Written by Balaji Ethirajulu, LF Edge Chair of the Marketing Outreach Committee and Senior Director of Product Management at Ericsson
This blog originally ran on the Ericsson website – click here for more articles like this one.
As telecom industry is moving through the 5G transformation, I’ve been thinking about automation, network flexibility, Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), and faster time to market. For the last two or three years, we’ve witnessed a massive growth in open-source software, related to cloud native.
There are plenty of projects in the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) that have already graduated, while some are in the incubating stage and others have entered a sandbox status. Many of them are addressing the various needs of telecom networks and other vertical segments. One of the key areas for the telecom industry is Network Functions Virtualization Infrastructure (NFVI).
New technologies come and go, and this has happened for decades. But what we’ve been witnessing for the past several years is something that we’ve not experienced before. The acceleration of new technology innovation is mind boggling. The pace at which new technologies are being introduced is rapidly increasing. We’re now able to create new business models by leveraging these new technologies. For example, 5G will enable services across all industries. To do this, we need highly optimized and efficient networks, more automation, CI/CD, edge computing, reliable networks with good security, network and service agility, and faster time to market.
Addressing those challenges
Ericsson has been investing in R&D to leverage these technologies including open source to address the challenges outlined above. One of these key areas is cloud native applications and the infrastructure to support it. Together with open-source technologies they provide the key characteristics to address many of these challenges.
For the last several years, many enterprises and communication service providers (CSPs) have been moving their workloads to a virtualized infrastructure. They have realized some benefits of virtualization. But cloud native brings more benefits in terms of reduced TCO, more automation, faster time to market and so on.
In addition, enterprise needs are different from telecom needs. As many cloud-native technologies are maturing, they need to address the telecom network requirements such as security, high availability, reliability, and real-time needs. Ericsson is leveraging many cloud native open-source technologies and hardening them to meet the rigorous needs of telecom applications and infrastructure.
Our cloud native journey and open source
Over the past few years, Ericsson has been investing in cloud native technologies to transform our portfolio and meet the demands of 5G and digital transformation. Many of our solutions, including 5G applications, orchestration, and cloud infrastructure are based on cloud native technologies and they use a significant amount of CNCF open-source software. In addition, Ericsson has its own Kubernetes distribution called ‘Ericsson Cloud Container Distribution’, certified by CNCF. Ericsson’s cloud native based ‘dual-mode 5G Cloud Core’ utilizes several CNCF technologies and adopts them to a CSP’s needs. Several major global operators have embraced cloud native 5G solutions.
Ericsson supports and promotes many Linux foundation projects including LFN, LF Edge and CNCF. As a member of the CNCF community, we are actively drive Telecom User group (TUG), which is an important initiative focusing on CSP needs.
Our NFVI already includes OpenStack and other virtualization technologies. As we step further into 5G transformation, Ericsson NFVI, based on Kubernetes, will support various network configurations such as bare metal (K8s, Container as a service or CaaS) – and CaaS +VMs, including Management and Orchestration (MANO).
Some CSPs have migrated their workloads from Physical Network Function (PNF) to Virtual network Function (VNF). The percentage of migration varies among CSPs and region to region. Some are migrating from PNF to CNF (Cloud Native Network Function). So, a typical network may include PNF, VNF and CNF. It’s because of this that NFVI needs to support various configurations, and both virtual machines and containers.