Monday, March 2, 2015

Xilinx and BEEcube Launch 5G Massive MIMO Prototyping Platform

Xilinx and BEEcube announced a highly scalable prototyping platform for 5G massive MIMO antenna systems.

The new MegaBEE prototyping platform supports up to 256x256 antennas and provides all the elements necessary to put a massive MIMO system on the air within LTE bands and without external hardware.  The platform uses Xilinx’s Zynq All Programmable SoC.

MegaBEE said its clocking structure paves the way for antenna modules to be dispersed over a three mile radius while maintaining phase coherence, enabling the system to be used for distributed MIMO as well as massive MIMO systems with greater coverage and capacity.

"Xilinx devices have long been used in wireless infrastructure equipment due to their unique properties of being fully programmable and high performance. MegaBEE's Linux cluster for distributed control is one of the most innovative uses of Zynq's dual ARM cores that I have seen," said Ivo Bolsens, Xilinx CTO and senior vice president.

"The MegaBEE platform delivers all the required elements for 5G massive MIMO prototyping in one box, greatly simplifying the task of building a system and freeing designers up to focus on algorithms instead of the interfaces around the periphery of their design," said Chen Chang, BEEcube founder and CEO. "Our tier one customers have pushed us hard to create an easy-to-use yet powerful MIMO prototyping platform and together with Xilinx, we've done just that."

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Procera #MWC15 - Virtualization, Performance, Subscriber Experience

Virtualization is all theoretical until you can deliver performance. Jim Brear, CEO of Procera, highlights Mobile World Congress 2015, including a game changing performance benchmark achieved in partnership with Intel as well as an ETSI Proof-of-Concept demonstration.

"Enhancing the subscriber experience" is a big theme at this year's Mobile World Congress and the mission of Procera Networks. Jim Brear previews the upcoming week in Barcelona.

Broadcom Targets Virtual Customer Premise Equipment

Broadcom introduced a system-on-a-chip (SoC) for the virtual customer premise equipment (vCPE) market.

Broadcom’s BCM88312 is an integrated and programmable device that can be connected to the operator's network to deliver vCPE services.  It can be managed over OpenFlow, based on Broadcom's OpenFlow-Data Plane Abstraction (OF-DPA) layer framework, thereby extending OF-DPA from the infrastructure core all the way to the business CPE access.

By offering this remote management and virtualization capability, Broadcom said network operators will gain the ability to decouple services from the physical hardware and run them on standard compute infrastructure, thus facilitating faster time-to-market and enabling customers to customize their equipment based on evolving requirements.

"One of the greatest challenges facing service providers is how to offer new services to their business customers rapidly and more cost effectively," said Ed Redmond, Broadcom Vice President, Compute and Connectivity Group. "By decoupling service delivery and activation from the physical infrastructure, Broadcom's integrated and programmable device enables carriers to turn-up services as virtual network functions (VNFs) without the need for manual provisioning and expensive truck rolls.”

Key features:

  • Scalable, Integrated and Programmable
  • Integrated Dual Cortex A9 cores @ 1.2GHZ
  • Integrated 8-port GE Switch, Serdes, and copper PHYs
  • Programmable Processor Forwarding Engine
  • Support for 1588v2 / SyncE
  • Low-power at 3.5W typical

The Broadcom BCM88312 is sampling with production-ready carrier-class reference code, including support for:

  • MEF-Compliant E-Line Service, based on MPLS/MPLS-TP Forwarding
  • ETY OAM (802.3ah), Ethernet OAM (Y1731), BHH / MPLS-TP Fast OAM(G.8113.1)
  • G.8131 MPLS Linear Protection

  • In March 2014, Broadcom first announced its OpenFlow Data Plane Abstraction (OF-DPA) v1.0 specification, software and API -- an openly published implementation of physical switch hardware pipeline abstraction for the Open Networking Foundation's (ONF) OpenFlow 1.3.1 Switch. The OF-DPA v1.0 specification, software and API can be used to implement network virtualization, multi-tenant networks and traffic engineering with higher scale and performance.  The software defines a pipeline that contains multiple tables, each table containing multiple flow entries. The OpenFlow pipeline processing defines how packets interact with these tables. The OF-DPA v1.0 physical switch hardware pipeline abstraction is an implementation of the OpenFlow 1.3.1 Switch optimized for Broadcom StrataXGS Ethernet Switch devices.

Brocade to Acquire Connectem for LTE virtual Evolved Packet Core

Brocade has agreed to acquire Connectem, a start-up based in Santa Clara, California developing an LTE virtual Evolved Packet Core (vEPC) solution.  Financial terms were not disclosed.

