There’s a lot to consider in 5G service roll-out, but there are a few key areas that are often overlooked. Lumina Networks feels a responsibility to the community to illuminate the truth behind 5G transformation, to highlight these overlooked “secrets” which can make-or-break your 5G strategy. The factors you’ll read about in this blog series have a drastic impact on a service providers digital transformation – they are the software-defined networking components that play a critical role in making 5G services possible and accelerating deployments.
As an industry, we’ve all agreed long ago the agility needed to run 5G services will come from a more software-based network. While virtualized components and functions are powerful tools in enable flexibility, we need to deploy 5G in brownfields, not green.
It’s with this in mind that the first factor which requires more consideration is the role legacy, purpose-built infrastructure needs to play in performing the functions necessary for 5G services. We call this use case SDN Adaption. Adaption involves providing a common control plane for different types of networks. In network services prior to 5G it would be acceptable to provision and configure each part of the network separately, taking days or even weeks. You can understand why this area is often overlooked in the market conversation as large vendors with a lot at stake, and substantial marketing budgets, prefer to keep it that way.
By necessity, 5G networks will be “intent-based” networks where the end-to-end service will be defined in a high-level language such as TOSCA (Topology and Orchestration Specification for Cloud Applications). The instantiation or configuration of the network functions beneath that, whether virtual or physical, will be automated. Closed-loop operational monitoring will help assure that the service meets the pre-defined SLA.
The common control plane needed to configure and monitor the network elements works in two different ways.
Container orchestration for virtualized applications
The services behind 5G will be “cloud-ready”, that is they will be container-based and leverage microservices. They will also need to be orchestrated (see our blog on what it means to be cloud ready). OpenDaylight’s Container Orchestration Engine (COE) project is a vital tool in orchestrating the network components for container-based applications. The COE project, led by Lumina’s own Prem Sankar Gopannan is designed to provide L2 and L3 networking between containers or between containers and virtual machines for Kubernetes-managed environments. COE includes interfaces to KVM and Containers and OpenStack (via Kuryr). A northbound CNI is available for bare-metal based containers. This is important for micro-datacenters where compute resources are scarce. As such, COE can support a variety of use cases where cloud-based networking is required such as in 5G services networks.
Tying Existing Routers to 5G Services
While COE takes care of the future, what about the past? That is, what about equipment that is already installed or VNFs that are based on legacy network OS’s? There’s good news on this front as OpenDaylight and now COE specifically will support the NETCONF control interface that is common on today’s hardware and software routers. NETCONF is a stateful control interface that was designed to allow an external controller to manage the configuration of routers. NETCONF is optimized for routers that publish YANG information models and is a commonly supported interface for Cisco, Juniper and other types of switches common in 5G front haul and backhaul networks.
Putting the above two capabilities together, it is possible to orchestrate both the virtual and physical network elements to create the network slices and intent-based services necessary for 5G. OpenDaylight is a particularly well-suited controller to implement for 5G networks because it has both COE and NETCONF support, as well as a variety of other common control interfaces. This type of multi-cloud and multi-protocol support is absolutely essential for being able to leverage the existing network for 5G services.
Realizing this type of virtualized network architecture is the future, our major tier-1 CSP partners are already aligning to the new network architecture. In fact, AT&T has already been working on this for several years.
In my next blog, we will delve into a common 5G use case that depends upon this type of converged network architecture.