The Communications Services Provider (CSP) industry is at a very exciting time as we transition towards a 5G world. 5G has the potential to be a greater step forward than any of the previous generations of mobile wireless generations. A major focus of 5G are use cases of business and IoT. Indeed, while not forgetting the individual joys for a subscriber to have a gigabit of bandwidth at their fingertips, the majority of the evolutionary drivers to 5G are business oriented. To that end, the industry has wisely realized that 5G is much more than just a new radio. 5G is about the digital transformation. It is worth noting a GSMA report from 2015 pointed out that approximately 85% of services associated with 5G depend on the network being 5G ready and with that can be delivered over existing radio access technologies like Wi-Fi and LTE. So clearly, 5G is more about the network than the radio. A key part of that 5G ready network enabling these 85% 5G services is in the mobile core platform. Not just the evolved packet core, but also policy, automation, and the ability to support both people and things, via licensed and unlicensed access. Another important requirement is that the 5G ready mobile core is virtualized and supports a distributed architecture via control/user plane separation (CUPS). An IDC report from 2016 discusses the significant efficiency gains and cost savings that are attributed when deploying a distributed virtualized architecture over purpose-built or simple NFV for the mobile core.
Well that was then and this is now, and technology marches forward. While the distributed virtualized core is highly beneficial, 5G requires even more advanced NFV and automation functionality. Cloud native capabilities and microservices along with advanced automation provide even greater benefits. Microservices coupled with advanced automation can deliver even greater OPEX efficiencies through the virtualization of network functions to a common NFV cloud architecture. These microservices are containerized and run in a highly efficient manner. Updates can happen as needed and do not impact services or other functions, and scaling can be far more granular. Microservices are new, but not brand new, and a fair amount has been said about it.
Cisco’s Ian Campbell, Distinguished Engineer and CTO of the Mobile Core Business Unit has just written a white paper titled “Evolving the Mobile Core to Cloud Native”, which provides an excellent explanation of the functions and benefits of microservices and automation along with a look at some of the work Cisco is doing in this area.
Cisco actually leads the way with 5G ready networking with the introduction of the Ultra Services Platform (USP) at MWC 2016. This was the first and most complete commercial ready virtualized mobile core platform. More than just a NFV packet core, the USP supports CUPS and enables a distributed architecture which enables edge compute functionality. While other companies have worked to catch up, Cisco has continued to lead with commercial deployments of USP in over 35 commercial CSP around the world and with many more being readied for commercial implementation as I write this blog. Additionally, Cisco continues advancing the development of microservices with advanced automation. Not just for point products here and there but undertaking this as a full cloud native solution (a platform) with the view to provide complete services as needed in a 5G environment. So while others are talking about what they will do, Cisco is in commercial deployments with full service 5G ready solutions.
The cloud native Ultra Services Platform was demonstrated live at the TechXLR8 – 5G World in London June 13-15, 2017 in the Excel Exhibition Center. Our cloud native Ultra Services Platform delivers on one of 5G’s most challenging requirements – sub 1ms round trip latency of services. This capability was introduced via live demonstrations at this year’s MWC in Barcelona. Cisco’s truly unique ability is to deliver this sub 1ms over existing radio access technology (LTE, WiFi) which some thought was not even possible.