Connectem, which was founded in 2011, has been pursuing an overlay strategy for its Virtualized LTE Evolved Packet Core (EPC), betting that mobile operators will implement its NFV-powered solution first for specific business applications while continuing with their current LTE infrastructure rollouts.  Connectem's solution leverages cloud computing, network virtualization, and software networking technologies to deliver higher scale and efficiency on industry-standard x86-based servers. Connectem software focuses on mapping mobile workloads to cloud resources, eliminating the constraints of physical equipment boundaries yet still maintaining the capablity to integrate with traditional node-based EPC architectures.

Brocade said the acquisition of Connectem extends its portfolion in software networking and virtualized network functions, by enabling service providers and enterprises to offer ubiquitous connectivity between mobile and IoT devices, data centers, as well as public and private clouds.  Connectem’s vEPC solutions integrate seamlessly with Brocade’s software and physical networking product portfolios.

“This acquisition strengthens Brocade’s position in the networking industry as the adoption of software-centric networking continues to accelerate,” said Lloyd Carney, CEO of Brocade. “I am very pleased to bring this technology into our portfolio as we invest strategically in New IP across NFV and SDN to provide seemless data center and cloud solutions.”

“There is a step-function in scalability required to connect the billions of new devices joining the Internet of Things,” said Nishi Kant, CEO of Connectem.  “As an early strategic investor in our company, Brocade recognized that a new architectural approach would be required to meet these demands.  Connectem’s pioneering technology dramatically improves the flexibility, scalability, and total cost of ownership of mobile vEPC solutions. We are excited to realize the full extent of this vision as part of Brocade, a widely recognized leader and innovator in software networking.”

Citrix Intros 160 Gbps NetScaler Application Delivery Controller

Citrix introduced its next generation NetScaler MPX 25000 series, a carrier-grade application delivery controller (ADC) for communications service providers.  The new NetScaler is a two rack-unit (2RU) 160 gigabit-per-second appliance that enables operators to scale mobile S/Gi-LAN data plane capacity to 3.5 Tbps while preserving earlier capacity investments.

Significantly, the NetScaler MPX 25000 series can enable the transition to NFV by converting to a multi-tenant platform supporting dozens of virtual ADC instances. The company said it is able to capture cloud-scale efficiencies and economics in the NetScaler MPX 25000 series by using merchant silicon rather than the custom ASICs common to competing ADC products.

Key benefits of the NetScaler MPX 25000:

  • Scale mobile S/Gi-LAN services – Enables operators to scale any network use case, including optimization and gateway load balancing, CGNAT and traffic-steering in the data plane; and LTE DNS, SMPP, SIP, and Diameter load-balancing in the control plane.
  • Consolidate multiple use cases on a single platform – Allows operators to reduce use case-specific deployments that add complexity and inefficiency to the S/Gi-LAN environment. The most impactful consolidated scenario is that of carrier-grade network address translation (CGNAT) and data-plane load balancing and, optionally, traffic steering.
  • Minimize stranded investments – Helps operators protect their network infrastructure investment through Citrix TriScale scale-out clustering, which enables multiple appliances to be treated as a single logical and functional unit. As operators look to minimize up-front investment and scale capacity with new hardware, they can continue to make use of the original hardware.
  • Bridge the NFV gap – Helps operators protect and transition their network infrastructure to multi-tenant appliances supporting up to eighty virtual ADC instances with Citrix TriScale scale-in multi-tenancy.

“The NFV-driven discontinuity in the mobile industry is challenging operators to re-architect and rethink their delivery networks. Drawing on our experience from deployments in more than 140 mobile networks and in the world’s largest public clouds, Citrix continues to deliver the technology innovation to help mobile operators transform their networks. This is made possible by NetScaler - the industry’s only fully software-defined ADC," stated Klaus Oestermann, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Delivery Networks, Citrix.

Altair Offers Optimized LTE Chipset for IoT

Altair Semiconductor has begun sampling its new FourGee-1160 and FourGee-1150 Category-1 and Category-0 LTE chipsets targeting the Internet of Things (IoT) market.

CAT-1 and CAT-0 are lower speed and power versions of the LTE standard which dramatically extend the addressable market for carriers and chip makers alike. The chipsets are optimized for long-term battery operation in small devices, such as wearables, sensors, etc.

"While chipsets supporting these lower categories are essential for numerous applications, including wearable devices, smart home and smart metering, there has been an industry development gap that we had anticipated two years ago," said Eran Eshed, Co-Founder and Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Altair. "We've worked hard to address this gap by being first to market with true CAT-1 and 0 chipsets featuring a power/size/cost combination that is a massive game-changer."

