Written by Oleg Berzin, Ph.D., a member of the Akraino Technical Steering Committee and Senior Director Technology Innovation at Equinix
5G will provide significantly higher throughput than existing 4G networks. Currently, 4G LTE is limited to around 150 Mbps. LTE Advanced increases the data rate to 300 Mbps and LTE Advanced Pro to 600Mbps-1 Gbps. The 5G downlink speeds can be up to 20 Gbps. 5G can use multiple spectrum options, including low band (sub 1 GHz), mid-band (1-6 GHz) and mmWave (28, 39 GHz). The mmWave spectrum has the largest available contiguous bandwidth capacity (~1000 MHz) and promises dramatic increases in user data rates. 5G enables advanced air interface formats and transmission scheduling procedures that decrease access latency in the Radio Access Network by a factor of 10 compared to 4G LTE.
The Slicing Must Go On
Among advanced properties of the 5G architecture, Network Slicing enables the use of 5G network and services for a wide variety of use cases on the same infrastructure. Network Slicing (NS) refers to the ability to provision a common physical system to provide resources necessary for delivering service functionality under specific performance (e.g. latency, throughput, capacity, reliability) and functional (e.g. security, applications/services) constraints.
Network Slicing is particularly relevant to the subject matter of the Public Cloud Edge Interface (PCEI) Blueprint. As shown in the figure below, there is a reasonable expectation that applications enabled by the 5G performance characteristics will need access to diverse resources. This includes conventional traffic flows, such as access from mobile devices to the core clouds (public and/or private) as well as the general access to the Internet, edge traffic flows, such as low latency/high speed access to edge compute workloads placed in close physical proximity to the User Plane Functions (UPF), as well as the hybrid traffic flows that require a combination of the above for distributed applications (e.g. online gaming, AI at the edge, etc). One point that is very important is that the network slices provisioned in the mobile network must extend beyond the N6/SGi interface of the UPF all the way to the workloads running on the edge computing hardware and on the Public/Private Cloud infrastructure. In other words, “The Slicing Must Go On” in order to ensure continuity of intended performance for the applications.
The Mobile Edge
The technological capabilities defined by the standards organizations (e.g. 3GPP, IETF) are the necessary conditions for the development of 5G. However, the standards and protocols are not sufficient on their own. The realization of the promises of 5G depends directly on the availability of the supporting physical infrastructure as well as the ability to instantiate services in the right places within the infrastructure.
Latency can be used as a very good example to illustrate this point. One of the most intriguing possibilities with 5G is the ability to deliver very low end to end latency. A common example is the 5ms round-trip device to application latency target. If we look closely at this latency budget, it is not hard to see that to achieve this goal a new physical aggregation infrastructure is needed. This is because the 5ms budget includes all radio/mobile core, transport and processing delays on the path between the application running on User Equipment (UE) and the application running on the compute/server side. Given that at least 2ms will be required for the “air interface”, the remaining 3ms is all that’s left for the radio/packet core processing, network transport and the compute/application processing budget. The figure below illustrates an example of the end-to-end latency budget in a 5G network.
The Edge-in and Cloud-out Effect
Public Cloud Service Providers and 3rd-Party Edge Compute (EC) Providers are deploying Edge instances to better serve their end-users and applications, A multitude of these applications require close inter-working with the Mobile Edge deployments to provide predictable latency, throughput, reliability, and other requirements.
The need to interface and exchange information through open APIs will allow competitive offerings for Consumers, Enterprises, and Vertical Industry end-user segments. These APIs are not limited to providing basic connectivity services but will include the ability to deliver predictable data rates, predictable latency, reliability, service insertion, security, AI and RAN analytics, network slicing, and more.
These capabilities are needed to support a multitude of emerging applications such as AR/VR, Industrial IoT, autonomous vehicles, drones, Industry 4.0 initiatives, Smart Cities, Smart Ports. Other APIs will include exposure to edge orchestration and management, Edge monitoring (KPIs), and more. These open APIs will be the foundation for service and instrumentation capabilities when integrating with public cloud development environments.
