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In a marketplace that is becoming more and more crowded with both traditional and new competitors, it’s crucial that telecommunications service providers embrace disruption as a key component to capitalizing on the opportunities presented by 5G.
New competitors are particularly threatening as their value propositions can compete on service quality and reliability that have been bastions of the traditional service provider offering. A trusted and reliable reputation will remain an important differentiator, but being seen as innovative is an additional key trait added to the mix. The evolution of a provider’s 5G core network is strategic in terms of innovation and will provide greater flexibility and increased agility to better serve customers and drive revenue growth.
Cloud-native architecture and methodologies
Traditionally, telecommunication core networks are complex and inflexible, hindering initiatives to innovate and deliver new services faster. To address this, service providers have deployed network function virtualization (NFV) technology with general-purpose cloud-based infrastructure designed to speed up time-to-market, reduce costs and drive innovation.
The next step is to go fully cloud-native. The 5G core has been rearchitected to use a service-based architecture with representational state transfer (REST)-ful application programming interfaces (APIs) and hypertext transport protocol (HTTP/2). This new architecture facilitates more efficient network function interactions and independent scaling and upgradeability, as network functions are independent from one another. This was not possible with previous-generation core network functions due to overlapping responsibilities and a more rigid point-to-point architecture.
This new architecture now supports cloud-native methodologies and foundational components. By leaning into cloud-native strategies, service providers can embrace continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) models to speed up and enforce the behavior changes necessary to deliver 5G services and applications at the speed of business.
The 5G core’s cloud-native characteristics will help to meet increased demand from changing customer expectations, better serve a massive increase of connected devices and help to deliver very high bandwidth services and applications. The cloud-native design of modern cores also is capable of driving greater efficiency on the underlying compute resources.
Container-based technology that uses a microservices architecture allows the 5G core to automatically scale and self-heal. Blue-green and canary deployment strategies provide new pathways to better mitigate the risk inherent in updates and upgrades of the 5G core.
A cloud-native 5G core makes it possible to manage how and where its functions run within different cloud environments, as the software is decomposed into microservices that can exist in multiple container instances. This allows for disaggregation across a service provider’s network.
Automated deployment and operations are also fundamental for the 5G core. The ability to automatically deploy, manage and maintain 5G core network functions helps to bring new services to market faster while reducing operational expenditure. Service providers need to apply automation holistically to increase its impact, with the added benefit of collaborative automation across organizational boundaries and network domains helping to improve overall efficiency, optimize costs and reduce risk.
Open source software and the wider ecosystem
Adoption of open source software is becoming more prominent in 5G deployments. The State of Enterprise Open Source: A Red Hat report indicates that many service providers are moving to open source software for the following reasons:
To have access to the latest innovations.
To explore a more diverse ecosystem.
To build greater interoperability between different equipment and software vendors, so as to remove dependencies on traditional solution providers and to lower their total cost of ownership (TCO).
Open source offers increased transparency and neutrality, key traits that service providers acknowledge are needed to build and maintain crucial relationships with hundreds of open source software communities. This diverse universe is aligned to be instrumental in taking advantage of hybrid cloud infrastructures.
A partner-based approach to network transformation enables increased choice of technologies and services, as well as complete and interoperable solutions based on certified, proven components. Multivendor 5G solutions help to answer demand for rapid, flexible service development and delivery.
Moving from pipe to platform
The delivery of a differentiated customer experience is poised to provide increased revenues for providers. An application platform that uses the latest technology, including a real-time operating system, hardware acceleration and the necessary tools, will be key in delivering value and supporting any workload on any footprint in any location. A more consistent service provider experience across different infrastructures is also important, with uniform tools and processes for improved usability and the ability to deliver at speed and at scale.
How Red Hat can help
An application platform that spans the service provider’s network from core to edge can offer a reliable foundation for a variety of network functions. Red Hat OpenShift gives service providers the necessary deployment options to scale their 5G core footprint aligned to varying cost and environment requirements. It also offers them the agility and efficiency needed to more quickly introduce new services and forms of revenue while remaining adaptable to changing dynamics.
Service providers adopting a cloud-native approach can benefit from increased configurability, scalability, reliability and portability. Red Hat OpenShift helps service providers fully use the benefits of cloud economics by delivering new 5G services faster, and helps optimize their operational model through simplified workflows that reduce TCO.
Red Hat’s extensive partner ecosystem opens up freedom of choice for service providers incorporating their chosen 5G software functions and hardware from different vendors to fit their needs.
About the author
Rob McManus is a Principal Product Marketing Manager at Red Hat. McManus is an adept member of complex matrix-style teams tasked to define and position telecommunication service provider and partner solutions with a focus on network transformation that includes 5G, vRAN and the evolution to cloud-native network functions (CNFs).