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Affirmed, Intel and Dell EMC Have an Answer for 5G’s Need for Speed

by Scott Heinlein Scott Heinlein No Comments

Bring up the topic of 5G services and you’ll hear a lot of ideas, from virtual reality gaming to automated manufacturing floors. Ask how mobile service providers (MSPs) plan to deliver those services, however, and the room usually gets quiet. That is, until now. With the announcement of the first cloud-native 5G core network (5GCN) to support 100 GbE interfaces, Affirmed, Intel and Dell EMC have given MSPs plenty to talk about.

In a new whitepaper, Intel, Dell EMC and Affirmed outline the industry’s first 5GCN solution built to achieve 200 Gbps on a single server—a milestone that makes ubiquitous mobile broadband and edge computing more feasible than ever before. Using a combination of hardware acceleration, software optimization and intelligent engineering, the Affirmed/Intel/Dell EMC partnership has removed the most daunting barriers of entry for next-generation 5G services by solving many of the bandwidth, latency and load-balancing issues that 5G applications present to network operators.

At the “core” of the new 5GCN solution are Intel’s Field Gate Programmable Array (FGPA) hardware accelerators, Dell EMC’s latest PowerEdge servers and Affirmed’s next-generation 5GC platform. Together, these technologies allow MSPs to expand and accelerate the performance of their Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) architecture. The benefits of using this new approach to 5GCN include:

  • Faster 5G performance than ever before possible;
  • Native support for network slicing of different traffic types, including IoT and other enterprise use cases;
  • Lower power consumption per bit;
  • Easier deployment of essential 5G capabilities such as deep packet inspection, CG-NAT firewalls, TCP optimization and QUIC video optimization;
  • Support for OpenStack, Kubernetes and other “open” technologies.

5G presents a number of unique challenges to network operators, from control and user plane separation (CUPS) to load balancing. Many network vendors have these issues on their roadmap, but haven’t arrived at a practical solution yet. Affirmed, Dell EMC and Intel are at the forefront of finding workable 5G solutions that improve performance, reduce total cost of ownership and support emerging open standards for cloud and NFV. The ability to get more 5G performance from a single server is critical to the success of 5G, both from an architectural and a financial perspective.

As 5G moves from concept to reality, it’s increasingly clear that no one vendor will have the complete answer to 5G transformation and enablement. Instead, as our partnership with Intel and Dell EMC illustrates, the future of 5G rests with best-of-breed collaborators doing what they’re best at, whether it’s building the fastest servers, the smartest processors or the most flexible 5G architecture.

To get the full story on 5GCN, download the Intel white paper, “Enabling Communications Service Providers to Meet 5G High Density I/O Goals through Software Optimization and Hardware Acceleration.

Using Containers Cloud Architecture without Virtualization: Isn’t it Ironic?

by Ron Parker Ron Parker No Comments

The typical network transformation journey would look something like this: Linux, VMs, Containers. But this blog is about the road less taken, and how service providers can pass virtualization by using containers and go directly to the cloud.

That’s kind of a revolutionary concept. After all, many in IT have been trained to view virtualization as a necessary evolutionary step. Everything is more efficient in a virtualized environment, we were told. And then containers came along. The new reality is that you don’t need virtual machines to run containers. In fact, there are many cases where virtualization actually hurts the performance of a containerized application. In this article, we discuss the advantages of using containers vs. virtual machines.

Comparing Virtualization vs. Container Management Platforms

How can virtualization be a bad thing? Well, virtualization is great if you need to move and share applications between different physical servers, but it comes at a cost: about 10% of a server’s CPU is dedicated to running the virtual OS. Containers, by contrast, invoke the services they need from their cloud service provider: the storage, load balancing, and auto-scaling services in particular. And that frees up space on the server, which results in much faster performance—in some cases, as much as 25% faster. (source: www.stratoscale.com/blog/data-center/running-containers-on-bare-metal/).

