Traditionally, manufacturing enterprises have relied on the industry chain collaboration model to connect their research and development (R&D) activities. This involves regional and partner branch networks being separate from the network at business HQ into isolated intranet and extranet networks for information security.
However this isolation poses an array of problems that threaten how R&D works. To enable the level of collaboration that R&D requires for best possible performance, and to cut unnecessary costs and workloads that can limit an organisation’s activities in this field, technologies for R&D need to be reviewed.
The challenges of traditional R&D
Intranet and extranet networks in manufacturing enterprises are typically isolated by a gatekeeper to ensure security measures are in place. But with the advent of the mobile internet and a focus on customer experience and multimedia, ‘access-anytime’– a term that refers to round-the-clock access (and therefore connectivity) to business information – is starting to have an impact, especially when it comes to cyber security. The rise of Internet of Things (IoT), desktop cloud, cloud computing, cloud storage, video conferencing, telepresence and BYOD means the network is more at risk than ever before to problems. For those with isolated R&D departments, this creates a number of challenges when it comes to external and internal networks.
1. The network deployment requires a duplicated investment, doubling the cost of R&D collaboration. Not only is this expensive, it is also complex to deploy; business systems (including ID authentication, telepresence, security, network management, product lifecycle management (PLM) and email need to be deployed twice on both networks, so the workload increases. These systems are challenging to operate and maintain as it is difficult to give an end-to-end analysis from server to client, especially as the networks are isolated and cannot be monitored end-to-end.
2. The overall efficiency is also not optimal, as R&D employees receive and send external emails in extranet but use the intranet for day-to-day work
3. This solution has low network reliability as there are single-links and single-nodes in LAN and WAN (unique to devices or networks) where a simple fault will result in an entire network failure.
4. There is a great issue with security in this model. Highly sensitive information is shared between the external and internal networks and without the possibility of end-to-end security; there is no guarantee to protect against data theft.
5. Separating the intranet and extranet is time consuming, and will always cause delays, meaning R&D collaborators are not able to view real-time contributions, edits and developments. Gatekeepers don’t support unified communication and video conferencing across the two networks, so the opportunities of collaboration are limited.
To create an effective R&D department, IT systems need to be secure, efficient and collaborative to allow for maximised productivity, without burdening costs and processes.
Security is critical, especially as the R&D department holds highly classified intellectual and strategic information. In addition, data needs to be secure and protected from security breaches. R&D is the investment into an organisation’s future, and this asset needs to be safeguarded.
Efficiency is also key – it is vital that the sharing and building of information is supported by an IT system able to provide large-bandwidth, real-time and reliable data exchange.
IT systems also need to empower collaboration through always-on availability of dependable communication technologies for suppliers and partners to work closely together despite geographic and organisational barriers. Research, design, manufacturing, test and commissioning processes need to run smoothly and be able to converse with each other freely and in real-time – a single error or interruption in information-transfer can result in a chain reaction of delays, faults and ultimately business loss.
Collaborative R&D network solutions
Huawei has developed a collaborative R&D network solution that tackles the challenges faced by traditional R&D. This solution uses high capacity firewalls to replace the gatekeeper, and divides the network by access control list (ACL) rules to isolate different networks areas. A shared datacentre area is used to deploy applications such as unified communication gateway, telepresence, ID authentication system or email. This application makes deployment and management much simpler and more cost effective. Through a single physical WAN network which is isolated by MPLS VPN, carrying both intranet and extranet data, organisations can double their network efficiency
This new approach to R&D collaboration using cutting edge technology to leverage the outputs benefits from improved data transfer efficiency across the intranet and extranet. Huawei’s T-Level Firewall with 1Tbps MPPS increases efficiency 10,000 times. Network stability becomes highly reliable, using both dual nodes and dual links. Finally, user experience is improved through cutting the delay times that traditional gatekeepers imply.
Future of R&D networks
R&D is vital to the progress of large organisations, especially when these businesses work in the manufacturing space and have a number of shareholders that must have real-time access to input and inform.
As organisations move into a fully digital era that is hugely supported by cloud computing, it is necessary that R&D technologies are modernised too. New solutions empower research and development capabilities, and these must be leveraged. Isolated intranet/extranet solutions are not able to deliver the most cutting-edge support for this crucial business investment.
Karabet Krikorian, Head of WEU IoT & Industry 4.0 Solution Innovation, Huawei