Aug 06, 2021 Networking

Advancing The 5G Open RAN Ecosystem Together With NTT DOCOMO

By Jeff Gowan


Anything having to do with Openness is only as strong as the people who participate in it. This is true for open source projects in general, and is absolutely true for initiatives such as 5G Open RAN. Wind River is very proud to be working with NTT DOCOMO, in good company with the rest of the 5G Open RAN ecosystem.

NTT DOCOMO announced in February 2021 that it had agreed with 12 companies including Wind River to cooperate towards the “5G Open RAN Ecosystem” with the objective to globally accelerate open RAN, and help enable flexible network deployment to serve diverse company and operator needs in the 5G era. In order to bring out good performance in open RAN, including virtualized RAN (vRAN), operators have to address certain challenges, and some of these challenges could only be resolved through interoperability testing. Considering these aspects, NTT DOCOMO’s target is to package best-of-breed RAN and to introduce, operate and manage them based on demands from operators considering open RAN introduction.

Wind River has been active in open source and consortia for over 20 years. We were founding members of the Linux Foundation Yocto Project for embedded Linux and continue to be active. Along the way we’ve been involved in over 40 different consortia memberships including open source and standards across all of the markets we serve. We believe involvement in these activities ensures that the product direction, and open-source contributions that we make, are aligned to the customer and market needs. ​

Two of the areas in the open community we are involved in that are directly relevant to 5G Open RAN include StarlingX and the O-RAN Alliance.

StarlingX is an open source integration project that pulls together best of breed open source components to produce a complete cloud infrastructure software stack for the edge used by the most demanding applications in industrial IoT, telecom, video delivery and other ultra-low latency use cases. Wind River was a founding member, and continues to be a strong contributor of StarlingX which is hosted at the Open Infrastructure Foundation. With deterministic low latency required by edge applications, and tools that make distributed edge manageable, StarlingX provides the container-based infrastructure used at the far edge for 5G Open RAN.

The second key element of the 5G Open RAN initiative is the O-RAN Alliance, which was founded by NTT DOCOMO and other global operators in 2018. Wind River is deeply involved in Workgroup 6 and the O-RAN software community INF team, including the contribution of StarlingX and Yocto Linux to that initiative. This is an important activity driving the future of 5G vRAN technology.

Specific contributions to O-RAN workgroup 6 include: hardware acceleration and acceleration abstraction, cloud considerations (including notification framework)​ and sync architecture (including LLS C1,C2,C3,C4, PTP)​. Other areas include PTP notification and API contribution, O-Cloud requirements and basic use case. We’ve also served as project technical lead and key contributor to O-RAN SC INF. Some examples of activities include the following releases:

• Amber: Performance and footprint optimized Linux distro, Kubernetes for IA64 and ARM64 based on Yocto Linux​

• Bronze: O-Cloud WG6 spec aligned based on StarlingX & Yocto Linux

• Cherry: Update to align with WG6 spec & adding HA​

• Dawn: MVP implementation of O2 interface. ​

• E Release : Larger O-Cloud cluster support & distributed cloud. ​ARM support.​

To learn more about the details of the 5G Open RAN project and the rest of the ecosystem, NTT DOCOMO have published a comprehensive, “5G Open RAN Ecosystem Whitepaper,” which describes the project in detail. The paper covers an ecosystem overview, Open RAN benefits, specific challenges and solutions as well as a glimpse into future prospects.

If you would like to speak with us about our work with the 5G Open RAN Ecosystem, or any of the open activities we are involved in, please contact us.

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