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It was an early spring morning and I was standing at the corner with my son and a few of his friends waiting for the school bus. As I glanced down, I noticed a newly constructed anthill teeming with activity. Sensing one of nature’s “teachable moments,” I called the kids over. They crowded around and bent down for a closer look. “Look at them all,” one kid cried out.
I explained that each ant had a job to do. Some were:
- Cleaning out tunnels
- Gathering food
- Tending to the queen
My son looked and asked, “But how do they know what to do?”
“They communicate,” I answered. Before I could launch into the role pheromones play in insect communities, the bus pulled up. It quickly drove off and I headed for work with Mother Nature’s lesson on collaboration fresh in my mind. As with just about everything, my mind eventually turned to network infrastructure— campus networks.
Building blocks of the smart campus
At CommScope, we work with campuses of all types and sizes: colleges and universities, medical and business parks, retail centers and airports, and sprawling enterprise campuses. A common denominator among many campuses nowadays is the hybrid IT infrastructure connecting people, resources and ideas over distance.
These smart campuses rely on a variety of sub-systems. To keep everything operating smoothly, some of the most extensive fiber and copper structured cabling are deployed inside the buildings for automated intelligence:
- Fiber-based outside plant solutions and connectivity
- Short-hop Power over Ethernet and long-span powered fiber
- A mix of cellular and Wi-Fi mobility
Other campus networks may be less diverse, but no less intelligent. The design of the infrastructure is dictated by the type of campus and the level of organization and communication needed.
Form follows function
Think about large suburban town centers with a mix of retail shops, restaurants, offices and residential spaces. Other than proximity, those who work and live there have little in common. The center exists to benefit individual tenants and residents, so the IT infrastructure will reflect that. It may include a fiber-based outside plant network to deliver broadband services and powered fiber to feed remote lighting and security systems.
In other environments the campus network is multifaceted and extensive. Think university campuses, medical parks and corporate headquarters for huge companies. Such environments are driven by things like communication, data sharing and collaboration. More than connecting the various areas of the campus to the data center or central network, the infrastructure must enable any-to-any communication among all facilities and users. So, being able to handle ultra-high fiber densities and automatically monitor all physical layer connections becomes extremely important. When done properly, the campus network is a critical tool to achieve the overall mission of the organizations. It’s the technological equivalent of the anthill, writ large.
Later that afternoon, I was back on the corner waiting for the school bus. To kill some time, I bent down to watch the ants. To me, their intricately choreographed dance seemed nothing short of amazing. Tens of thousands of insects, communicating through nothing more than airborne chemicals, yet understanding precisely what they needed to do, with whom and where.
I wondered what was next in terms of our own technology. Already, CommScope has developed the infrastructure to support futuristic applications like augmented reality. Certainly, the convergence of all the various campus networks on a single platform that’s easy-to-maintain and inexpensive to deploy is not far off. Then what: wireless systems that integrate with and boost the brain’s ultra-low powered electrical waves, enabling us to communicate by thoughts alone?
Stay tuned. At CommScope, it’s our job to know what’s next.