Key features:

  • Extremely low power consumption enabling between weeks and years of operation, based on the use case scenario
  • Highly integrated chipset with embedded power management and direct battery connection
  • Embedded MCU subsystem with virtualized, customizable application layer and a robust security framework
  • Rich set of host, peripheral and sensor interfaces typical to IoT and M2M applications
  • Supports VoLTE, OTDOA positioning and seamless integration with industry standard GPS and A-GNSS chipsets
  • SDR-based, software upgradeable to support 3GPP Release 12 and 13 features
  • Miniature footprint, available in both BGA package and as bumped dies

SK Telecom Deploys LTE Small Cells with Carrier Aggregation

SK Telecom, Korea's largest telecommunications company, has selected Broadcom's latest small cell system-on-chip (SoC) devices with carrier aggregation technology to enhance its high-speed 4G LTE services.  SK Telecom aims to be the first carrier to deploy LTE small cells capable of aggregating two non-contiguous bands, thus increasing bandwidth and data throughout its LTE network.

"SK Telecom is making constant efforts to enhance our LTE network and offer a wider range of value added services to our mobile customers," said Park Jin-hyo, SK Telecom Senior Vice President and Head of the Network Technology R&D Center.  "As a result of Broadcom's superior capabilities in small cell chipset innovation, we can deliver the seamless mobile experience our subscribers have come to expect."

Broadcom’s BCM61765 SoC supports both inter-band and intra-band Carrier Aggregation services in both TD-LTE and FD-LTE concurrently.

Gigamon and Empirix Enable Data Filtering for Service Providers

Gigamon has teamed up with Empirix to extend the analytical capabilities of the Empirix IntelliSight customer experience and performance management platform.

The solution combines the advanced traffic intelligence of the Gigamon Visibility Fabric with the Empirix IntelliSight to transform volumes of data into real-time understanding of user experiences.

Empirix IntelliSight can ingest vast quantities of data leveraging intelligent optimization to better understand customer experience, application and performance management, as well as enhance the ability to make strategic business decisions.

"Carriers are constantly exploring new paths to monetization, and that journey begins with having clear insight into how their own infrastructure is being utilized by their subscribers," said Shehzad Merchant, Chief Technology Officer at Gigamon. "As the carrier infrastructure evolves to a converged 4G/LTE infrastructure with new applications running over that infrastructure, Gigamon's Visibility Fabric solutions provide pertinent, correlated, de-duplicated, and highly optimized traffic feeds to Empirix's IntelliSight platform. This provides carriers with a deeper insight into their infrastructure, which in turn results in the ability to pinpoint issues and resolve problems faster in order to meet service level agreements while also offering the ability to create new and innovative premium services."

Avaya Unveils SDN Fabric for Connecting "Anything" to Virtual Network

Avaya introduced its Open SDN Fx architecture for enabling automation and programmability from the core to the edge of enterprise networks.

Avaya said the aim of its SDN Fx architecture is “connect anything, anywhere” simplicity by allowing devices and users at the network edge to be added easily to the network.  The goal is to leverage an automated core that takes advantage of a single, network-wide Ethernet fabric to remove the need for manual configuration at each network hop; thus, reducing the potential for error and accelerating time to service.

Avaya’s SDN implementation is targeting environments such as those found in hospitals, manufacturing floors and casinos, which are blanketed with devices that require a more secure, mobile connection to the network, and may also require that the rest of the network is better protected from potential threats that could be triggered by them.

The Avaya SDN Fx architecture includes the following new products and features for Avaya Fabric Networking Technology:

  • Open Networking Adapter (ONA) - provides a plug-n-play network connection for any device with an Ethernet port including medical devices, manufacturing machines, and branch office switches. Targeted for non-IT personnel, this card deck-sized appliance automatically provisions a QoS-customized virtual path across the network that mitigates security risks, allowing simple, powerful management of thousands of devices.  
  • Fabric Orchestrator – an SDN controller embedded in a unified management instance. This appliance manages and orchestrates the Ethernet fabric as well as provides SDN Control to north and south bound interfaces. SDN capabilities include OpenFlow, OpenDaylight and OpenStack.
  • Fabric Extend – a new capability in Avaya Fabric Connect enables the extensibility of Fabric networking across any IP based network without loss of functionality. Investments in existing networking technologies are preserved while interconnecting strategic deployments of Fabric Connect across data centers, campuses and branches.

