The recent implementation of the CableLabs 10G Lab environment facilitates the service provider's relentless “innovation journey” and surmounts a myriad of technical and logistical challenges while propelling the industry forward. Additionally, it embraces open and co-compatible configurations to provide a successful proof of concept (POC) and vendor collaboration.
In essence, the 10G lab environment gives participants the ability to deploy instances of 5G, DOCSIS and other applications at the edge, with vendors configuring their cloud-native 5G network stacks into a multi-tenant, converged, private cloud setting. These initial steps serve as both the catalyst — and the realization — towards the end goal of enabling any workload to be co-located on infrastructure serving the application in the optimal way.
In conjunction with deploying multiple 5G cores and vRAN systems adjacent to a cable hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) network — applications have the ability to run in a cloud-native, multi-tenant, bare-metal environment which progresses towards a fully converged network. By co-locating 5G and HFC running as containers on shared infrastructure managed by a common management layer, this architectural platform convergence enables operators to reap multiple rewards including:
Reduced operating expenses — including power consumption - and capital expenses, such as hardware costs and physical facilities (head-end or hub locations)
Elimination of over-provisioned environments — matching resources to demand with the environment scaled to optimize network stack operation
Automated service deployment — faster provisioning and reduction of potential human error
Creation of dynamic, customized network topologies — multiple geographies possible to improve throughput and reduce latency for subscribers
Contributing to these goals is the deployment of Red Hat OpenShift, the industry’s leading enterprise Kubernetes platform, which allows a high degree of flexibility and functionality without the underlying limitations associated with vendor lock-in. Decoupling the network software from proprietary hardware increases the cadence of system upgrades, reducing the time to market for new capabilities and optimizations.
The 10G Lab — configuration, initial approach and intended mission
In its current baseline environment, the 10G Lab environment is based on Red Hat OpenShift 4.8 hosting multiple Kubernetes clusters on bare-metal commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) x-86 based servers with both Intel and AMD CPUs, accompanied by Arista and Cisco switches.
Source: CableLabs: Driving 5G and HFC Convergence with Multi-Tenancy at the Edge May 5, 2022 https://www.cablelabs.com/blog/multi-tenancy-at-the-edge
At launch, CableLabs intended to deploy multiple 5G cores and vRAN systems alongside a cable HFC network. Initially, the network stacks deployed will be containerized systems co-located on shared infrastructure, but run independently of each other. As the convergence initiative matures and the specifications to support full convergence evolve, the lab will also embrace this progress to bring a fully converged core and access network to fruition.
Within the deployment of the first 5G core, accommodations were made for enhanced security, networking, resource allocation, performance, automation and management ease through the separation of vendor applications. The successive effort to co-locate more than one network stack onto this shared infrastructure produced insights for vendors to help enforce that their network stacks follow best practices, improving the security posture and manageability of their products. Achieving the goal of co-location of network stacks on shared infrastructure utilizing a common management interface and full support of convergence in the future will lead to many benefits, as described previously.
The deployment of the 10G Lab and these endeavors are intended to align with the following broadly defined initiatives and impactful goals:
Provide a foundation for convergence-related activities, including executing convergence use cases of interest to our members
Provide an environment for hosting the 5G challenge and other interoperability events
Leverage the POC demonstrations as part of CableLabs’ innovation initiatives
Ancillary goals include incorporation of learnings related to enhancing security functionality which helps deployed vendor applications avoid conflict with each other when running in a shared environment. Other areas of discovery might include optimizing network configurations, balancing resource allocations, enabling performance settings (particularly for user-plane operations for 5G) and easing the management of multiple applications on shared infrastructure.
Looking ahead, CableLabs plans to expand the capabilities of the 10G Lab with open source 5G cores and vRAN solutions, as well as a virtual converged cable access platform (vCCAP). When convergence is achieved — initially through co-locating the 5G and HFC network stacks into a shared environment and establishing integration between 5G and cable wireline technologies through a common core to support both access network types — operators will further benefit from a singular, multi-modal communication platform that reduces network complexity, cuts operational costs, boosts quality and creates new business and service opportunities.
Concluding remarks and further information
The maintenance and management of separate wireline and wireless access networks with overlapping capabilities is not only inefficient and costly, it limits the types of services that operators — both those operating mobile networks today and those seeking to build new mobile capability — will be able to provide in the future. The desire of 5G network stack vendors to deploy their systems into shared infrastructure has been answered within the CableLabs 10G Lab, by illuminating the many technical considerations needing to be addressed, including security, automation and latency concerns.
We invite you to learn more about the CableLabs 10G Lab and multi-tenancy at the edge, including the opportunity to participate as a vendor, as well as take a deeper dive into their experience in working with multiple vendors, including Red Hat, in the recently published whitepaper, “Best Practices for Deploying 5G into a Shared Environment”.
Red Hat continues to offer choice, flexibility and an open approach for today’s needs and in anticipation of the future. Learn more about its telecom/media/entertainment (TME) solutions, OpenShift and Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform.
About the authors
Lisa Littlefield is a Principal Product Marketing Manager within the Telecommunications, Media and Entertainment vertical at Red Hat. With extensive product marketing experience in those areas, among others in the technology sector, she focuses on edge solutions and customer innovation, monetizing new use cases through industry transformation.
Rob Wilmoth is a Chief Architect on the Red Hat Americas Service Provider team. He works closely with customers and partners assisting with challenges ranging from regulatory compliance and general IT, to changing their perspectives and approaches towards business problems in the network and content delivery spaces. He has excelled in solution architecture roles supporting a range of industry participants including AT&T, WarnerMedia, Charter Communications, Comcast, TIAA Bank and the utility industry.