Sunday, June 25, 2023

Blueprint: You Can’t Find Flaws in 5G Apps if You Don’t Know What to Look For

 By Glenn Chagnot, Sr. Director of Product Management – Cloud, Spirent Communications

Imagine you oversee a Communication Service Provider (CSP) organization transitioning to a cloud-native 5G architecture. You’ve put in extensive work building up skills to deploy and manage Cloud-Native Network Functions (CNFs), and you’re excited for the new agility and scalability of your telco cloud. But there’s a problem: the performance of one of your 5G production applications keeps degrading, and no one can understand why. You’re at risk of violating enterprise service-level agreements (SLAs), and your new service has barely gotten off the ground. 

You call a frantic all-hands meeting, and after hours of investigation, you finally pinpoint the issue: a new CNF isn’t getting the network performance it needs from the cloud. How did this happen? The Workload team points to the Cloud engineers. The Cloud team points back. Who is at fault —and more importantly, who’s responsible for making sure it doesn’t happen again? Unfortunately, you’ve just encountered one of the biggest blind spots causing headaches for CSPs around the globe. And the only one who can really fix this problem is you. 

In the dynamic cloud-native world we now live in, the performance of 5G applications depends directly on the performance of the underlying cloud. But if no one knows what each workload actually needs from that cloud, no one will be making sure they get it. That level of visibility wasn’t required before, so in many CSP organizations, these essential insights often fall through the cracks. But it doesn’t have to. You can take steps to shore up this oversight. When you do, you’ll find yourself with more stable, better-performing 5G services—and fewer sleepless nights. 

Navigating Complexity

To assure stable, performant 5G applications (such as firewall, 5G network functions, and so on), each CNF has specific requirements from the cloud infrastructure it runs on. If a workload doesn’t get what it needs in any of multiple dimensions (storage, memory, latency between CNFs or pods) its performance will degrade. Eventually, it will fail altogether. But exactly what a given workload needs—and who’s responsible for making sure it gets it—remains a gray area in most CSP organizations (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Who Fills the Gaps Between Cloud and CNF?

Cloud-native environments introduce enormous variability. A 5G workload might be deployed on multiple types of distributed Kubernetes pods, running on dozens of different physical or virtual hosts, across a variety of public and private clouds. A given CNF’s performance varies greatly depending on choices made at each of those layers, so there is no single answer for how the cloud should be configured. Even if there were, unexpected impairments will crop up in constantly changing cloud environments. If you don’t know a workload’s minimum requirements across all the different performance dimensions ahead of time, determining which one is impaired in production is like untangling a giant knot.

Compounding the problem, the nature of the data required—about the intersection of workload and cloud—falls precisely between the Application and Cloud team responsibilities that CSP organizations typically define. So, even if everyone agrees that this information is important, it’s not clear who’s responsible for providing it. 

There’s a clear solution to this challenge: thoroughly testing each 5G CNF, in the lab and preproduction, to characterize the performance it needs across every dimension of cloud. Once you have that data, you can then map it to specific cloud configurations, providing the critical context that’s been missing all this time. Now, Application teams can tell their Cloud colleagues exactly what they need for each workload. And Cloud teams know what to test for and monitor on an ongoing basis. 

Finding Answers

It sounds simple enough: You just need to test each CNF exhaustively in the lab (and then test again whenever something changes). Unfortunately, there’s no way to do that using current testing approaches. Even in the most sophisticated CSP labs, most testing infrastructure is still designed for traditional environments—not the dynamic, unpredictable conditions of real-world clouds. Indeed, this is one of the more common issues we see CSPs face. Legacy testing might show you how a 5G application performs in a cloud—an idealized, infinitely performant one. But it can’t predict how it will behave in your cloud, with its constant fluctuations and outright component failures. 

There are two approaches to address this problem, one short-term, one long:

Short-term: Work with an expert testing partner. The industry is developing new testing approaches for cloud-native 5G networks, but this effort is still very much in progress. It will be some time before productized solutions exist to simplify CNF-to-cloud testing. For now, the quickest, easiest way to resolve this disconnect is to work with one of the organizations currently inventing those tools and processes. 