“CIOs are unnecessarily overburdened by archaic networks and frustrated by the disparity between the promised results of new technologies and the reality that most vendors deliver.  There’s a better way: Avaya Fabric Connect already relieves 75i percent of the top network issues identified by IT departments, and we’re building on that with SDN Fx. This is the foundation that accelerates deployment and improves performance of customer and team engagement solution and that the industry has been demanding. Avaya can deliver it today,” stated  Marc Randall, SVP and GM, Avaya Networking.

MagnaCom Demos its Multi-Carrier, OFDM Modulation

MagnaCom announced the release of its “WAM” technology for multi-carer OFDM to strategic partners. The company claims WAM enables an unprecedented 50% throughput gain and up to a 50% reduction in power, while remaining fully backwards compatible with QAM modulation.

The company said carriers can achieve substantially more data transmitted over the same spectrum, resulting in networks that deliver much higher speeds, have longer reach (coverage), and consume far less power. Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) is a method of digital modulation in which a signal is split into several narrowband channels at different frequencies. OFDM is used in all modern cellular (LTE ) and WiFi (802.11n, 802.11ac).

“By extending our WAM technology into multi-carrier networks, MagnaCom continues to innovate with performance gains that were once thought impossible," said Yossi Cohen, co-founder and CEO of MagnaCom. “We have a vision of helping the mobile industry solve the 1000x mobile data by enabling carriers get much more out of their spectrum assets, dramatically lowering power consumption, and relentlessly challenging old assumptions. With the emergence of IoT and small wearable devices – the industry’s ability to miniaturize network devices, reduce power and increase distance will be paramount.”

MagnaCom is based in Petach-Tikvah, Israel.

TI Announces Ultra-low Power Wireless Platform

Texas Instruments introduced its new SimpleLink ultra-low power wireless microcontroller  platform for Bluetooth Smart, 6LoWPAN, ZigBee, Sub-1 GHz and ZigBee RF4CE aimed at new class of battery-less devices powered by energy-harvesting techniques or coin cell batteries.

The SimpleLink ultra-low power platform features an ARM Cortex-M3 MCU, Flash/RAM, analog-to-digital converter, peripherals, sensor controller and built-in robust security on chip. TI offers ready-to-use protocol stacks.

The new ultra-low power platform includes a unique integrated sensor controller that interfaces external sensors autonomously while the rest of the device sleeps. The platform includes radio peak currents below 6.2mA and MCU active current of less than 61uA/MHz. The complete chip can stay in standby at only 1 uA with memory retention and RTC (real time clock) running.

Huawei Secured 35 VoLTE Contracts in 2014

Citing momentum in VoLTE, Huawei confirmed that, as of the end of 2014, it had secured 35 new VoLTE contracts, of which three networks have already been put into commercial use.

The contracts include a leading tier-one operator in Europe, which has selected Huawei as its Virtual IP Multimedia Subsystem (vIMS) supplier for cloud-based VoLTE deployment.

In May 2014, PCCW-HKT and Huawei jointly announced the commercial launch of VoLTE in Hong Kong. At the time of deployment, it was the world's first enhanced Single Radio Voice Call Continuity (eSRVCC)-enabled VoLTE base on the latest 3GPP release 10, which enables seamless call continuity for voice calls when switched over from LTE to 3G. Huawei conducted simplified integration that resulted in zero-impact on the existing network in terms of provisioning and billing center, legacy CS network.

JDSU Companies to be Lumentum and Viavi Post-Split

Following its upcoming split into two companies, JDSU’s stand-alone Communications and Commercial Optical Products (CCOP) business segment will be called Lumentum while its Network Enablement (NE), Service Enablement (SE) and Optical Security and Performance Products (OSP) business will be named Viavi.  JDSU anticipates that the split will occur by Q3 this year.

The new Lumentum brand was chosen to reflect CCOP’s leadership in optical technologies, commitment to driving innovation, and its ability to effectively address its customers’ unique requirements while scaling with quality through well-established technological and operational expertise.  The company will be a global leader in optical components and subsystems for the telecommunications market, with high growth opportunities in data communications, driven by the rapid expansion of cloud networking and data center infrastructure, and in high performance lasers for both macro and micro materials processing applications.  The company will be led by Alan Lowe as chief executive officer. He joined JDSU in September 2007 as senior vice president of the Lasers business and became president of JDSU’s newly formed CCOP business segment in 2008, which combined JDSU’s Optical Communications and Lasers businesses.

