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HPE and Intel Bring 5G Capabilities to Today’s Network


By: Victoria Araujo, Communications, Media, and Entertainment at Hewlett Packard Enterprise


HPE_Intel_Blog_Image_400x267.jpg5G promises to bring major changes to communications service provider (CSP) architectures, but one of the biggest will be a flattening out of the telco network through multi-access edge computing (MEC). MEC empowers operators to deploy network functions wherever they can serve subscribers best and steer traffic dynamically toward the optimally placed service function. It’s a big change from today’s hierarchical networks, where functions are positioned along the traffic path and most traffic is backhauled to a central location. And it will have major implications for CSPs and their customers.


With the ability to deploy full cloud computing environments at the edge, a wide range of new applications become possible: ultra-low latency communications, autonomous driving, augmented reality, and many others. Operators will be able to position content caching and performance optimization functions close to subscribers to deliver better experiences. And when they use open architectures, they’ll be able to open up their network capabilities to authorized third parties and create entirely new kinds of partnerships and business models.


It’s all very exciting, but the question we often hear is “how much of it is actually possible today?” As HPE and Intel have been demonstrating together at events around the globe -  including Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Big Communications in Austin, 5G LatAm in Rio de Janeiro, and 5G MENA in Dubai -  a lot more than you may realize. In fact, you don’t have to wait for 5G to start taking advantage of advanced edge compute capabilities. Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and our partner Intel, with the help of Telecom Italia (TIM) and other partners, are showing how CSPs can use MEC right now to transform their services and pave the way for 5G.


Inside the Demo

For the proof-of-concept, HPE, Intel, and TIM implemented the Radio Aware Video Optimization in a Fully Virtualized Network (RAVEN) architecture from the ETSI MEC PoC framework. The demo highlights the key components of MEC and virtual RAN, including a fully functional mobile edge cloud platform with mobile edge applications. It shows how TIM can use information from the radio network to monitor the video experience for individual subscribers and modify performance in real time. And it demonstrates how operators can use network slicing to increase service agility and flexibility.



Here, a video application is running both in the data center and at the network edge. The network data plane is distributed out to the edge, so video content can be delivered to subscribers via a local cloud, greatly reducing latency compared to backhauling to the core network. Meanwhile, the system is continuously monitoring the radio network conditions for each user and adjusting the video to optimize quality. It’s also comparing video streams being served locally versus those being served from the EPC in the data center.


The PoC also highlights a powerful use case for network slicing. With the ability to monitor the health of each user’s connection in real time, CSPs have a framework to build new service-level agreements (SLAs) for their customers. In this example, premium subscribers eligible for the low-latency network slice can be served from the local cloud and assured the best quality, while subscribers without an SLA use best-effort connectivity to the core network. You can see more details in this video below.


Under the Hood

The technology making all of this possible is almost as exciting as the new MEC use cases themselves. The core network EPC and video applications run on HPE ProLiant DL380 servers, while the MEC cloud platform is deployed on the HPE Edgeline 4000 Converged Edge System. The Edgeline 4000 brings a new level of edge compute density to make MEC use cases like these a reality, packing four high-density server compute nodes into a single 1U chassis. In the PoC, just two of those nodes are being used for the video application—leaving two others in this form factor available to support other edge workloads and use cases.


Both platforms use state-of-the-art Intel Xeon processors, making it possible to satisfy a wide range of cost/performance needs while using the same software throughout the network. CSPs can easily distribute network functions, applications, and services to any location to meet specific operational or business needs, without having to offload traffic to dedicated hardware. Deploying, changing, and upgrading services becomes simply a software consideration.


The PoC also highlights Intel’s Network Edge Virtualization Software Development Kit (NEV SDK). This MEC reference package contains several key components of a mobile edge platform, including data plane handling, application enablement APIs, support for traffic handling for mobile edge applications, and more. Since all of these functions are running on Intel open x86 hardware architectures, CSPs can expose the platform to third-party applications and services—enabling all sorts of new edge applications and subscriber experiences.


A Foundation for the 5G Future

The PoC is certainly groundbreaking, but it’s also just a preview of what CSP networks will look like in a 5G world. This kind of open, high-density edge cloud capability will become the keystone of the new CSP network. Operators will be able to easily add edge compute (practically anywhere, over any last-mile access network) to accommodate exponentially growing devices and applications. At the same time, new MEC cloud platforms will provide an ideal sandbox for exploring innovative new applications from both CSPs and their partners. 


The future of 5G is bright. But HPE and Intel are making MEC capabilities a reality right now in today’s CSP networks. To learn more, watch our webinar 5G-Ready Telco Edge.



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