As customers’ service and experience expectations continue to increase, technology must advance to meet or exceed them. In many cases, application speed and responsiveness play a critical role in providing innovative experiences. Latency, the enemy of speed, can be greatly reduced by moving the applications out of the data center and as close to the device or customer as possible—this is the edge.
To deliver an enhanced experience, traditional service provider networks are becoming more distributed, spanning across locations from traditional centralized data centers to distributed locations out at the network edge. Providers are also exploring expansion into hybrid and multicloud environments to take advantage of new and faster ways to deliver 5G services.
In addition to an evolving architecture, service provider networks are moving from virtual network function (VNF) deployments—typically software, virtual machine (VM)-based versions of proprietary hardware-based approaches—to cloud-native network functions (CNFs) that utilize container-based architectures and microservices.
Applications such as 5G radio access network (RAN) functions, 4G and 5G core functions, operational support systems (OSS) and business support systems (BSS) are being refactored to take full advantage of these new technologies such as increased resource utilization, resiliency and portability between different cloud environments. However, service providers will need to maintain their VNF deployments alongside their CNFs as they evolve and modernize their networks.
Modernizing service provider networks
Network infrastructure plays a critical role in delivering innovative 5G services, with many service providers investing in network modernization. Modernization of the RAN and core network are key focus areas for service providers, with efforts being undertaken to address rapidly increasing traffic and to support new applications and business opportunities.
Industry standards are also a factor driving network modernization, allowing the disaggregation of the RAN and core into smaller components. These can be deployed as CNFs that run on a cloud platform, with the ability to utilize generic commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) servers instead of requiring proprietary hardware, giving service providers increased flexibility.
Simplifying service provider network transformation
Transforming service provider networks can help optimize operations, improve scalability and increase flexibility. These approaches not only represent an opportunity to innovate and reduce costs, but also represent a major exploration of modern architectures, new ways to deploy and operate a network, advanced processes, innovative methodologies and the need to maintain both existing and new networks.
Service providers need a clear perspective on how to effectively and efficiently evolve their networks, with reduced up-front costs to ensure the necessary flexibility, quality and sustainability to support the delivery of new 5G services and revenues.
Leveraging a reference architecture
Red Hat provides all the products and services necessary for a service provider to deploy a 5G core and RAN cloud platform in support of their 5G network transformation. Products, services and an enhanced support offering are aligned to a pre-integrated reference architecture that allows service providers to deploy a fully tested and interoperable solution for CNFs, VNFs, or both side-by-side. Additionally, Red Hat works closely with ecosystem partners to test and certify their network service workloads on this reference architecture.
The reference architecture above comprises a management and orchestration (MANO) sub-architecture that has the necessary tools for management and operations. These include Red Hat Advanced Cluster Management for Kubernetes for cluster management and control, Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform for the implementation of automation, Red Hat Identity Management (part of Red Hat Enterprise Linux) for centralized identity and access control, Red Hat AMQ for application integration, Red Hat Satellite for system management and operations, Red Hat Quay for the registry and content repository and the service telemetry framework for the collection of monitoring data. Red Hat OpenShift Data Foundation for software-defined storage can also be included.
The MANO sub-architecture is geo-redundant and provides interfaces for service assurance that can be used by a service provider’s OSS.
The reference architecture also consists of a virtualized infrastructure manager (VIM) and/or container infrastructure manager (CSIM) sub-architecture that hosts the telco CNF and VNF workloads including the RAN and core. The VIM sub-architecture utilizes OpenShift virtualization to host an OpenStack VM-based control plane. The OpenShift-based OpenStack platform director operator is used to install, configure and maintain the OpenStack deployment. OpenStack compute nodes are hosted as bare metal to ensure the necessary performance of telco VNF workloads and use Red Hat Satellite capsule servers for discovery, provisioning and configuration and interface to the service telemetry framework for metric, events and log collection and reporting.
Designing a service provider deployment blueprint
The reference architecture is used to create a specific service provider blueprint that includes the features, functions and services needed for the delivery of 5G services to their end customers. The blueprint feeds into a high level design and is used to create an initial environment to test and certify service provider selected CNFs and/or VNFs. Upon successful completion, Red Hat will conduct architectural, operational and site readiness assessments to prepare actual production designs for the management and workload locations of the service provider network. Once in production, the service provider will then choose different services that can include lifecycle management for continuous integration, operations and network optimization.
Building a robust cloud platform
A service provider’s telco cloud is built on an underlying platform which has to provide a consistent approach while delivering stringent technical requirements regardless of location.
Red Hat OpenShift empowers service providers in modernizing their network infrastructure and accelerates their ability to deliver 5G services faster. OpenShift is an enterprise-ready Kubernetes application platform with a choice of deployment options that give service providers complete flexibility to deploy in various locations and environments to build their distributed 5G networks.
OpenShift can be deployed in different footprints including a three node, single node and remote worker node to meet demanding requirements in space and power-constrained environments. Regardless of which deployment option is chosen, the same consistent experience is maintained with the same set of tools.
Red Hat OpenStack Platform brings together open, community-powered innovation. It gives service providers the ability to build their network infrastructure for the delivery of new and differentiated 5G applications and services on a flexible, scalable and proven platform.
How Red Hat can help
Cloud platforms are critical as service providers transform their network architectures. In addition to helping service providers adopt the correct technology, Red Hat offers a holistic approach to network transformation and addresses the challenges service providers will face on their journey. By utilizing a proven reference architecture with Red Hat products and solutions, service providers will have a higher performance and more robust solution for their telco workloads.
About the authors
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).