Viavi Solutions, which includes JDSU’s Network Enablement, Service Enablement  and Optical Security and Performance Products will provide solutions for end-to-end network and application visibility from a portfolio of instruments, software and services. These solutions address its customers’ need to profitably scale to meet the demands of the fast-growing volume of connected devices and applications, and to transition to virtualized, software-based networks. In addition, Viavi’s OSP business is a leader in anti-counterfeiting solutions for currency authentication and high-value optical components and instruments for security, safety, electronics and other applications. Tom Waechter, JDSU’s current president and chief executive officer, will continue to lead Viavi. He became president and chief executive officer of JDSU in January 2009.

Current JDSU stockholders will own shares in both corporations following the separation.

“The creation of new brands and the Form 10 filing are important milestones as we move toward separation,” said Tom Waechter, president and chief executive officer of JDSU. “Each company will remain committed to continued innovation, and will be led by proven management teams prepared to execute growth strategies designed to help our customers successfully manage the complex opportunities that come with the ever-accelerating pace of technological change. We are creating two unique brands – both representing well-established expertise and market leadership – and positioning them with greater customer focus and agility.”

  • JDSU first announced plans to split into two publicly traded companies in September 2014.

IBM Posts Performance Benchmarks for Cloud, Mobile and Web App Developers

IBM announced results from an industry benchmark showing that its WebSphere Application Server beat Oracle's WebLogic Server in per core, per processor and per system comparisons on the latest Intel Xeon Processor E5-2600 v3 in a SPECjEnterprise20101 test.  IBM published a world record single application server result of 19,282.14 SPECjEnterprise20101 EjOPS for the application tier and the database on industry standard servers running Intel® Xeon Processor E5-2600 v3.

"In a real world, full system benchmark, IBM WebSphere Application Server outperformed Oracle on per core, per processor and per system comparisons," said Elisabeth Stahl, Chief Technical Strategist, IBM.  "Performance is a cornerstone of any application platform and this benchmark record demonstrates IBM's investment in its middleware platform to deliver the client experience needed for digital workloads."

Procera Posts Q4 Revenues of $24 Million, up 13% YoY

Procera Networks reported Q4 2014 revenue of $24.2 million, compared with $21.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2013, representing a 13% increase.  Revenue for fiscal year 2014 was $75.4 million, compared with $74.7 million for fiscal year 2013, a 1% increase.GAAP net loss for the fourth quarter of 2014 was $1.7 million, or $0.08 per diluted share, compared with a GAAP net loss of $3.3 million, or $0.16 per diluted share, for the fourth quarter of 2013.

"We ended the year with productivity that demonstrates the strength of our strategic initiatives, achieving a combination of record quarterly revenue and bookings, as well as customer delivery of a number of new strategic products," said James Brear, president and chief executive officer of Procera Networks. "Seeing the initial benefits of our strategic investments are positive indicators toward our goal of returning Procera to solid revenue growth in 2015."

Ericsson Sues Apple for Patent Infringement

Ericsson announced a patent infringement lawsuit against Apple, saying many of its patents are essential to the 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE standards; others are critical to other non-standardized aspects of Apple's devices. Apple's global license agreement for Ericsson's mobile technology expired last month.  Ericsson said Apple has declined to take a new license offered on FRAND terms.

Specifically, Ericsson filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) requesting an exclusion order against Apple's products for infringing Ericsson patents that are essential to the 2G and 4G/LTE standards.

Ericsson also filed a second ITC complaint seeking an exclusion order and multiple complaints in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas requesting damages and injunctions for infringement of patents that are critical to many other aspects of Apple's devices.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Cavium Intros Chipesets for Next Gen Base Stations

Cavium introduced a family of chipsets designed for a new category of Macrocells and Smart Radio Heads with integrated Layer 1 functionality to enable seamless virtualization of the upper layers in a Cloud RAN deployment. The goal is to support macrocell BTS augmented with Cloud RAN for additional scalability and enterprise small cells for coverage and capacity.

Cavium said current the architecture of the macrocell BTS utilizes a combination of CPUs, DSPs, FPGAs and ASICs which significantly add to the latency, footprint, power consumption and cost. Its new OCTEON Fusion-M processors are single chip solutions for macro BTS and Smart Radio Heads that target next generation radio networks including 3GPP LTE Rel11/12. The key features include highly optimized full custom processor cores, a highly efficient caching subsystem, high memory bandwidth and a very flexible and high performance PHY. Cavium has a long history of delivering high-performance multi-core workload-optimized processors for networking, security and data plane processing applications through their highly successful OCTEON, OCTEON Fusion®, NITROX and Neuron Search processor families.