The Benefits of Container Management Platforms 

When I talk about the advantages of containers as a service, I’m really talking about Kubernetes, the container management platform. Kubernetes not only supports a variety of cloud environments—OpenStack, AWS, Google, Azure, etc.—but understands which environment it’s in and automatically spins up the appropriate service, such as ELB (Elastic Load Balancer) for the AWS environment or Octavia if it’s an OpenStack environment. Kubernetes doesn’t distinguish between multi-tenant servers running virtual machines and bare-metal servers. It sees each VM or server, respectively, as a node in a cluster. So whether or not you virtualize your servers has no impact on your ability to run containers, although it does impact management and performance. Basically, if you’re running a virtualized environment, you have two tiers of orchestration instead of one: the VIM (Virtualization Infrastructure Manager) and Kubernetes.

But wait a minute, you may be thinking, I thought you needed a virtualized environment to run OpenStack? There’s the irony or, more to the point, Ironic. OpenStack Ironic is designed specifically for OpenStack to manage bare-metal servers. With it, you can segregate separate servers into a Kubernetes cluster just as you would group VMs into a cluster. What if you want to run containers on bare-metal servers without OpenStack? This can be done, too and is known as “Kubernetes bare metal”.  Load Balancing, in this case, can be provided by the Metal LB project.

If running a cloud environment on bare-metal servers feels like taking a step back to take a step forward, take heart: Chances are, you’ll want both virtualized and non-virtualized servers in your cloud environment. The future isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition for service providers. There will be cloud services for residential customers that may have ultra-high utilization rates, in which case the performance benefits of a bare-metal server make more sense. For finely sliced enterprise services, however, a flexible multi-tenant model is more desirable. The common thread for both approaches is agility.  

Of course, there’s a lot more to this discussion than we could “contain” to a single blog, so feel free to reach out to us if you want to take a deeper dive into cloud architectures.

 

Looking for 5G Enterprise Services Ideas? CUPS Is The Way.

by Randy Cook Randy Cook No Comments

The fifth generation of wireless communications, 5G, has a lot of people excited: consumers, because of all the neat apps it will support, from virtual reality to self-driving cars; enterprises, for the new efficiencies it will bring through smart devices and remote-controlled factories; and mobile telco operators, for the broad number of new revenue opportunities that 5G services represent. Few people, however, are likely to get excited about the idea of control and user plane separation—or CUPS as it has come to be called—yet in terms of 5G, CUPS holds the key to many of the most exciting services.

What is CUPS (Control and User Plane Separation)?

The value of CUPS is closeness, because it allows mobile service providers to bring the service closer to the user. In a traditional 3G/4G network, services are run out of the mobile core, which may be hundreds of miles away from the user. Surprisingly, this distance may only add tens to hundreds of milliseconds to the service transmission, but even a half-second delay can make a world of difference when you’re talking about an application like a self-driving car. In fact, the majority of the most exciting 5G applications require CUPS—virtual reality gaming, smart cities, emergency response services—because they can’t tolerate latency.

Current Applications of CUPS

What does CUPS bring to the table in terms of better experiences? Let’s look at a few 5G applications with and without CUPS.

Smart Parking

Keeping with the car theme, there has been a lot of talk about smart cities, particularly around services such as smart parking, where cars are automatically directed to the closest available parking space. As more people move to urban centers, smart parking is a time- and space-saver, but time is the operative word here. If the information you’re getting is delayed by a second, your spot may already be gone by the time you get there. A CUPS smart city network is currently the most efficient way to smartly eliminate that delay.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

AR/VR is a game-changer for gaming companies, live events, hospitality/tourism and just about anything where “being there” is the name of the game. Beyond the big helmets of today’s VR applications, however, is an even more inconvenient reality: the cable that connects the headset to the application server. CUPS would replace the need for a physical connection with a 5G connection, which would free AR and VR applications to go anywhere.

