Showing posts with label Ethernity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ethernity. Show all posts

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Perspective: Implications of the Huawei Ban

by Brian Klaff, Marketing Director, Ethernity Networks

The banning of Huawei equipment from the 5G core networks of operators in the U.S., the U.K., and a number of other countries across the world is helping to shake up the industry and raise questions about 5G’s deployment future.

Leaving aside the politics, trade disputes, Coronavirus issues, and cybersecurity concerns, it’s worth taking a look at how we got to where we are today from a networking standpoint. How did operators become so dependent on Huawei, and what are their alternatives? What does all this mean for 5G and its users?

Huawei is an ASIC (applied specific integrated circuit) manufacturer, offering these ASIC-based appliances throughout the telecom broadband network. ASICs offer excellent performance at low up-front cost, and Huawei was known as a provider of end-to-end ASIC-based systems at especially low prices.  That drew many telecom operators to Huawei as their primary hardware provider.

Because 4G telecom networks are based on a traditional, monolithic infrastructure, the network core does the heavy lifting, delivering all the bandwidth necessary to run today’s end user applications. As such, it made sense for operators to rely heavily on a single primary hardware provider delivering high performance for a reasonable price.

There is certainly a big downside to this approach.  Huawei’s network is proprietary with no interoperability with other companies’ hardware. It’s an all or nothing decision when it comes to using Huawei equipment.

There is also a price to pay in the long run for choosing an ASIC-based system (not just Huawei’s).  ASICs are limited to their initial programming and must be replaced after field deployment every time there is a new protocol, security algorithm, or feature that becomes indispensable. As British operators are finding out, replacing field-deployed hardware is a proposition that is extremely expensive. So the low up-front cost of choosing Huawei can have steep long-term repercussions.


Why Huawei became problematic from a networking perspective
What worked for 4G isn’t necessarily the best in 5G.  Whereas 4G relied so much on performance from the core, 5G seeks higher bandwidth and lower latency by moving much of that performance to the edge of the network.  The 5G specification calls for a more open, disaggregated network, one that performs under the varying circumstances of the network edge with the ability to connect different elements of the network from different vendors.  When one company maintains so much control over an operator’s network and its security, there is reason for concern. Huawei’s vendor-locked monolithic offering scares politicians, and maybe even the telecom operators themselves.

As operators seek to take back control of their networks by diversifying their network hardware providers, the trend is to eschew Huawei in favor of alternatives.  Even in China, the three major operators have committed to more open networks, and they are also weaning themselves off Huawei in certain areas of their 5G deployments, for example by initiating the Open UPF program.

Operators’ options

Perhaps the easiest option for telecom operators is to swap in another ASIC manufacturer, such as ZTE, Samsung, Nokia, or Ericsson, for Huawei.  This will guarantee similar performance and be relatively inexpensive in the short term, but it doesn’t solve the issue of closed, inflexible networks.
One possible solution is virtualization, which has already overhauled data centers and can ensure the flexibility to choose functionalities and features from a wide range of software providers using standard, off-the-shelf commodity hardware.  NFV (network function virtualization) has been promised for many years already, but with 5G it is becoming a necessity in telecom.

By implementing networking and security functions through software instead of rigid hardware, operators gain the flexibility to choose the best-in-class solution for each network component regardless of vendor. They also gain the programmability to easily adapt to new protocols, algorithms, and features.  Software providers such as MetaSwitch, Mavenir, AltioStar, and Affirmed can offer NFV solutions to be run on CPUs on commercial off-the-shelf servers.

Even some of the traditional ASIC manufacturers, such as Toshiba, Nokia, and Ericsson, have recognized this need for agility.  They have started to embrace Open RAN (Radio-Access Network), and they are creating software-based solutions to address that specific segment of the 5G network.

The problem with a software-only approach is that the software runs on CPUs, which were designed to handle compute and control functions, not intensive networking and security functions.  As such, the performance of software-only networking solutions suffers greatly compared to ASICs, and it takes dozens of CPU cores to achieve similar performance.  This becomes exceedingly expensive, and even worse, it requires a lot of physical space and power, valuable commodities at the edge of the network.

A better option, one that combines the best of both worlds, is to opt for disaggregated, open networks using FPGA SmartNICs to handle the networking and security functions.  FPGAs (field-programmable gate arrays) are hardware processors especially efficient in handling many data processing tasks in parallel that are reprogrammable after being field-deployed.

By incorporating an FPGA onto a network adapter, it becomes possible to offload CPU-intensive data processing functions to optimized hardware while maintaining the flexibility of programmable software solutions. This gives operators ASIC-like performance and NFV-like agility in a compact network card that fits into a commercial off-the-shelf server. It reduces the number of required CPU cores to gain significant savings in capital expense, physical space, and power at the network edge.  For example, Ethernity Networks offers an FPGA SmartNIC that includes a complete router-on-NIC that reduces CAPEX costs on 5G User Plane Functionality (UPF) components by up to 80%.

What this means for 5G

A dirty little secret that the telecom industry doesn’t want you to know is that the 5G rollouts most local operators have been touting for the past year or so haven’t really been true 5G.   They have been what is commonly referred to as “4G Evolved,” applying some 5G principles to the 4G infrastructure to produce better-than-4G performance – but not yet reaching the level that 5G promises.

