Open and Virtualized Access Was Trending at BBWF2019

by Eugene Zetserov

Broadband World Forum has traditionally been an event for fixed networks, but in recent years it has addressed the needs of fixed, mobile, and cable networks, covering a variety of topics, including 5G, virtualization, open source, NG PON, DOCSIS, and edge computing. BBWF2019, earlier this month in Amsterdam, was all about providing reliable connectivity and delivering new high-speed services in broadband access networks that leverage a variety of technologies, virtualization, and open source principles.

5G and new services that require ultra-low latency are totally changing the required network infrastructure, demanding gigabit connectivity and 100% coverage, which are not so simple to achieve. The paradigm of the Network Edge has been conceptualized as a solution for implementing IoT and handling the special requirements of high-resolution video content and low-latency applications, such as interactive gaming, autonomous cars, and AR/VR. But the Edge differs from the core in its physical infrastructure, its ownership, and in the necessary tasks to fulfill its connectivity and service requirements. At the same time, the Edge must be a natural extension of the core network, a so-called vector from the perspective of management and operations. It needs to run applications migrated from the core and provide the relevant resources despite restricted capabilities. This means it must be high throughput on the one hand and low latency and low power on the other.

To this end, Broadband Forum and Open Networking Foundation announced at the start of the 2019 event in Amsterdam a new agreement to pair some of their projects that provide abstraction of broadband access, namely Open Broadband-Broadband Access Abstraction (OB-BAA), SDN Enabled Broadband Access (SEBA), and Virtual OLT Hardware Abstraction (VOLTHA), helping operators who are looking to interconnect different parts of their network with open source solutions and systems from various suppliers.

A primary example was showcased by ONF at BBWF2019. ONF presented its SEBA platform for vBNG, which supports a multitude of virtualized access technologies at the edge of the carrier network. SEBA integrates software components and common APIs for handling interoperability, together with acceleration products, including SDN switches and SmartNICs that support separation of the control and user planes (CUPS). The SmartNICs provide the necessary acceleration at the Edge, where compute and power resources are especially limited, but high performance and low latency are still required.

ONF, of course, was founded under the premise that telecom operators want to avoid any vendor lock-in, not only of system vendors, but also chipmakers. The market has evolved to demand open solutions not only for software, but also for acceleration, and the FPGA is the top option for providing a solution. There are numerous FPGA flavors, ranging from low-throughput models up to versions that offer hundreds of gigabits of throughput with integrated ARM and DDR for a simplified, optimized data processing experience. FPGAs are programmable, even once field-deployed, meaning they are future-proof, and they are becoming much more accessible with newly available tools to enable the community to contribute to further FPGA development. This is exactly where Ethernity Networks enters the picture by offering FPGA-based acceleration solutions to the portfolio of the Network Edge.

ONF is now planning to show a 5G User Plane Functionality (UPF) SEBA platform at Mobile World Congress in February. This should be of particular interest to operators and system integrators.

Ethernity is ready with its 5G UPF Acceleration solution, which leverages our patented ENET Flow Processor technology along with standard DPDK APIs to offload the data plane to an FPGA-based SmartNIC. Our ACE-NIC100  integrates easily with third-party UPF software networking elements from any vendor to offload user plane data, thereby releasing server CPU cores, enhancing scalability, assuring deterministic performance, improving latency, and providing future-ready programmability. This accelerates the entire 5G network with the lowest possible TCO.