Long-term: Start evolving teams and tooling for cloud-native testing. This problem isn’t getting easier; if anything, cloud environments will only get more complex and dynamic over time. There are no shortcuts, no vendor spec sheets coming that will make this go away. Eventually, you will need to build a CNF-to-cloud testing capability within your organization. Most likely, that will include expanding the charter of Application teams to collect this mapping data, and tasking Cloud teams with monitoring the production environment and regularly testing against those metrics. It will also require everyone to plan for closer collaboration in preproduction. You should be able to go CNF by CNF, identify those with issues, and make sure they’re addressed before promoting anything to production. 

The good news is that, once you know what to watch for, you can eliminate one of the biggest problems plaguing telco cloud organizations as they evolve to cloud-native architectures. Whether working with a partner or (eventually) testing yourself, you’ll be able to identify most issues that arise from CNF-to-cloud mismatches during testing and preproduction, when they’re far less expensive to fix. And when problems do arise in production, you’ll have meaningful baselines to measure against what you see in the environment, so you can quickly diagnose and correct them. Ultimately, you’ll find you can leave the fire drills and finger-pointing behind, and push ahead with new 5G services with confidence. 

Nokia boosts its AirScale baseband with latest ReefShark silicon

Nokia is boosting its AirScale baseband portfolio with greate performance, capacity, and improved energy efficiency thanks to the latest generation of its ReefShark System-on-Chip (SoC) silicon.

The rollout includes:

Introducing Levante and Lodos – Next-generation baseband capacity cards

  • Nokia introduces Levante, a 4G/5G capacity card that delivers ultra-performance. Levante doubles the number of supported Massive MIMO cells and yet reduces energy consumption by up to 60 percent. It also offers exponential scalability enabling up to three times larger site configurations. Nokia also adds Lodos to its baseband portfolio, a high-performance 4G/5G capacity card offering enhanced scalability and reduces energy consumption by up to 30 percent.

Introducing Ponente – Ultra-performance baseband control card

  • Nokia has also launched Ponente, a 2G-5G control card for ultra-performance with extreme energy efficiency. It supports increased traffic growth with up to 100 percent higher throughput capacity offering high-speed site connectivity. Ponente also reduces energy consumption by up to 80 percent and provides future-proof site evolution to 5G Standalone and 5G-Advanced, as well as efficiency in spectrum refarming. The cards integrate Trusted Platform Module (TPM) technology, which uses hardware-processed security keys that are more secure than software-processed keys.  

Introducing Pandion and Shikra – expansions to Nokia’s radio portfolio

  • Nokia further announced the expansion of its radio portfolio for O-RAN, Cloud RAN, and purpose-built scenarios with Pandion, Nokia’s latest generation of FDD remote radio heads, supporting up to three FDD bands in a single, optimized form factor. Nokia also announced Shikra, which complements Nokia’s comprehensive portfolio with leading-edge small cells for both outdoor and indoor scenarios.

Introducing MantaRay – Nokia’s new network management and optimization solutions portfolio

  • Nokia has also announced the launch of MantaRay, which brings the power of Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) to support intelligent, efficient, and cognitive RAN operations. The MantaRay portfolio includes MantaRay Network Management, Nokia’s future platform for Purpose-built RAN, Cloud RAN, and Core Network management, which can scale from a single server for small enterprises to large-scale implementations; MantaRay SON (Self-Organizing Networks) with advanced AI and cognitive capabilities to lead the transformation of mobile networks; and MantaRay RIC (Nokia’s O-RAN compliant near real-time RAN Intelligent Controller), which has the potential to become a key enabler for RAN programmability. Nokia also launches MantaRay Energy, which combines Nokia’s capabilities to optimize the energy consumption of radio access networks with AI and ML. 

