Mar 30, 2020 Telecom

There’s something important about 5G we need to be open about

By guest contributor Hannu Nikurautio, head of Cloud RAN Product Management at Nokia

For many years, in many blogs, we’ve talked about the advantages of openness compared to proprietary, closed solutions. We’re big fans of being open.

Openness can mean a variety of things in the telco world. It allows industry players to contribute their expertise to Open Source projects for the benefit of all. Open interfaces give Communications Service Providers (CSPs) a choice of supplier, avoiding vendor hardware lock-in that could prove costly in the long run.

It also brings advantages by enabling third-party software to run on hardware, allowing CSPs to choose the software that best suits them, which is my focus for this blog.

Openness was a big topic for us when we launched the Nokia AirFrame Open Edge server hardware that supports edge cloud deployments. It’s a vitally important solution that enables CSPs to cost-effectively distribute computing capacity at the network edge to deliver the extreme throughput and ultra-low latency performance that sits at the heart of 5G.

AirFrame Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) hardware is so versatile it can be used to meet almost any telco computing need. Naturally, we support the hardware with our own full stack of software in the shape of the Nokia CloudBand portfolio that enables CSPs to easily host, orchestrate, automate and manage Virtualized Network Functions (VNFs) and services. It’s a complete solution.

Giving you more choice

However, we also recognize that many CSPs will want a more flexible, open approach that allows them to run different software. Therefore, we verify solutions from the major players to ensure CSPs can be confident their choice of software will work properly on our Open Compute Project (OCP) hardware.

The latest addition to our list of certified software is Wind River Cloud Platform, which was certified on AirFrame Open Edge server hardware while running the Nokia vDU application. Wind River Cloud Platform is an open source, production-grade distributed Kubernetes solution for managing edge cloud infrastructure. Based on the OpenStack StarlingX project, Cloud Platform represents a compilation of best-in-class open source technology that delivers the features needed to effectively deploy and manage distributed networks workloads.

Cloud platform offers a choice of scalable deployment models starting from a single server configuration. The Wind River platform enables almost any VNF to run on our edge data center.

One of the most common reasons for deploying an edge data center is to handle real-time data close to the user at the edge of the network as part of a Cloud Radio Access Network (RAN).

With a large number of such All-in-Cloud virtual Distributed Units (vDUs) being needed in a CSP network as 5G rolls out, the AirFrame solution fits this need well as it is compact, uses minimal energy and needs little or no cooling.

So it makes sense to use the vDU as the ‘VNF of choice’ for certification, because we ensure the most common use case is considered right from the start.

Certification also assesses the capability of the software to integrate with automation systems and frameworks. This is an essential part of ensuring open software capabilities. It calls for us to have a deep understanding of what kinds of infrastructure our 5G deployments might run on in the future, as well as the automation integration capabilities of the solutions. To pull all this off, we work closely with the software providers to agree what works properly and identify what further capabilities could be achieved between the middleware, management layer and the VNFs. The Nokia workflow tool with edge cloud infrastructure manager is a good example of such added value.

We’re not just talking about openness, we are embracing it and ensuring it works well to give CSPs freedom of choice and the best, most innovative solutions for different uses.

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks or @nokia using #5G, #cloud, #opensource

*Post originally published at the Nokia blog.

Previous Agile Linux: Enabling DevOps with Continuously Delivered Embedded Linux
Next 5G Challenges: Exploring the Biggest Challenges for 5G Deployment