In KEYMILE’s opinion, 2016 will see important trends for mission-critical communications networks. These will include implementing extensive requirements generated by new German IT legislation, modernising SDH networks, migrating to ethernet / IP and creating greater efficiency in network monitoring and control.

In the near future, mission-critical communications networks belonging to energy utilities, railways, operators of oil and gas-pipelines and to authorities will face numerous challenges. Now that many manufacturers have discontinued their SDH components, it’s clear that the life cycle of SDH networks will come to an end in a few years.

Particularly in new applications, operators are increasingly opting for packet-based networks. Many of them already have an ethernet / IP-based network in addition to an SDH network. New on the network operators’ agendas is a range of extensive demands produced by German IT legislation which came into force in the summer of 2015. KEYMILE has summarised the major trends in four points.

Implementing IT-security legislation

Based on the new German IT security legislation from July 2015, operators of critical infrastructures must protect their networks more efficiently from cyber-attack. In other words, their IT security measures must be state-of-the-art. As there are no specific directions in this regard yet, nobody is sure what the government means in detail. For this environment companies are pursuing a comprehensive IT security concept that includes guaranteeing integrity, fail-safe operation and availability of networks. Also required is implementation of demands like authentication, authorisation, and intrusion detection, and above all encrypted data transmission.

Modernising existing SDH networks

SDH technology has a good and long-standing track record and is primarily used to date in mission-critical communications networks belonging to railway companies and utilities. Typical applications are connecting axle counters, interconnecting signal boxes or monitoring lines. If modernisation is planned, network operators need to make an important decision because it’s highly unlikely that development and support of their SDH systems will continue. The first option consists of migrating to ethernet / IP. Anyone not wanting to do so can choose the second option. This entails using a hybrid multi-service access and transmission platform. From here operators can deliver their SDH services together with packet-driven services from one single system and migrate gradually towards ethernet / IP.

Implementing applications with ethernet / IP networks

Many railway companies and utilities for example already use ethernet / IP for video surveillance to monitor signal boxes, outdoor cabinets, pumping stations, pipelines, or for LAN-to-LAN coupling. The number of these types of applications will rise substantially over time, not least because they make management easier. As the new terminal equipment installed in these types of environments only has ethernet interfaces, the network operators transmit the ethernet data streams via their SDH networks (EoS, ethernet over SDH). In this case, the trend towards ethernet / IP is growing all the time. EoS builds a bridge to transmit packet-driven data via the existing SDH networks. As a result, operators of mission-critical communications networks can reliably transmit ethernet-based services together with SDH-based command and signalling technology.

Extensive automation of network monitoring and control

One of network operators’ long-term goals is to set up a standardised, integrated data network, based on ethernet / IP, for all data communications. This solution avoids the need to operate parallel networks and to create isolated solutions. But it will be another eight to ten years before it becomes reality. At the moment, easier and virtually fully automatic management of extensive and complex mission-critical communications networks is on the agenda. As network operators are deploying an increasing number of applications and devices and drawing on diverse services provided by other carriers, management tools are required which enable a high level of efficiency and automation in management processes.

"For the diverse applications in mission-critical communications networks belonging to railways; power, oil and gas-utilities; as well as local authorities, KEYMILE offers an extensive solutions portfolio that actively supports users in migrating from traditional technology to ethernet / IP. Some organisations have already initiated this transformation process, others now face this task because over the next five years SDH technologies will reach the end of their life cycles," explains Axel Föry, KEYMILE CEO. "In conjunction with migrating towards packet-driven technologies, companies should be looking at implementing the requirements specified by IT legislation. And encrypted data transmission has a key role to play in the process."