The CNF75xx family of processors is a full L1-L7 implementation supporting from high capacity picocells at 800 simultaneous users all the way up to multi sector macrocells with up to 3600 simultaneous users. Additionally, multiple OCTEON Fusion-M CNF75xx chips can be cascaded for even denser deployments or higher order MIMO. The CNF 75xx integrates highly optimized custom 64 bit MIPS cores and multiple VLIW DSP engines along with a host of hardware accelerators for the wireless modem pipeline, network processing and traffic shaping. This family is designed to allow system OEMs and operators to build next generation networks in both macrocell and Cloud RAN deployments while retaining the flexibility to evolve into the new 5G standard.

Some highlights:

  • Highly integrated multi-protocol single chip 12 sector 24T24R MIMO with up to 16 cores running up to 2.0 GHz core frequency
  • Simultaneous LTE. LTE-A (FDD/TDD) , HPSA+, GSM operation
  • Supports a range of user counts from 800 user picocell configuration to 3,600 macrocell mode simultaneous active users
  • The first commercially available 3GPP LTE Rel 11 capable (upgradable to Rel 12) SoC
  • Highly configurable Wireless Baseband Module based on VLIW DSP cores, comprehensive PHY hardware accelerators, custom XBAR and PHY Shared memory
  • Integrated I/O capacity including CPRI / JESD204B,10GE, SGMII, SRIO v2.1, PCIe v3.0
  • Very high performance, low latency path for passing COMP data between multiple OCTEON Fusion-M devices

"Cavium has leveraged its multiple generations of world class IP to engineer OCTEON Fusion-M, a highly integrated family of wireless processors that provides a level of integration, performance and power/user unequaled in the industry. The OCTEON Fusion-M family are the most flexible processors for wireless communication and designed to not only encompass existing 3GPP standards but also new versions as they become ratified. They are ideally suited for HetNet applications and 5G roll outs," said Raj Singh, General Manager of Cavium's Wireless Broadband Group.

Sampling is expectec in Q3.

Verizon Deploys Ericsson Radio Dot System

Verizon has installed the Ericsson Radio Dot System at its regional headquarters building in Metro Detroit. This marks the first deployment of the Ericsson Radio Dot System in a commercial building in the United States.

The Dot boosts indoor mobile coverage and capacity. In this first office application, the Dot is also supporting Verizon's Advanced Calling service, including HD Voice and Video Calling over LTE, in indoor environments. In addition to installation, Ericsson provided professional services including design and verification.

The Ericsson Radio Dot System is fully integrated with the macro network and enables remote software upgrades as technologies evolve. The system uses compact Radio Dots and Cat 6A cabling, which reduces cost, complexity and power consumption for operators.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Blueprint: vCPE Evolution and NFV-Powered Network Assurance

by Scott Sumner

With traditional business services shifting toward federated cloud connectivity, communication service providers (CSPs) have set a new course for delivering these critical services. Virtualizing customer premise equipment is a key part of their strategies—vCPE is a cost effective, proven technology approach that’s already showing significant returns.

The Promise of vCPE

Business services are not what they used to be. Enterprises increasingly are migrating to public and private clouds, and connectivity to these hosted resources is ever more critical for business success.

Margin and revenue threats to communications service providers (CSPs) lurk around every corner: public cloud platforms, over-the-top (OTT) wide area networking (WAN) technologies, and cheap, dumb pipes, to name just a few.

CSPs can win big, though, if they are able to cost-effectively deliver performance assured multi-cloud, multi-service connectivity. In this context, a vCPE strategy is becoming a critical component in a competitive service delivery model. For example, Colt Technology Services achieved remarkable benefits from its broad NFV/vCPE strategy intended to all but eliminate on-premises appliances; over a three-year period, virtualizing routers resulted in more than 70% CapEx savings.

Why NFV-Powered vCPE?

Data center connectivity services face intense cost pressure, yet cannot be delivered in a way that sacrifices quality of service (QoS) since this connectivity is the lifeline between enterprises and their business-critical infrastructure.

When a CSP adopts a vCPE strategy, their main goal is to use NFV to replace as much equipment as possible at the customer premises with virtualized equivalents, thereby reducing CapEx and increasing agility.

Many vCPE deployments already use intelligent NIDs to perform critical customer premises edge functions like Layer 2 and 3 QoS mapping, hierarchical traffic conditioning, service OAM, and performance monitoring, allowing routing and other L3+ functions to be located and/or virtualized deeper into the network.

But, while this approach is still a highly cost-effective method to deploy services in a multi-tenant environment, unit cost can lengthen return on investment (ROI) when serving a single customer

Curiously, CSPs often refer to the last remaining piece of equipment—a demarcation unit or intelligent edge appliance—as “the vCPE”. In this context, CSPs are taking virtualization to its logical conclusion, by applying NFV to the vCPE appliance itself .