Nokia’s AirScale baseband is O-RAN compliant and will be deployed with Nokia’s own, as well as third-party, radio products. It will also be operated in future hybrid networks with Cloud RAN. Levante, Lodos, and Ponente will be trialed later this year, with commercial shipments beginning in the first half of 2024.

Tommi Uitto, President of Mobile Networks at Nokia, said: “We are excited to introduce our enhanced portfolio of next-generation Radio Access Network solutions. Our new baseband delivers twice the performance with just half the energy, helping our customers meet their ESG targets. Enabling ultra-high capacity, our future-ready AirScale baseband portfolio helps manage exponential increases in traffic growth. With our MantaRay solutions portfolio, our customers can leverage the power of Artificial Intelligence in their mobile networks. All of these solutions are O-RAN ready, and Cloud RAN compatible, supporting the long-term network evolution to 5G-Advanced and beyond.”

Tech Update: Preprovisioning Private Cloud Infrastructure at Equinix

Hewlett Packard Enterprise will pre-provision GreenLake private cloud resources at Equinix data centers to help customers accelerate their hybrid cloud deployments.

In this video, Vishall Lall walks us through the strategic reasoning behind this move. 

Recorded at HPE Discover 2023 in Las Vegas.

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Tech Update: SRv6 for Telco Clouds

In order to build clouds in a telecoms environment, you need to be able to (1) set-up the lifecycle of network functions, and (2) interconnect the network functions together. 

In this video, Martin Halstead explains how SRv6 can be used as a common management plane for telco clouds.

Recorded at HPE Discover 2023 in Las Vegas. 

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Aviatrix names Doug Merritt as CEO

Aviatrix appointed Doug Merritt as CEO and President, replacing Steve Mullaney.

 Merritt was previously CEO and President of Splunk. Under Merritt’s leadership, Splunk grew revenues from the equivalent of $100 million in Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) to nearly $3 billion in 2022. 

“I’ve worked alongside Doug throughout much of his career and have watched him become one of the most successful and respected enterprise CEOs with an incredible reputation for driving growth by delivering customer value,” said Nick Sturiale, Aviatrix Board Member and Managing Partner at Ignition Partners.

“In my due diligence, it became evident that Aviatrix is leading the creation of a massive new category and that Fortune 500 companies already view Aviatrix as their trusted partner for secure cloud networking,” said Merritt. “I’m grateful to Steve for instituting a ‘customer for life’ mentality, backed by an incredible team, committed to driving innovation while putting customers first. I look forward to leading the next phase of what is emerging as an iconic enterprise infrastructure company.”

SpaceX completes 43rd launch of 2023

SpaceX launched 56 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

The booster used for this mission had flown 8 previous times: CRS-24, Eutelsat HOTBIRD 13F, OneWeb 1, SES-18 and SES-19, and three Starlink missions.

The mission marks SpaceX’s 43rd launch of the year. The company has completed 242 Falcon 9 missions to date.

Starlink currently has 1.5 million subscribers globally.

EE brings temporary masts to major summer events

EE is deploying temporary 5G masts at major summer events across the UK.

More than 5 million people are expected to attend a UK music festival this summer, with more than 350,000 fans at the Isle of Wight Festival, Download, Parklife, and Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Scotland.  


Throughout the summer, temporary mobile masts are being installed at more music festivals across the UK, including:

  • Latitude Festival (20th – 23rd July)
  • Tartan Heart Festival (27th – 29th July)
  • Camp Bestival (27th-30th July)
  • Kendal Calling (27th – 30th July)
  • Boomtown (9th -13th August)
  • Creamfields North (24th – 27th August)
  • Reading & Leeds Festival (25th – 27th August)

Temporary masts are being deployed alongside EE’s permanent high-speed 4G and 5G mobile networks at iconic British sporting venues, including Silverstone, Cheltenham Racecourse, and Wembley Stadium.

This year will also see additional temporary installations at Royal Ascot, Boardmasters Festival, Goodwood Festival of Speed, and Goodwood Revival.