What are campus area networks? – Network Glossary Definition

Campus area networks (CANs) comprise two or more connected local-area networks (LANs), typically serving a group of buildings in the same general vicinity – such as on a university campus, a military base or different buildings in a corporate campus.

Because it serves a limited geographical area, a CAN is typically smaller than a metropolitan-area network (MAN) or wide-area network (WAN). But a CAN may use many of the same underlying network technologies, including a series of interconnected high-speed routers and/or switches forming a high-speed network, such as Gigabit Ethernet.

A CAN is typically a private network, often based on optical fiber but potentially copper cable such as Cat5. It can be based on various network topologies, including a three-tier network or leaf-spine network topology.


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In a university setting, the CAN may be used to connect different buildings that each have their own LAN, or perhaps networks that serve different departments or specific purposes – such as research, library, administration and so forth. Similarly, a corporate campus network may connect multiple networks that serve different departments – marketing, sales, research, finance – or LANs that support individual buildings, depending on how the company decides to architect the network. In such a scenario, each LAN may have its own characteristics with respect to speed, latency, privacy policy and the like, but still be able to connect to other LANs with different characteristics when necessary.