The 5G Pursuit

The promising future of 5G has driven countries in the world into a technological competition, as major CSP (communication service providers) conglomerates worldwide are competing to get ahead in the 5G deployments. Thanks to the global sports events in recent years, for instance, the World Cup 2018, the public had the opportunity to experience and witness the 5G demonstrations and it appears that the success of such technology lies in the edge, rather than the cloud.

In order to minimize the latency and optimize the bandwidth, the realization of 5G lies in the edge, where the enormous amount of data is generated every minute, due to the proximity of user devices. Thus, service providers have turned their attentions to transforming site stations, for example, mini stations, RAN (radio access network) stations, and other antenna sites, into edge servers to offer compute, networking, analytics and storage near the end users. In addition, to achieve the performance defined by 5G, CSPs attempt to have as many mini stations as possible so that performance and bandwidth can be optimized for their users.

SD-WAN as Complements

Despite the promising future, CSPs are currently dealing with some technological challenges before making 5G available to the public. Like all the other prominent technologies in the past, service providers have to assure the balance of cost-effectiveness, profitability and serviceability. In other words, 5G is not only a technological race, but also a business initiative. Thus, we have witnessed CSPs forming partnerships with SD-WAN vendors to establish a new layer of network management. In other words, it is the first time 5G and SD-WAN will complement each other.

First, SD-WAN shortens the transition from legacy WAN architecture to a software-defined version for 5G signal stations. Many of the long-established CSPs and telcos have accumulated significant number of existing legacy hardware in their data centers, which have become a huge sunk cost for them. Additional procurement of dedicated hardware equipments will limit their market responsiveness in the upcoming 5G era. Thus, SD-WAN allows CSPs to build a virtualized, software-defined cloud-like layer over existing hardware WAN infrastructure. New services and applications can be added without purchasing additional hardware equipments and complicated configurations.

Secondly, SD-WAN ensures continually optimized performance of 5G network. The software-driven nature of SD-WAN virtualizes the networking hardware in an end-to-end architecture, offering cloud-to-edge visibility, automated policy synchronization, and zero-touch provisioning. Performance is thus optimized because the software-controlled visibility allows useful allocation of networking resources for particular services or applications. In short, SD-WAN practically capitalizes existing hardware infrastructure.

Lastly, and perhaps the most important, is the use of white-box, commoditized networking servers in open architecture. In a software-defined WAN architecture, IT management may implement third-party VNF (virtualized network functions) and virtual machines to add and deploy new services and applications. A white box server can save huge costs without vendor-specific hardware/software configurations and maintenance.

Recommended Solutions

The deployments of SD-WAN can save CSPs huge costs from the procurement of dedicated or proprietary hardware equipments. In a software-defined architecture, CSPs can leverage commercialized white-box hardware built in Intel® x86 open architecture. For instance, Lanner Electronics Inc. has a wide range of vCPE/uCPE platforms pre-validated with global VNF makers. There are rackmount servers for data center environment or desktop form factors for edge setting, all empowered by Intel® x86 multi-core CPU for running multiple VNFs, hardware acceleration like DPDK, Intel QuickAssist, SR-IOV and AES-NI. The vCPE/uCPE hardware can be ordered with various LAN port configurations of RJ-45, SFP and SFP+ ports, as well as wireless connectivity with Wi-Fi/4G/LTE.