M2M and IoT Core Networks Explained

Core networks lay the groundwork for sub-networks to exchange information with one another. Core networks are used by telecom service providers to authenticate and charge its users but are also used by large and small-scale enterprises for their own interests. For enterprises, with deployed IoT environments, a core network’s ability to simplify authentication and aggregation makes them a particularly attractive asset. Serial, distributed, parallel, and collapsed core networks, all come with their unique benefits. The architecture of these different core network types should be examined carefully by companies considering the deployment of a core network.

What is a core network and who uses it?

The core network is where all connectivity is converted into service differentiation. There is no differentiation between an M2M core network, an IoT core network or a core network operated by a telecom provider. It can be described as the “business end.” Both in telecommunication, as well as IoT networks, the “core” refers to their high-end communication facility, which connects all primary nodes. The core network provides the path necessary for different sub-networks to exchange information.

These networks typically provide an any-to-any connection to all devices connected to the network. While core networks are mainly utilized by telecommunication or IoT service providers, enterprises with IoT networks may choose to reap the benefits of a core network.

Some potential features of a core network

Gateways

Gateways allow the core network to access other peripheral networks. The features of a gateway depend entirely on the type of network and its connectivity protocol.

Charging its users

Although likely not a feature used with core networks deployed for an enterprise’s own interests, telecom and IoT service providers use the core network to charge its subscribers, based on cellular or network data. The core network is the place where all your usage of the network will be logged.

Authentication

For any kind of service providers, core networks also make sure the user requesting to utilize their services is actually authorized.

Aggregation

This may be the most beneficial feature of a core network. Its nodes provide a high level of aggregation. This means the core network can combine many different network connections (theoretically even connections powered by entirely different connectivity protocols) to increase the overall throughput compared to a single connection with limited bandwidth.

How do Core Networks work and what types are there?

Finding the ideal core network for your enterprise depends; you should consider factors such as the size of your enterprise, the current network size, its future plans for expansions, and the budget. Here are the most common types of core network structures:

The serial core network

This is the most simple type of core network. It consists of core switches and routers, which are connected in a series, in a chained architecture.

Pros: These types of core networks are easy to set up and are thus ideal for smaller organizations with a limited budget. It does not need to be sophisticated, and as a consequence, it is very simple to maintain, troubleshoot, and fix.

Cons:  For enterprise-level networks, a serial core network is often not the best choice, since it is incredibly simple. The scalability of this kind of network is extremely limited, and due to the chain-like topology. The malfunction of a single link will cause the entire network to collapse.

The distributed core network

A distributed core network is made up of layers with different hierarchies. It adds a third dimension to the previously mentioned serial core network.

Pros: For enterprises with large-scale networks that are likely to be expanded in the near future, distributed core networks are likely the ideal choice. When the time for another expansion comes around, new layers can be added with relative ease. The distributed core network structure also allows network operators to segregate users, simplify the management of in- and outbound traffic. Thanks to multiple layers, access permissions can be customized, which consequently also increases its security monitoring capabilities. A properly designed distributed core network has a very high tolerance for malfunction, compared to other core network types.

Cons: While these types of networks offer invaluable advantages to large-scale companies, they may not be worth-while to set up for smaller networks, since they are not easy to properly design and manage. Only an experienced, highly-skilled team should be allowed to design the network architecture and its hierarchy.

The collapsed core network

This type of core network cannot be really called a “structure” since it is comprised of a single piece of centralized equipment, such as a central router or switch. Each of your subnetworks will connect back to this collapsed core network, created a star-shaped mesh topology.

Pros: This network is obviously easy to manage, maintain, and troubleshoot, as it only consists of one component.

Cons: The large downside is that a network with just one piece of equipment means there is a single point of failure. If there is a malfunction, the core network will undoubtedly seize to work.

The parallel core network

When duplicate connections are established between different types of equipment, it is called a parallel network. Each device (switches and routers) is connected by two cables. Having an additional cable connecting to each piece of equipment allows network connectivity to any area of the sub-networks. When organizations that are looking for a robust, strong, and reliable core network, they may want to consider a parallel core network.

Pros: A parallel backbone improves reliability and resilience to a single point of failure.

Cons: Having twice as many cables, between network components will vastly increase deployment costs. Some enterprises may choose to only install duplicate connections in areas of the networks, where reliability and resilience are extremely crucial.

  • Core networks allow sub-networks to exchange information with each other.
  • A core network has distinct functionalities that IoT network operators can benefit from greatly when managing their sub-networks.
  • Serial, parallel, distributed, and collapsed core networks are categorized based on their mesh architectures, which all have unique advantages and disadvantages.