Public Cloud Edge Interface (PCEI)
The purpose of Public Cloud Edge Interface (PCEI) Blueprint family is to specify a set of open APIs for enabling Multi-Domain Inter-working across functional domains that provide Edge capabilities/applications and require close cooperation between the Mobile Edge, the Public Cloud Core and Edge, the 3rd-Party Edge functions as well as the underlying infrastructure such as Data Centers, Compute hardware and Networks. The Compute hardware is optimized and power efficient for Edge such as the Arm64 architecture.
The high-level relationships between the functional domains are shown in the figure below:
The Data Center Facility (DCF) Domain. The DCF Domain includes Data Center physical facilities that provide the physical location and the power/space infrastructure for other domains and their respective functions.
The Interconnection of Core and Edge (ICE) Domain. The ICE Domain includes the physical and logical interconnection and networking capabilities that provide connectivity between other domains and their respective functions.
The Mobile Network Operator (MNO) Domain. The MNO Domain contains all Access and Core Network Functions necessary for signaling and user plane capabilities to allow for mobile device connectivity.
The Public Cloud Core (PCC) Domain. The PCC Domain includes all IaaS/PaaS functions that are provided by the Public Clouds to their customers.
The Public Cloud Edge (PCE) Domain. The PCE Domain includes the PCC Domain functions that are instantiated in the DCF Domain locations that are positioned closer (in terms of geographical proximity) to the functions of the MNO Domain.
The 3rd party Edge (3PE) Domain. The 3PE domain is in principle similar to the PCE Domain, with a distinction that the 3PE functions may be provided by 3rd parties (with respect to the MNOs and Public Clouds) as instances of Edge Computing resources/applications.
The PCEI Reference Architecture and the Interface Reference Points (IRP) are shown in the figure below. For the full description of the PCEI Reference Architecture please refer to the PCEI Architecture Document.
The PCEI working group identified the following use cases and capabilities for Blueprint development:
- Traffic Steering/UPF Distribution/Shunting capability — distributing User Plane Functions in the appropriate Data Center Facilities on qualified compute hardware for routing the traffic to desired applications and network/processing functions/applications.
- Local Break-Out (LBO) – Examples: video traffic offload, low latency services, roaming optimization.
- Location Services — location of a specific UE, or identification of UEs within a geographical area, facilitation of server-side application workload distribution based on UE and infrastructure resource location.
- QoS acceleration/extension – provide low latency, high throughput for Edge applications. Example: provide continuity for QoS provisioned for subscribers in the MNO domain, across the interconnection/networking domain for end-to-end QoS functionality.
- Network Slicing provisioning and management – providing continuity for network slices instantiated in the MNO domain, across the Public Cloud Core/Edge as well as the 3Rd-Party Edge domains, offering dedicated resources specifically tailored for application and functional needs (e.g. security) needs.
- Mobile Hybrid/Multi-Cloud Access – provide multi-MNO, multi-Cloud, multi-MEC access for mobile devices (including IoT) and Edge services/applications
- Enterprise Wireless WAN access – provide high-speed Fixed Wireless Access to enterprises with the ability to interconnect to Public Cloud and 3rd-Party Edge Functions, including the Network Functions such as SD-WAN.
- Distributed Online/Cloud Gaming.
- Authentication – provided as service enablement (e.g., two-factor authentication) used by most OTT service providers
- Security – provided as service enablement (e.g., firewall service insertion)
The initial focus of the PCEI Blueprint development will be on the following use cases:
- User Plane Function Distribution
- Local Break-Out of Mobile Traffic
- Location Services
User Plane Function Distribution and Local Break-Out
The UPF Distribution use case distinguishes between two scenarios:
- UPF Interconnection. The UPF/SPGW-U is located in the MNO network and needs to be interconnected on the N6/SGi interface to 3PE and/or PCE/PCC.
- UPF Placement. The MNO wants to instantiate a UPF/SPGW-U in a location that is different from their network (e.g. Customer Premises, 3rd Party Data Center)
UPF Interconnection Scenario
UPF Placement Scenario
UPF Placement, Interconnection and Local Break-Out Examples
Location Services (LS)
This use case targets obtaining geographic location of a specific UE provided by the 4G/5G network, identification of UEs within a geographical area as well as facilitation of server-side application workload distribution based on UE and infrastructure resource location.
Project Technical Lead: Oleg Berzin