Cloud Infrastructure for 5G
How can service providers best build an open telco cloud infrastructure for 5G to introduce services quickly with low risk? And how can infrastructure be evolved to support cloud native applications and edge computing for new business opportunities?
What is Cloud Infrastructure?
Cloud infrastructure architecture makes it possible for various applications, for example telecom, operations supports systems, business support systems and IoT, to share infrastructure resources for their needs. The infrastructure resources consist of compute, network and storage and the capacity is dynamically allocated to meet applications’ needs.
Using a cloud infrastructure architecture reduces time to market for new services and makes it easier to manage them with shorter lifespan. It will, for instance, allow new services to be launched quickly to test the market demand, and if the services don’t fly, they can be phased out just as easily. Common and centralized management of the cloud infrastructure will also play a critical role in enabling new advanced services and increase operational efficiency.
The cloud infrastructure architecture is delivered to the users in various “as a service” models, for example Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Containers as a Service (CaaS). Infrastructure as a Service has been the most common way of using cloud infrastructure architecture to deploy applications, while Containers as a Services, optimized for cloud native applications will be more common going forward when 5G is becoming universal. Platform as a Service is focusing on developers and their needs for designing new applications efficiently.
How does Cloud Infrastructure work?
A foundational concept in cloud infrastructure is virtualization, which decouples hardware (compute, network and storage resources) from the applications and creates a pool of the infrastructure resources which are shared by the applications. Virtualization software is used to achieve this resource pooling. In the telecom world, network functions virtualization, or NFV, is the process to transform the operator network into a virtualized or cloud-based infrastructure.
In the past, communication service providers (CSPs) have deployed systems where only one or a few applications use dedicated infrastructure resources. These systems (physical network functions) are still broadly used but being replaced over time with cloud-based solutions. The virtualization journey is now continuing with the introduction of cloud native technology. This development makes it possible to deploy cloud native applications on so called bare metal infrastructure using containers. Cloud native technology further simplifies operations and reduces lead times for new applications. It is expected that cloud native infrastructure will co-exist with NFV infrastructure for a long time.
Benefits of Cloud Infrastructure
Cloud infrastructure provides several benefits to communication service providers:
- Costs for infrastructure resources will be lower since applications share the resources instead of using dedicated capacity.
- Operations and management of one common infrastructure is more efficient than many individual application specific systems.
- The time to deploy applications will be shorter since the cloud infrastructure including its hardware and software components is already in place.
- Cloud infrastructure in combination with development tools and API (Application Programming Interface) exposure of network assets enables developers to innovate and bring new applications to end users quicker.
Cloud Infrastructure and 5G
With the introduction of 5G, the mobile network enables a vast number of new services for consumers and enterprises, since it provides much shorter latency, higher bandwidth and new capabilities such as network slicing – a logical network designed to serve a defined business purpose and comprises of all the required network resources, configured and connected end-to-end.
Cloud native technology and edge computing are corner stones for the cloud infrastructure in 5G. The best way to support cloud native applications is to use a Kubernetes over bare metal infrastructure where a simplified cloud infrastructure architecture delivers 18% TCO savings compared to virtualized infrastructure. The telecom industry is now moving on with this technology due to its efficiency, but it is important to note that virtual network functions (VNFs) will be around for years to come, and they will continue to run in parallel on network functions virtualization infrastructure (NFVI). Edge computing provides distributed cloud infrastructure resources closer to the location where it is needed and targets new business opportunities which provide support for specific use cases. Some examples of use case areas are smart manufacturing, remote drone control and augmented and virtual reality.
Looking ahead, we will also see the emergence of hybrid cloud, which is any combination of communications service provider (CSP) managed and hyperscale cloud provider (HCP) managed infrastructure environments for deployment of applications. Applied on telco workloads, the most obvious example is 5G Core. The hybrid cloud is geographically distributed to also support edge-based use cases. Hybrid cloud embraces multi-vendor options, as well as public and private deployment locations, and it includes central and edge sites. CSPs expect the hybrid cloud to be open for several HCPs in order to avoid lock-in, and it has to be possible to deploy applications in both private and public cloud infrastructure depending on technical requirements and cost optimization strategies.
Our cloud infrastructure transformation philosophy
Ultimately, everyone needs cloud infrastructure, and with 5G the need accelerates. To support service providers’ cloud infrastructure transformation, from physical network functions to a cloud native environment, we have built in experience and competence into our solution. The following key features are foundational in our philosophy:
Hardware and software components are pre-integrated and thoroughly tested. We take full e2e responsibility for the system.
The system is optimized for telco workloads securing high performance and throughput while minimizing the need for hardware and software licenses.
The solution supports cloud native applications in both a virtualized and bare metal infrastructure environment for fast 5G core deployment.
Hardware options from several vendors as well as open orchestration APIs are available. A partner VNF certification program secures openness towards a vast number of third-party applications. The solution is based on open source projects such as OpenStack and CNCF.
Solution life cycle management
We have verified procedures for solution release handling including expansions, upgrades and security updates, aligned with Ericsson’s application system verification roadmap. This means that the system verified value is carried forward release by release.
Common e2e management
Common e2e management - Central e2e monitoring system and lifecycle automation of both software and hardware layers resulting in efficient operations and low TCO is provided.