A10 Networks Partners with Lenovo to Accelerate Service Provider Transition to 5G Networks

5G is the latest emerging standard in cellular mobile communications and it will eventually replace 4G LTE, 3G UMTS and 2G GSM systems. 5G networks can achieve much higher data rates up to 10 Gbps with lower network latency that is 100 times faster than 4G LTE cellular technology, and faster than the current cable internet speeds. The high-speed data and low-latency benefits could open up 5G cellular usage to compete directly with wired, wireless internet access, and serve new applications like IoT, mission-critical applications like health care, connected cars, etc.

With the rise of mobile and IoT devices, communication service providers (CSPs) worldwide are planning the transition to 5G to improve service agility and potentially open new service revenue opportunities. Limited rollout of 5G services had already begun in the U.S. towards the end of 2018. In 2019, we expect some concentrated deployment of mobile 5G networks to start appearing in densely-populated locations with AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint. By 2020, we should have a comprehensive 5G mobile network in the U.S.

Communication service providers or telecommunication companies have already invested billions of dollars into their current 4G and 3G mobile networks. The evolution to the 5G mobile network won’t be a full displacement of the existing 4G and 3G networks. These will continue to co-exist for a long period of time. 5G use cases and edge computing will drive a need to make the network functions virtualization (NFV) architecture massively scalable. Because of this scalability, CSPs are looking at NFV combined with software defined networking (SDN), which will offer huge enhancements in the journey to enable 5G for customers.

CSPs monitor and review technology for advancements that will help deliver faster, less expensive networks to their customers. CSPs can realize significant savings in fixed costs by moving away from hardware appliances into NFV and software. In addition, they will be able to roll out services to customers much faster, and realize revenue much quicker. By embracing NFV and SDN technologies, CSPs can build a network that is highly flexible, programmable, and based on open standards and open source technologies. With this approach, CSPs can automate service provisioning, orchestration, lifecycle management and speed up service delivery.

OpenStack continues to gain significant traction because of the growing adoption by cloud providers, and the flexibility it offers as an open-source product. OpenStack is the virtualization platform of choice when service providers deploy NFV. Plus, networking is undergoing a major change where purpose-built network appliances are increasingly being replaced by high-volume server platforms running virtual machines known as virtual network functions (VNFs). CSPs and large enterprises stand to benefit from these trends by adopting NFV and migrating network services from physical to virtual.

NFV as defined is the operation framework for orchestrating and automating VNF software appliances on virtualized infrastructure on top of COTS hardware and managing VNF appliances through their end-to-end lifecycle. NFV relies on software defined networking principles that separate networking operations into user plane, control plane and management-and-orchestration (MANO) planes.

While the NFV architecture decouples hardware from software, thereby providing flexibility, it also increases the need for interoperability to ensure functionality and performance. One of the key network acceleration techniques in NFV is implemented by leveraging the Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK). DPDK is a set of data plane libraries and drivers to enable fast packet processing. It runs in the user space and allows workloads to access traffic data directly from the network interface card (NIC) without the need for packets to traverse the Linux kernel and IP stack.

One of the major challenges CSPs and telco operators have in today’s world of NFV and virtual network functions, is that of integration: how do they pull together a complex software solution, across multiple layers of hardware and software, including OpenStack, virtual network functions from different vendors, orchestration, service catalog portal and associated OSS integration. What about performance, security, and scalability of the network services and the system as a unit?

A10 Networks is partnering with key technology providers and has developed a comprehensive roadmap to address 5G challenges. Lenovo and Red Hat are collaborating with various VNF vendors to promote best practices and validate a reference architecture for deploying private-cloud infrastructures leveraging the Red Hat OpenStack Platform. This reference architecture will help CSPs and Telco operators to accelerate NFV deployments by providing them with a design blueprint that will include performance benchmark data from multiple VNFs running on top of Red Hat OpenStack powered by Lenovo NFVI. A10 Networks is part of this Telco Reference Architecture 2.0 design with Lenovo and Red Hat that includes VNF testing, validation and performance benchmarking for ADC, CGN and CFW services in the OpenStack design.

The Lenovo NFVI platform follows the ETSI NFV architectural framework and provides an ideal infrastructure solution for NFV deployments. The Lenovo servers provide the full range of form factors, features and functions that are necessary to meet the needs of small operators all the way up to large service providers. By running A10 Networks VNFs in the Lenovo NFVI platform and validating our network services and benchmarking the performance, we provide telco operators the information they need to make decisions and roll out these services quickly in their 5G networks.

Figure 1 shows the Lenovo NFVI solution with A10 VNFs running on top of it along with other components that make up the entire NFV stack.


Figure 1. Lenovo NFV Platform with A10 VNFs running on it.

The NFVI layer is based on several hardware components provided by Lenovo. Lenovo NFV Compute Node can provide advanced IO performance for VNF applications by enabling accelerated software IO technologies such as OVS-DPDK, SR-IOV, CPU and NUMA pinning combined with Lenovo supported hardware NICs such as the Intel VVX710. The Lenovo NFVI solution can be configured and tuned to take advantage of high-performance network capabilities provided by its individual software and hardware components. This results in optimal value and performance for demanding VNF workloads. Lenovo NFVI solution includes key technologies such as SR-IOV, OVS-DPDK, NUMA Awareness, CPU Pinning and Huge Pages to provide accelerated high data path performance. A10 virtual network functions (VNFs) have in-built support for these key technologies including PCI pass-through, SR-IOV, DPDK and OVS, and paravirtualization frameworks (e.g., virt-IO) to reduce virtualization overhead and accelerate performance.

A10 Networks’ solutions address existing and emerging mobile network architecture requirements for consolidated services, greater scale, and lower-latency communications across the Gi-LAN, virtualized EPC, and Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) environments. A10 Networks also provides full-spectrum security and visibility for the control- and user-plane operations.

We are seeing 5G rollouts taking place now, and the momentum is picking up. A10 Networks VNFs are already in 5G trials at several mobile carriers around the world, including pilot deployments in APAC and Japan.