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How to Implement Seamless Service Provisioning for 5G Networks

by Affirmed Affirmed No Comments

Service Provisioning Makes 5G Services as Smart on the Inside as They Are on the Outside

As 5G approaches, the telecom conversation has shifted from smartphones to 5G services such as smart cars and smart cities. And while 5G services are fun to talk about, one of the things that many telco vendors aren’t talking about is service provisioning; how these services will actually be turned up, provisioned and managed in a network environment where 5G, 4G, 3G, and even 2G technology are likely to co-exist for a long time.

Of course, being the 5G-focused company that we are, Affirmed is not just talking about it, we actually did something about it by developing telecom solutions to address service provisioning in just such a hybrid environment. You can read more about it in the new ACG Research paper, “Hybrid Networks: Integrated Provisioning for Virtual and Physical Networks.”

Service provisioning and creating new services, go hand in hand. Particularly with enterprises, which stand to be some of the largest consumers of 5G services, issues such as speed-to-service and service assurance are very important.

It’s one thing, for example, to turn up and provision mobile data services for an individual subscriber, but what happens when your subscriber is an entire city? Suddenly, you’re talking about mobilizing a small army of network resources that may be spread across different domains and vendor technologies, all of which need to work together seamlessly. Even in a purely virtualized world, that’s a challenge; in a network where virtual and physical elements are mixed together, it’s a mistake waiting to happen.

 

What is Seamless Service Provisioning for MNOs?

What is seamless service provisioning in telecom, and what does it look like for Mobile Network Operators? For starters, it looks the same whether the underlying technology is a virtual network function (VNF) or a physical appliance, using a single, easy-to-use interface to manage both. (By “easy to use,” we’re talking service orchestration with drag-and-drop simplicity, so it’s easy even for non-engineers to use.) It also dynamically allocates the right amount of resources for the job, so network operators don’t have to take the cost hit of equipment sitting idle.

In addition to its ease of use, service provisioning also manages the service for the entire lifecycle, from inception to deletion, and automated provisioning allows for automated management tasks. In other words, provisioning makes 5G services as convenient inside the network as they’re intended to be outside the network.

 

A Smarter Approach to Service Provisioning:

Affirmed enables seamless service provisioning via its domain orchestration and service automation solutions. At a high level, Affirmed’s Domain Orchestrator provides end-to-end service orchestration across hybrid, multivendor network environments. It also includes automation for complex provisioning scenarios: activating a new service, performing self-healing, or scaling service resources as demand changes.

The Affirmed Service Automation Platform (ASAP) features a simple drag-and-drop interface for rapid service creation, again connecting seamlessly across physical and virtual network functions from a variety of vendors through standard interfaces. Together, Domain Orchestrator and ASAP make it much easier for mobile service providers to deliver 5G services quickly and consistently, whether they’re rolling out an IoT service for an entire city or deploying consumer mobile broadband services in an entirely new region. And that’s important because, in a world where everyone is talking the 5G talk, you need a smarter approach to service provisioning if you expect to walk the walk.

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

by Affirmed Affirmed 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 CUPS, an acronym that stands for control and user plane separation—yet in terms of 5G, CUPS holds the key to many of the most exciting services. That is the opportunity for 5G enterprise services ideas.

What is CUPS (Control and User Plane Separation)?

The value of control and user plane separation in 5g 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, for the majority of the most exciting applications of 5G, CUPS is required—virtual reality gaming, smart cities, emergency response services—because they can’t tolerate latency.

Current Applications of CUPS

What does 5G 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.