The stream of announcements and press releases highlighting successful PoCs and trials by vendors and operators alike never
ceases and picks up even more intensity around industry events like MWC17. Does that mean 5G technology is ready for deployment? Well, not yet, but recent announcements from 3GPP do provide some credibility to the progress being made as well a timeline for deployments.
3GGP released an accelerated 5G specification schedule targeting completion of Release 15 with Phase 1 5G requirements by mid-2018. It also approved a new 5G logo to be used on industry material related to 5G as well as 3GPP 5G specifications from Release 15 onwards to officially separate 5G specifications from previous generations like LTE and LTE-Advanced. We have also used it in our blog here!
Key Architectural Tenets of a 5G Core Network
To meet the demanding requirements of 5G services, a New Radio (NR) and a Next Gen Core Network (NGCN) are eventually envisioned. It is very likely that NGCN specification will lag NR specification and there would be a duration wherein 5G NR would be expected to connect to the EPC either directly or assisted via LTE. This is evident from 5G introduction and migration proposals that have been submitted to the standards bodies by the likes of Deutsche Telekom and AT&T. Whether we call it an EPC or an NGCN, some key architectural tenets will be critical regardless to enable a smooth introduction and migration. This is emphasized in the ongoing architecture studies in the 3GPP standards.
Cloud Native Micro Services based architecture as opposed to a virtualized nodal architecture
Control and User Plane Separation
Dynamic and Independent Scalability of these services to enable optimized packet core deployments in different use cases
Service Enablement Agility
It should not then be a surprise that the traditional mobile packet core vendors like Cisco, Nokia and Huawei are announcing 2nd incarnations of their virtualized EPCs with exactly these characteristics, which were originally lacking in their first implementations.
Brocade VCM – 5G Core Network ready architecture
While our competitors are just starting, we have been at it for a while now. Brocade Virtual Core for Mobile (VCM) platform was built with these characteristics and more since its inception. Inspired by Amazon’s efficient handling of workload of performance intensive web services including video over general purpose hardware in scalable manner, VCM was conceived to do the same for mobile workload.
We have been successful in accomplishing just that and already have live deployments that enable some of the same disparate 5G use cases which are being highlighted by the recent 3GPP TR 38.913 report and more – Fixed Wireless Access, High Speed UEs (Airplanes in Air to Ground LTE network). Our platform has gone through intensive PoC and profiling exercises for performance, scale and resilience with global Tier-1 MNOs around the world (see Telefonica). In multi-vendor evaluations over the same reference test environment and hardware, VCM’s software efficiency benefits have regularly been demonstrated through superior performance for both control plane signaling and user plane performance and minimal virtualization overhead when compared to bare metal performance.
The feedback and learnings from these deployments and trials over the years has helped mature and enhance the platform further. We would like to believe that years of such refinements await recently announced solutions from our competitors.
Fingerprints of VCM in 5G NGCN reference architectures
The fingerprints of our architecture are even evident in the reference architectures being proposed in the ongoing studies for 5G specifications. Gone are the monolithic nodal functions combining all functionality to be replaced with more foundational network functions like the Mobility Management Function (MMF) and the User Plane Function (UPF). Brocade VCM decomposes in a similar fashion into Control Plane Call Handlers and Data Plane Processors.These network functions can scale linearly and independently
to support dedicated network slices
for use cases with very different traffic characteristics.
Brocade VCM is architecturally ready today for 5G Core Network!