One of the key themes in play at IDF16 is “the road to 5G.” This theme is all about the transformation needed to accommodate explosive growth in global network traffic, and it’s a topic that is on the minds of the equipment manufacturers and communications service providers that we work with on a daily basis.
While 5G networks are still a few years away, now is the time to start laying a sturdy foundation that you can build upon when it is time to upgrade to 5G. This foundation consists of critical technologies that should be in place for success in a 5G world. Of course, this foundation isn’t just for the future. It will deliver immediate benefits, as well as future benefits.
While I’m admittedly biased, I believe that Intel® Architecture is the ideal starting point for the road to 5G. The Intel hardware portfolio scales from the Intel® Xeon® processors used in data center and communication networks around the world to the Intel® AtomTM processors that pack advanced technology and processing capabilities onto ultra-thin and lightweight chips. Along with our investments in open source software, we also work closely with our ecosystem partners to enable end-to-end solutions that meet ever-higher requirements for communication networks.
Let’s walk through some of the critical platform building blocks for this foundation for 5G success, with an important caveat: This is not meant to be an exhaustive list. There are many other foundational technologies that I could call out here if we had unlimited space.
Establish a Flexible Platform
Unlike previous generations of wireless technology that were set to tackle two demands (voice and data), 5G has a new set of challenges—the unprecedented advancement in over-the-top application varieties, ranging from Facebook Live and Augmented Realty (Pokémon GO is just the beginning) to IoT devices connecting wirelessly. Who can predict what kind of application/service will drive the traffic in 2020? Machine learning, anyone?
To meet such dynamic demands, network operators need flexible intelligent communications infrastructure. With the ability to consolidate network functions and replace multiple specialized devices with versatile technology based on open standards, Intel-based servers are ideal for this use.
The Intel platform enables the consolidation of the four primary workloads common in network infrastructure—applications and services, control plane processing, high-performance packet processing, and signal processing—to create multi-service platforms. With these multi-service platforms in place at major points of aggregation in the network, operators are ready to deploy distributed infrastructure, such as virtual Broadband Remote Access Server (BRAS) and virtual Evolved Packet Core (vEPC), providing more capability and capacity closer to users. Operator deployment of enterprise virtual Customer Premises Equipment (vCPE) infrastructure and services is already well under way, and additional opportunities are emerging through simplification of the infrastructure serving the home.
These locations in the network become mini data centers, providing not just the virtual network infrastructure but also laying the foundations for deployment of new 5G services and business models.
Accelerate Network Traffic
To keep pace with explosive growth in network traffic, communication service providers need to greatly boost packet processing performance and throughput. That’s the idea behind the Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK), an open source product that was released in 2010. By moving from the traditional networking model using the Linux kernel networking stack to implementing DPDK for input/output acceleration, you can significantly improve your platform’s packet throughput capability, achieving up to 233Gbps on Intel® Xeon® Processor E5-2658 v4 dual socket platform.1
Last month, DPDK 16.07 was released with more than 950 contributions and 115 contributors spanning a strong, vibrant open source community. To learn more, check out the full list of features in the Release Notes or watch the DPDK 16.07 New Features webinar.
Increase Network Security
I am a huge believer in the need to increase our consciousness of cyber security. End-to-end encryption no longer passes as an extra measure, but is now a basic requirement that must be woven into the fabric of our solutions for communications and storage. Intel® QuickAssist Technology, integrated into products over the last decade, enables this pervasive approach to encryption by providing acceleration for encryption ciphers, public key cryptography, and data compression.
Something as simple as your private account’s session for video delivery or https delivery of a web site requires secure, encrypted tunnels. Common mobile applications that require your location information, provided via a secure session, can be accelerated via Intel® QuickAssist Technology and can provide the secure tunnel for encrypted communications.
Enable Content Inspection
Content inspection is important not only to detect malware and threats but also to know the type of traffic to avoid performance bottlenecks as network data is inspected. To do so, it’s necessary to scan network traffic against databases of regular expression patterns that define the search criteria. To address this challenge, last year Intel released Hyperscan, an open-source pattern-matching library, created under a BSD license.
Hyperscan provides a simple application programming interface (API) and is operating system (OS)-independent. It is fully optimized to deliver content inspection performance demanded by today’s network security applications and was recently up-streamed to Suricata intrusion prevention subsystem (IPS), an open source engine that is widely used in the industry. Suricata 3.1 (released in June 2016) now includes Hyperscan to deliver a scan performance on Intel® Architecture that is 2x – 3x faster than without.2
Enhance the Subscriber Experience
To enhance the overall quality of service for the provider and support ever increasing network traffic, we are adding Intel® Resource Director Technology (Intel® RDT) to our roadmap of technologies. Intel® RDT introduces a set of monitoring and enforcement capabilities that provide better control over shared resources, such as the last level cache. These controls allow systems administrators to classify network traffic. For instance, Intel® RDT could be used to prioritize voice over data traffic, reducing the chances of dropped calls, or manage resources and prioritize key applications to enhance the user experience.
Collectively, the capabilities summarized here help you get the most out of Software Defined Infrastructure (SDI) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) today, enabling a multi- service platform that is built for agility, while creating the foundation for tomorrow’s 5G networks. In subsequent blog posts I will drill down into these and other technologies.
Until then, let’s keep this message in mind: Now is the time to build your foundation for a 5G world.
1 Software and workloads used in performance tests may have been optimized for performance only on Intel microprocessors. Performance tests, such as SYSmark and MobileMark, are measured using specific computer systems, components, software, operations and functions. Any change to any of those factors may cause the results to vary. You should consult other information and performance tests to assist you in fully evaluating your contemplated purchases, including the performance of that product when combined with other products. For more complete information visit https://www.intel.com/performance. The L3 forwarding of 64B packets on an older generation Intel server platform using the Linux kernel stack versus a current generation Intel® Xeon® Processor E5-2658 v4 using the Data Plane Development Kit (release 16.04) jumped from 12M packets per second (Mpps) to 346.7 Mpps throughput.
2 Performance benchmarked on Xeon E5-2699 v3 platform with HTTP network traffic, with 100% CPU utilization, Hyperscan operating in non-streaming mode, using Emerging Threats pattern database. Performance variations from 2x – 3x based on packet size. For more information go to https://www.intel.com/performance.