of equipment is run by different operating system which are more or less vulnerable to potential security threats. Luckily, Extreme Fabric Connect allows segmentation of the network into securely separated zones available anywhere across the network infrastructure.
How does it work? Wired and wireless end-points can be dynamically placed into their corresponding secure network zones and, if applicable, predefined traffic policies applied automatically. “We used that to establish different groups of clients based on the level of trust so that we could manage them and separate them from each other more easily”, mentions Paweł Stakuć from Volkswagen Poznań.
End-points, based on their access rights, can connect anywhere to the infrastructure and automatically gain controlled access to their assigned network services – without the need for a network operator to adjust any configuration. Based on the NAC authentication, policies are not only dynamically applied to the user or device joining the network, but the correct network services like IP Subnet and secure zones such as VRF are also extended to the attachment point of the device. “Thanks to the effortless, high-class network virtualization, plug-and-play deployments, and the built-in segmentation, manufacturing organizations like Škoda Auto and Volkswagen Poznań are able to rapidly create new groups of devices, without interfering with the entire network infrastructure or the network’s core”, Claude Lepoivre explains.
To sum things up…
Compared to a traditional network, Extreme Fabric Connect offers a dynamic, agile network that is much easier to plan, build and run. In the long run, the solution allows manufacturing users to improve overall business performance, enable the digital transformation of manufacturing and improve output and productivity.
The concept of Extreme Automated Campus, which leverages Extreme Fabric Connect, provides inherent end-to-end network automation, visibility and analytics on top of a market proven, standards-based network architecture. Using Extreme’s Automated Campus solution, you can:
- enable end-point mobility, security and segmentation through a fully automated controller-less Ethernet Fabric solution,
- optimize agility for typical Moves, Adds and Changes (MACs) throughout your infrastructure,
- improve operations with pervasive traffic visibility to quickly identify problems, accelerate mean-time-to-resolution, and improve overall service levels,
- leverage the plug-and-play capabilities of the network infrastructure to quickly deploy new projects, while avoiding schedule maintenance windows for every network change,
- significantly lowers the risk of human error during updates with its ability to set and forget the network core.