By using NFV-based vCPE appliances, CSPs can not only realize significant CapEx and OpEx savings, but also increase their performance visibility, greatly decrease deployment time with customer self-install capabilities, outmaneuver competitors with higher cost structures, and compete on performance rather than price.

But, in the real world, what does it takes to replace racks of traditional CPE with centrally managed software?

A Closer Look: NFV-Powered vCPE Approaches

Adopting an NFV-powered vCPE strategy can only be successful if the technology involved seamlessly integrates legacy and virtualized approaches into a unified delivery platform. When that’s true, CSPs gain a smooth migration from existing infrastructure, within existing operational practices.

One approach to using vCPE technology is virtualizing all computationally intensive performance assurance functions—such as report generation, test session sequencing, and statistics—and retaining the minimum possible hardware to achieve the equivalent precision and line-rate processing offered by standalone edge appliances. Programmable smart SFPs or compact GbE modules can provide the local processing required—with the full feature set of NIDs realized when complemented by performance assurance virtual network functions (VNFs) hosted in a central controller.

Another approach (referred to here as vmCPE for “virtualized module CPE”) is to fully virtualize all vCPE functions to a software-based appliance running on COTS hardware. This vmCPE appliance can use the same catalog of centrally hosted VNFs, if its architecture permits.

As with all technology decisions, there are trade-offs between these two NFV-based vCPE approaches. The first approach (compact hardware modules) is more precise but not always practical; some locations—such as services terminating on a virtual machine—cannot be monitored using any physical device.

The vmCPE approach overcomes those visibility challenges and can also collect related VM metadata (CPU load, memory usage, etc.) to help isolate network issues arising from NFV infrastructure performance variation. But, vmCPE appliances cannot realize the same order of precision or packet-processing efficiency as hardware-based modules, because CPU load, varying degrees of access to underlying hardware, and the asynchronous, free-running clocks in virtual machines prevent deterministic time stamping and limit accuracy.

Regardless of approach, the ability to host and move VNFs to diverse locations needs to be supported by an effective NFV-powered vCPE solution deployment strategy. Various NFV-based implementation options emerge when standalone vCPE infrastructure is broken down into its logical components—allowing CSPs to employ variants that address site-specific requirements while retaining unified control and visibility over all service endpoints.

What’s Ahead for vCPE?

Clearly, the vCPE is becoming a vital component in the connectivity service delivery path and its lifecycle. This makes migration to NFV inevitable. The best, least painful way forward is to unify a variety of programmable vCPE options, giving CSPs the benefits of extensibility and cost savings via orchestrated virtualization implemented in an open, real-time architecture. Such an approach needs to be carefully designed to ensure solutions are highly extensible, scalable, and programmable, and openly interoperate with other platforms and functions.

vCPE implementations will increasingly require a mix of legacy, NFV-powered and fully-virtualized approaches, and will use software defined networking (SDN) standards to build a centrally controlled, highly-scalable distributed networking fabric that harmonizes physical and virtual instrumentation. Result: CSPs won’t have to manage standalone, NFV-based and fully virtualized vCPE infrastructure separately; these will seamlessly interact.

About the Author

Scott Sumner is VP of solutions marketing at Accedian Networks. He has extensive experience in wireless, Carrier Ethernet and service assurance, with over 15 years of experience including roles as GM of Performant Networks, Director of Program Management & Engineering at MPB Communications, VP of Marketing at Minacom (Tektronix), and Aethera Networks (Positron / Marconi), Partnership and M&A Program Manager at EXFO, as well as project and engineering management roles at PerkinElmer Optoelectronics (EG&G).   He has Masters and Bachelor degrees in Engineering (M.Eng, B.Eng) from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and completed professional business management training at the John Molson School of Business, the Alliance Institute, and the Project Management Institute.

About Accedian Networks 

Accedian Networks is the Performance Assurance Solution Specialist for mobile networks and enterprise ­ to­ data center connectivity. Open, multi­vendor interoperable and programmable solutions go beyond standard ­based performance assurance to deliver Network State+™, the most complete view of network health. Automated service activation testing and real­ time performance monitoring feature unrivalled precision and granularity, while H­QoS traffic conditioning optimizes service performance. Since 2005, Accedian has delivered platforms assuring hundreds of thousands of cell sites globally.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

FCC Votes 3-2 to Adopt Open Internet Rules

The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to adopt a new set of Open Internet rules proposed by Commissioner Wheeler and backed by the Obama Administration. All of the new rules, which are based on the FCC's authority under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, would apply to fixed and mobile broadband alike, while leaving room for reasonable network management and its specific application to mobile and unlicensed WiFi networks.

