In this region, billions of people are getting ready for a major holiday: the lunar calendar’s Chinese New Year, which falls this year on February 5. “Going home” during this time is so culturally paramount that the related transportation even has a name in China: Chunyun, translated as “spring transport.”

The result is the world’s largest annual human migration. Consider these statistics:

  • All of China’s 1.3 billion residents have a public holiday lasting over a week. 
  • Spikes in travel to go home usually begin 15 days before New Year’s Day and last for around 40 days.
  • Travel China Guide predicts 413 million people will ride trains within China from January 21 to March 1 this year. This represents a 72% jump from 2013.

We often use the analogy of transport to describe network needs. In this sense, Chunyun offers lessons in the transport network (literally) being adaptive – more flights, more trains and special arrangements. Everyone involved in the travel supply chain must forecast and plan as accurately as possible.

So what lessons can network operators learn from how travel adapts for Chunyun?

Lesson 1: Lay the infrastructure that will accommodate the changes over time

In the Chunyun example, China has laid the roads and set up bus stations as transportation nodes, and the transportation network is enabling technology to match in-the-moment customer demand with supply. Specifically, a bus station in Shandong Province allows passengers to customize their travel routes through crowdfunding anchored in social media. If 15 people pay for the same destination and time slot, the station will assign a bus to make the trip.

In our industry, underlying the Adaptive Network is a dynamic pool of virtual and physical network resources.  Infrastructure must be highly scalable and open, with standard northbound interfaces that allow more agile management, control and the ability to feed real-time network performance data upward into analytic and intelligence engines. From this, the network can be tuned to respond dynamically to changing bandwidth demands and optimize performance.

Lesson 2: Use software control and automation to manage spikes in consumer need

Thanks to automation and software, travelers through China’s busiest train stations can go through security in as little as 3 seconds, instead of waiting in long lines for a guard to manually check their IDs.

In networks, as the industry moves to software-defined networking and multi-vendor orchestration, true network automation becomes more viable. The underlying requirement is an open, software-based architecture with multi-domain service orchestration.

Lesson 3: Use analytics to make planning smarter and more efficient

In China, Internet giant Baidu has created an interactive migration map from voluntary smartphone location data, demonstrating Chunyun’s spikes and routes. Because it includes data for individual cities, airports and train stations, the microsite can help transportation officials plan iteratively each year.

In our industry, we can now pull more real-time data from the network than ever before. And with all that data comes an ability to glean unprecedented network analytics. The result is the ability – and need – to take predictive and adaptive action to both increase network uptime and adapt to real-time changes in the network.

As the largest annual human migration on earth, Chunyun offers great lessons to network operators, in how to manage everything from sudden spikes, capacity on demand, fail over, and routes – all while delighting customers.

And unlike Chunyun travels – for which we all know the lunar new year date and the traffic changes once per year – network operators may see unanticipated demands that they need to respond to within minutes. These factors make the Adaptive Network™ even more vital.

Inspired by Chunyun and want to learn more about how to make your network adaptive? Check out our whitepaper: Introducing the Adaptive Network Vision.

Happy lunar new year from Ciena, and safe travels.