Houston, we have 5G: Are the Open Platforms and Software Ready?

Darrin Vallis, Senior Director Field Applications

The path to 5G is going to require big changes in the types of hardware, software and open systems that are available to create the kind of infrastructure needed to make 5G a reality. Previously, we focused on the hardware side, highlighting how the higher performance levels of 5G requires a completely new hardware architecture. In this blog, I discuss the equally important need to get software and open source platforms ready for when 5G really starts taking off.

From a software perspective, open source 5G is a very different world than proprietary 4G. When a carrier chose an equipment vendor, it became a long-term commitment. That approach was tolerable for 4G networks, but given the new challenges of 5G and the drive for lower total cost of ownership (TCO), carriers have begun developing standardized, open-source solutions that leverage commercial-off-the-shelf COTS hardware. In response, four key open-source initiatives have emerged: the Akraino Edge Stack, the O-RAN Alliance, the Open Networking Automation Platform (ONAP), and the Open Computing Project (OCP).



The Akraino Edge Stack

Launched in 2018 and now part of the LF Edge Initiative, the Akraino Edge Stack focuses on developing open software stacks for the network edge. The emphasis is on modular design to enable the various components to be reused. Known as Akraino blueprints, the stacks serve various subsets of the edge cloud infrastructure, including enterprise edge, over-the-top edge, provider edge, and carrier edge. When installed on “bare-metal” servers, the blueprints convert the machines into application-specific appliances. Read more info at this link.

The O-RAN Alliance

Championed by Nokia and AT&T, the O-RAN Alliance is dedicated to the realization of an open, intelligent RAN. The alliance is developing open virtualized network elements such as an open DU and open CU. As with Akraino, the focus is on building modular reference designs that are both reusable and standardized. The approach not only speeds integration and deployment but also enables developers to skip writing code blocks for common functions and instead concentrate on innovating. Read more info at this link.

The Open Networking Automation Platform (ONAP)

The 5G network is expected to support a variety of applications with dramatically different requirements. A mobile device streaming video can tolerate higher latencies but may be highly mobile. Smart factories don’t move but demand the lowest possible latency. Automated vehicles present the dual challenges of ultrahigh reliability and ultralow latency. Other variables include bandwidth and cost. Effectively serving these diverse applications requires the ability to virtualize the network so that it can act as a collection of network slices, each of which can be dynamically reconfigured to provide the quality of service required by each application. Read more info at this link.

The Open Compute Project

Creating interoperability in the networking world is required to standardize form factors and interfaces. The Open Compute Project (OCP) was launched to establish hardware specifications to achieve this standardization. One of the specifications to come out of the OCP is the openEDGE chassis. Its shallow form factor, low power requirements, and processing density are optimized for telco and edge applications. Read more info at this link.

Connecting the Software with the Hardware
The 5G open-source movements outlined above are critical, but can only succeed if carriers have access to hardware capable of meeting the performance, form factor, and cost requirements to run the software. Ampere has completed the port of the Akraino blueprint and our eMAG OpenEdge sled chassis is now available.

Wiwynn EP120 processor sled, which contains Ampere Hawk motherboard.

Visit our Ampere® Altra™ and Ampere eMag® product pages to learn how Ampere’s portfolio of server class Arm v8 processors is architected for high performance, power efficiency and lowest TCO, making them ideal for 5G applications.

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