Video Advertising

Imagine you’re walking through an airport or standing on a moving walkway (it’s okay, everyone deserves a free ride sometimes) and you’re met by a series of advertisements directed especially to you. Granted, maybe you’re not that excited about personalized mobile advertisements, but advertisers certainly are. The challenge of mobile video advertisements is figuring out who someone is (and what they like) and where they are at that exact moment in time. If those calculations need to be routed miles away to a mobile core, well, you’ve missed your opportunity. CUPS can reduce those calculations to a few milliseconds, allowing advertisers to be in the right place and time for the right person, every time.

Mobile Video Marathons

Any discussion of 5G eventually gets around to how much more video people are watching on their mobile devices, and how much more network bandwidth is required to meet that demand. For mobile service providers, this is a bleak future; think of the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones, but with network engineers running around in terror instead of serfs. CUPS can change all that by allowing content providers like HBO, Netflix and others to store content closer to the user—say, in fifty metropolitan locations instead of one or two national locations—which dramatically reduces the impact on the network and gives viewers a better, faster experience. Unfortunately, CUPS will not prevent your friends from posting spoilers about your favorite shows before you’ve had a chance to watch them.

Connected Cars

Few applications are driving interest in 5G like the promise of not having to drive at all. Car companies have already released vehicles with autonomous capabilities—from self-driving to self-parking—but they carry a cost because of the extra equipment involved, notably the onboard compute, storage and memory  that these cars require to eliminate information delays. Using CUPS, car companies can benefit from a service provider’s low latency network and shared compute resources to ditch the on board resources  and get real-time information via a 5G connection, which increases what cars can do on their own and reduces how much they cost.

Emergency Responders

In the movies, the audience always sees the bad guy hiding around the corner, even when the hero can’t. In real life, unfortunately, officers and firefighters have limited insight into live situations. With CUPS, emergency responders could share helmet and body camera footage as live feeds with their colleagues, in essence giving them a second and third pair of eyes.

 

As you can see, CUPS is more than a cool acronym; it’s the foundation behind some of the coolest 5G services. The bad news is that, for now, CUPS is out of reach for most network equipment vendors, who are still trying to figure out how to separate the control and the user planes in the first place. Affirmed’s networks solutions have had that separation from day one because we knew a day would come when mobile service providers needed that kind of real-time response. In fact, we’re still one of only a few companies that can offer a CUPS solution today, and we’ve been doing it for longer than anyone else. So if you’re serious about delivering the next generation of mobile services, there’s really only one place to start: Affirmed.

Service Providers Agree on the Core Appeal of 5G

by Affirmed Affirmed No Comments

The arrival of 5G will usher in a new era of high-bandwidth/low-latency applications, break open enterprise markets to mobile service providers, dramatically reduce network costs, make driving exams obsolete and create lasting world peace. That is, if you believe half of the things that you read about it.

The reality is that 5G has a good shot at doing some of those things, because it’s already doing them today. In a new e-book from Light Reading, “The Critical Role of Next Gen Core Solutions,” you can read how leading providers such as AT&T, Verizon and Turkcell are using 5G technology to deliver better customer experiences with much better cost and service delivery efficiencies. And because it’s from the folks at Light Reading, you know it will be a good read packed with the kind of insights you would expect from people who can separate the hope of the future from the hype of today.

At the core of this 5G future is, fittingly, the mobile core. While RAN upgrades are important, Light Reading’s Ray Le Maistre shines the spotlight where it belongs in the opening pages by stating “the full potential of 5G can only be realized once the core network is also upgraded.” Telco executives agree. In a separate survey conducted by Heavy Reading, seventy-four percent of surveyed executives felt that a 5G core was necessary to obtain the full benefits of 5G. That number underscores the fact that most telcos are thinking of 5G for more than cheap bandwidth; they have their eye on enterprise services that will require network slicing, agile service creation and other “core” capabilities.

