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Reinventing Network Management for Open-Source 5G Networks

Telco_Editor

GettyImages-588095509.jpgWhat does an open-source-based 5G network look like? And what still has to happen across the industry to bring the worlds of open platforms and open-source developer communities together with real-world telco environments? At Mobile World Congress, HPE brought together stakeholders from all sides of the equation—telecommunications providers, open-source projects, and solution providers—to talk through these and other questions.

 

 

What Makes 5G Different?

Panelist Francisco Javier Ramon Salguero, head of virtualization, global CTO office, for Telefónica, noted some of the ways that 5G represents a different kind of change than mobile evolutions of the past. Increased capacity and density, and support for more devices are all there as in previous evolutions, he noted, but “5G adds other attributes that fundamentally change how you operate the network, which makes it more interesting. New extensions that allow for network slicing, cloud-native environments, and other use cases change the rules of the game for how you operate your network.”

HPE’s Bala Thekkedath, director of portfolio marketing, telecommunications, echoed this sentiment. “Operators are focusing on services much more than we’ve seen in the past,” he said. “The primary telco application was always just connectivity, delivering higher speeds. Now, we’re seeing much more interest in applications.”

According to Thekkedath, operators envision a mobile network environment that’s much more agile, with more distributed compute and storage, and programmable connectivity. Rather than spending months rolling out special projects dedicated to a single use case, they’ll have an environment that supports many smaller use cases simultaneously, where services can be combined and recombined in myriad ways.

Ultimately, service providers will be able to adopt a software- and cloud-centric model that lets them experiment with and refine their services much more quickly. All of this, however, will require much more automation—and there are still real barriers that the industry is working to overcome.     

 

Addressing Open-Source Challenges

In a world where operators are building their mobile networks with virtualized and cloud-native network components, they want to be able to use open-source frameworks (typically delivered and supported through a vendor) without needing extensive customization to meet carrier-grade network requirements.

“Different vendor solutions bring different approaches to scalability, latency, and other telco requirements that aren’t always upstreamed back to the open-source community,” noted Salguero. “One challenge that open-source communities have is that the bigger you are, the more difficult it is to keep focus and coordinate between features.”

If an open-source project enables 80% of a telco use case, explained Salguero, solution providers historically tried to address the remaining 20% themselves, which can hinder interoperability. Ideally, operators would like to use more open solutions and architectures without sacrificing features that can work end-to-end, across multiple vendors, with minimal extra effort. Getting there will require operators to become more deeply involved in open-source communities—which many are now doing.

“Open-source is still relatively new in telecom environments,” said Ildiko Vancsa, ecosystem technical lead for OpenStack. “When onboarding VNFs today, many are really traditional telco applications that are virtualized but are not fully ready to leverage what the cloud can offer.” As the industry moves forward with 5G and open networks, Vansca hopes that operators will become more active in collaborating with and influencing open-source communities and ecosystems to make sure that emerging solutions can address their needs.

 

Looking Ahead

Exciting work is happening now among operators, vendors, and open-source initiatives to make the promise of open-source 5G networks a reality. As operators collaborate with open-source ecosystems, we can anticipate an open platform for mobile networks that is interoperable across the industry. Ultimately, operators will be able to pick and choose from components that already meet their basic needs for carrier-grade networks, and look to differentiate through the innovative services they deliver with them.

 

To learn more about the implications of open-source 5G networks, watch the full conversation at http://www.telecomtv.com/articles/mwc/the-new-open-source-based-5g-network-how-telcos-will-reinvent-network-management-14424/.

 

Learn more about HPE Solutions at www.hpe.com/dsp/transform

 

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