Operators were relying on their Huawei (or other ASIC-based) network equipment without fully committing to the necessary changes to bring about the 5G revolution.  In that regard, the Huawei ban represents a golden opportunity to hasten the implementation of true 5G networks.

5G infrastructure is a green field, with virtually no carry-over from legacy equipment.  As such, operators can now consider how to replace Huawei with an eye to the future, with less concern about the expense involved. 

True 5G is coming. There is no doubt.   Europe and North America lag behind Southeast Asia in mass 5G deployments, but there is still time to make the hard decisions that will determine the makeup of the networks.  The easy and less expensive route – simply turning to another ASIC-based solution provider – will waste the opportunity to disaggregate and bring out the full potential of 5G.

Instead, telecom operators should consider their options thoroughly and choose their vendors based not only on up-front cost, but on the goal of a network that is high-performance, flexible, long-term cost-efficient, and future-proof. To avoid the possibility that they will need to replace field-deployed 5G components in the next few years, they should opt for an open and programmable solution now.

Effects on end user experience

It has been suggested that only an ASIC provider such as Nokia or Ericsson can replace what Huawei offered in terms of local exchange and street cabinet broadband equipment, but that is not true.  FPGA-based solutions are ideal for this as well, offering high networking and security performance with flexibility to accommodate various protocol configurations, including DSL and passive optical network (PON), which are used for last-mile data transfer.

Moreover, the need to reduce power and physical space is a far more critical requirement at the network edge than in a typical data center, as edge sites have very limited physical space and a fixed power envelope.  An FPGA-based edge appliance can address all the performance and security requirements of broadband aggregation in a compact, power-efficient device.

If operators simply replace Huawei with another ASIC provider, the result will be similar network performance.  But while there may be no deterioration of service, the network would remain closed and rigid.  If they opt for software-only solutions to replace Huawei, they get open, multi-vendor networks but may struggle to achieve similar performance cost-effectively or meet timelines for full deployment.  This could lead to a deterioration of service or higher costs for end users.

But if providers choose solutions that rely on FPGA SmartNICs they can achieve both high performance and open, agile networks.  This would maintain quality of service, lower costs for both operators and subscribers, and shorten time-to-market.  That is why in China –  which is significantly ahead of North America and Europe in 5G deployment – all three of the primary mobile operators are insisting on FPGA SmartNIC solutions for their 5G UPF implementations.

Brian Klaff is the Marketing Director at Ethernity Networks.  With over 20 years of experience, Brian has concentrated on product marketing for the networking hardware industry since 2013, with special emphasis on the telecom sector. Prior to Ethernity, he held senior communications positions at Mellanox and Amdocs.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Ethernity scores design win with Tier-1 OEM

Ethernity Networks announced a second design win contract for its ENET Flow Processor technology with an existing North American tier-1 telecommunications OEM customer. Ethernity will supply its ENET Switch and Traffic Manager firmware to support performance of 200Gbps on the customer’s new xPON optical light termination (OLT) device.

Ethernity signed its first licensing deal with the customer in 2018, and following successful field deployment of that platform, the customer has now progressed to a next-generation product based on Ethernity’s advanced technology. The ENET solution will be customised to fit the customer’s new OLT platform, which, in addition to Ethernity’s ENET Flow Processor core functionality (including hierarchical traffic management, switching, and access control list), will also include Ethernity’s new 400Gbps fabric technology to allow cascading of multiple chassis to form a virtual chassis cluster.

“We are pleased to have received this new platform design win order, and we look forward to developing additional new platforms for this customer’s appliances in other vertical markets,” said Ethernity’s CEO David Levi. “This contract confirms that our extensive networking functionality offers tremendous value to the market and is an example of how we can build strong partnerships with industry leaders.”

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Ethernity launches Ethernet Controller FPGA engine

Ethernity Networks introduced its ENET-D, an add-on Ethernet Controller technology to its ACE-NIC100 SmartNIC, which can efficiently processes millions of data flows and offers performance acceleration for networking and security appliances.

ENET-D is an Ethernet adapter and DMA (direct memory access) engine that eliminates the need for proprietary hardware on a network interface card. By fitting into various FPGAs and enabling customers to further avoid ASIC-based components, ENET-D advances complete disaggregation at the edge of the network.

ENET-D can be combined with Ethernity’s ENET Flow Processor and run on Ethernity’s cost-optimized and affordable ACE-NIC100 FPGA SmartNIC to deliver a complete Router-on-a-NIC with integrated Ethernet controller. It is capable of connecting to multiple virtual machines, containers, or virtual networking functions.

“ENET-D is an important step toward supporting our current and future customers that are demanding further disaggregation of their 5G networks,” said David Levi, Ethernity Networks CEO. “This is an exciting technological development for our company in that we can now offer operators a complete Ethernet controller within the FPGA on our SmartNIC. This will significantly reduce their operating costs and eliminate ASIC vendor lock-in for the emerging edge compute market.”

https://ethernitynet.com/press/ethernity-networks-launches-new-enet-d-ethernet-controller-fpga-engine-2/