If you really want to know what the early future of 5G will look like, take a look at Turkcell and AT&T: two companies with an early lead in the race to 5G. You’ll find case studies of both service providers in Light Reading’s e-book, showcasing how NFV and cloud services are helping these virtualization visionaries capitalize on new market opportunities. Interviews with Affirmed’s CEO, Hassan Ahmed, and senior director of product management, Seshadri Sathyanarayan, provide additional insight into where 5G core capabilities are headed.

Sponsored by Affirmed and Intel, “The Critical Role of Next Gen Core Solutions,” is a short (20-minute), informative read that highlights the early success of 5G core implementations and reveals why so many major telco operators are betting their future on it. If you’re sick of reading fictional accounts of the 5G-driven future, Light Reading’s non-fiction e-book is the perfect antidote.

Take Back Control of Your Mobile Network, and Destiny with Affirmed UnityCloud

by Scott Heinlein Scott Heinlein No Comments

At Affirmed Networks, we know you, mobile operators, want to successfully transition your network (and business) to 5G and ultimately become a 5G leader.  In order to do that, you need a 5G mobile network that works with you and for you – a network you completely control.  The problem is that today you don’t control your network, your legacy hardware network vendor does, and this makes you feel frustrated since you don’t feel you control your own destiny.  We believe that 5G represents a huge opportunity and that to effectively compete and succeed in 5G, you need to be in complete control of your network.  We understand the complexity and risks of transitioning your network to 5G since we have the most extensive experience virtualizing networks including over 100 deployments.  We’ve leveraged all of our learnings and experience over the past eight years to build Affirmed UnityCloud.  Affirmed UnityCloud gets you ready for 5G.  It puts you in complete control, so you can stop feeling frustrated about not controlling your own destiny and instead start becoming a leader in 5G innovation.

Affirmed UnityCloud is a true cloud-native 5G platform that allows you to:

  • Innovate Faster with an Innovation platform that allow services to be quickly deployed in days/weeks vs. months
  • Build Once Deploy Anywhere from core to edge on public, private or hybrid clouds
  • Converge All Networks including 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G (NSA/SA) and wireline on a single platform

Microservices is what enables you to innovate faster and is also a key component of cloud-native architectures.  We didn’t take the same path as other mobile core vendors by simply lifting monolithic software out of legacy hardware platforms and shifting it into virtual machines and containers, calling it ‘cloud-native’.  We call this ‘cloud-washing’.  In fact, we don’t have a legacy hardware platform.  This frees us to go ‘all-in’ on virtualization because we don’t have billions of revenues to protect with old legacy technology.  Because of this, we’ve natively built all services, including the 5G services, from the ground up for the cloud.  This gives you the ability to scale services up or down as needed to serve any sized market.  In addition, all UnityCloud microservices are autonomously released – every microservice has its own separate release cadence.  This is critical to ensure you have the most agile platform to compete in the 5G era.

In addition, we added something we believe is critical to the future of your success: openness. UnityCloud embraces open-source technology, because the next great idea in 5G won’t come from a single vendor, but from many working together. That’s why our cloud-native platform includes a PaaS layer that supports the best in open-sourced technology today: Kubernetes, Helm, Istio, Envoy, Jaeger and many other technologies. Using the UnityCloud open-source APIs allows mobile operators to bring more ideas into the mix and share the network across many applications so it’s easier and quicker to deploy new services.  You are not dependent on one vendor; you are free to use as many as you need to build the services you want – you control your network.

And these services can run anywhere in the network – from core to edge on public, private and hybrid clouds.  This provides you with the ultimate flexibility to run services where it makes the most sense.  High bandwidth and/or low latency sensitive services can be run at the network location that will ensure the required performance – closer to the customer or even at the customer premise.  Other services might be best deployed in the cloud.  Affirmed UnityCloud gives you the flexibility to deploy services anywhere in the network.

Affirmed UnityCloud enables network operators to unify 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G services as well as fixed services onto a single, simple, flexible and powerful standalone 5G core (5GC) platform. And if that sounds like music to your ears, it should: UnityCloud is a game-changer, providing you—once and for all—with a clear path to 5G and puts you back in control of your network and your own destiny.