Here are the key provisions and rules of the Open Internet Order as outlined by the FCC:

Bright Line Rules:  The first three rules ban practices that are known to harm the Open Internet.

  • No Blocking: broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
  • No Throttling: broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
  • No Paid Prioritization: broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind—in other words, no “fast lanes.”   This rule also bans ISPs from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates. It also prohibits practices that target specific applications or classes of applications.  

A Standard for Future Conduct:  the Order establishes that ISPs cannot “unreasonably interfere with or unreasonably disadvantage” the ability of consumers to select, access, and use the lawful content, applications, services, or devices of their choosing; or of edge providers to make lawful content, applications, services, or devices available to consumers.  The FCC will have authority to address questionable practices on a case-by-case basis, and will provide guidance in the form of factors on how the Commission will apply the standard in practice.

Greater Transparency:  the Order requires that broadband providers disclose, in a
consistent format, promotional rates, fees and surcharges and data caps. Disclosures must also include packet loss as a measure of network performance, and provide notice of network management practices that can affect service.  To further consider the concerns of small ISPs, the Order adopts a temporary exemption from the transparency enhancements for fixed and mobile providers with 100,000 or fewer subscribers, and delegates authority to the FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau to determine whether to retain the exception and, if so, at what level.

Reasonable Network Management:    For the purposes of the rules, other than paid prioritization, an ISP may engage in reasonable network management. The FCC's standard takes account of the particular engineering attributes of the technology involved—whether it be fiber, DSL, cable, unlicensed Wi-Fi, mobile, or another network medium. However, the network practice must be primarily used for and tailored to achieving a legitimate network management—and not business—purpose.

Broad Protection
Some data services do not go over the public Internet, and therefore are not “broadband Internet access” services (VoIP from a cable system is an example, as is a dedicated heart-monitoring service). The Order ensures that these services do not undermine the effectiveness of the Open Internet rules. Moreover, all broadband providers’ transparency disclosures will continue to cover any offering of such non-Internet access data services—ensuring that the public and the Commission can keep a close eye on any tactics that could undermine the Open Internet rules.

Interconnection: the FCC address issue that may arise in the exchange of traffic between mass-market broadband providers and other networks and services. Under the authority provided by the Order, the Commission can hear complaints and take appropriate enforcement action if it determines the interconnection activities of ISPs are not just and reasonable.

Legal Authority: the order relies on multiple sources of authority including both Title II of the Communications Act and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.  At the same time, the Order refrains – or forbears – from enforcing 27 provisions of Title II and over 700 associated regulations that are not relevant to modern broadband service.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler stated "There are three simple keys to our broadband future. Broadband networks must be fast. Broadband networks must be fair Broadband networks must be open. We know from the history of previous networks that both human nature and economic opportunism act to encourage network owners to become gatekeepers that prioritize their interests above the interests of their users. As the D.C. Circuit observed in the Verizon decision and as the public record affirms, broadband providers have both the economic incentive and the technological capability to abuse their gatekeeper position. Our challenge is to achieve two equally important goals: ensure incentives for private investment in broadband infrastructure so the U.S. has world-leading networks and ensure that those networks are fast, fair, and open for all Americans. The Open Internet Order achieves those goals, giving consumers, innovators, and entrepreneurs the protections they deserve, while providing certainty for broadband providers and the online marketplace."

Writing in dissent, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai stated "It shouldn’t be this way.  For twenty years, there’s been a bipartisan consensus in favor of a free and open Internet.  A Republican Congress and a Democratic President enshrined in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 the principle that the Internet should be a “vibrant and competitive free market . . . unfettered by Federal or State regulation.”  And dating back to the Clinton Administration, every FCC Chairman—Republican and Democrat—has let the Internet grow free from utility-style regulation.  The results speak for themselves. But today, the FCC abandons those policies.  It reclassifies broadband Internet access service as a Title II telecommunications service.  It seizes unilateral authority to regulate Internet conduct, to direct where Internet service providers (ISPs) make their investments, and to determine what service plans will be available to the American public.  This is not only a radical departure from the bipartisan, market-oriented policies that have served us so well for the last two decades.  It is also an about-face from the proposals the FCC made just last May... In short, because this Order imposes intrusive government regulations that won’t work to solve a problem that doesn’t exist using legal authority the FCC doesn’t have, I dissent."

  • The text of the Open Internet Order has not yet been published.  The FCC said they hope to release it to the public shortly.