Communications Service Providers (CSPs) worldwide face unprecedented challenges as they transform their network architectures and operations to meet ever-increasing demands for network bandwidth, while addressing the unique business opportunities presented by emerging enterprise, industrial and consumer use cases.
Napatech’s SmartNIC solutions, deployed both in the telecom core and at the network edge, enable CSPs to maximize the cost-efficiency and operational reliability of their infrastructure, bringing important benefits both to traditional physical equipment and to cloud-hosted services.
Software vendors, equipment manufacturers and system integrators leverage Napatech’s SmartNICs to run critical workloads throughout the telecom network, including:
- Accelerated packet processing and networking functions in the Radio Access Network (RAN), for Multi-Access Edge Compute (MEC) and in the core network, maximizing overall network performance and throughput;
- Full offload of 5G Core User Plane Function (UPF), maximizing the number of subscribers supported per server and data center energy efficiency;
- Accelerated virtual switching for edge and core functions, optimizing the utilization of compute resources for running applications and services.
Explore the benefits of Napatech SmartNICs
For a network-centric solutions view, click on one of the SmartNIC symbols in the network diagram
below to explore the benefits that Napatech SmartNICs provide for that network element.
In contrast to earlier generations of mobile networks, the 5G Core network functions are completely software-based and cloud-native, with complete abstraction of the underlying cloud infrastructure. The 5G core implements a Service-Based Architecture (SBA), in which each network function (NF) offers one or more services to other NFs via Application Programming Interfaces (API). Each NF comprises multiple microservices, which can be reused for other NFs, resulting in a highly-efficient architecture that facilitates life-cycle management.
In order to accelerate the launch of 5G, Communications Service Providers (CSPs) worldwide deployed the Non-Standalone (NSA) mode, in which the 5G New Radio (NR) technology was overlaid on the existing 4G/LTE core network and RAN. NSA allowed CSPs to launch enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) services to deliver 5G data speeds and boost capacity, while leveraging their existing 4G/LTE infrastructure assets.
CSPs have now started migrating their networks to Standalone (SA) 5G deployments, which have the potential to fully unlock the power and promise of 5G technology. Based on the 5G Core architecture along with the new 5G RAN, SA deployments introduce network slicing, massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC) and Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC). SA enables a wider range of use cases than NSA while improving operational efficiency and reducing costs for CSPs.
Within the 5G Core, SmartNIC solutions from Napatech deliver compelling improvements in the performance achievable on each server, by offloading critical functions from host-based software onto FPGA platforms. 5G Core functions that benefit the most from this offload technology include:
In order for Communications Service Providers (CSPs) to deliver on the full promise of 5G networks such as near ubiquitous, instantaneous coverage for a massive number of connected devices, satellites will need to play a far more central role within telecom networks, with both terrestrial and space-based components working in tandem for a wider diversity of functions.
In the context of a 5G network, satellites can serve three important functions:
Subsequently, in order to accelerate the launch of 5G, Communications Service Providers (CSPs) deployed the 5G Non-Standalone (NSA) mode, in which the 5G New Radio (NR) technology was overlaid on the existing 4G/LTE core network and RAN. NSA allowed CSPs to launch enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) services to deliver 5G data speeds and boost capacity, while leveraging their existing 4G/LTE infrastructure assets.
The key components of the 4G EPC / 5G NSA Core are:
Within the 4G EPC / 5G NSA Core, SmartNIC solutions from Napatech deliver compelling improvements in the performance achievable on each server, by offloading critical functions from host-based software onto FPGA platforms. 4G EPC / 5G NSA Core functions that benefit the most from this offload technology include:
Some of the key security functions that are typically provided as part of a SASE solution include Secure Web Gateways (SWGs), Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASBs), Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS) and Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA). Collectively these are often referred to as Software-Defined Perimeter (SDP) services, all delivered under a common cloud-based policy management and security umbrella that supports secure connectivity between endpoints and resources located at any physical location worldwide.
Rather than forcing network traffic back to a central data center for inspection, SASE services can place inspection engines at local Points of Presence (PoPs) based on identity and context, with traffic inspected and forwarded as appropriate through the internet or a provider backbone. This architecture connects both fixed and mobile users, whether managed or unmanaged, with resources located either private data centers or in the public cloud.
While some enterprises integrate and manage their own SASE and SD-WAN deployments, there is a growing trend towards leveraging the expertise and resources of a Managed Service Provider (MSP). Many enterprises already rely on one or more service providers to keep their networks running at peak performance, so by incorporating SASE-based solutions into their portfolios those service providers can extend their security services to the edge.
Within SASE gateways, SmartNIC solutions from Napatech deliver compelling improvements in the performance achievable on each server, by offloading critical functions from host-based software onto FPGA platforms. SASE functions that benefit the most from this offload technology include:
As an extension of cloud computing, edge compute enables real-time data collection and analysis, while applications running in the cloud itself provide centralized analytics and interpretation. Together, the combination of edge compute and cloud compute enables businesses to maximize their overall operational efficiency while deploying new types of services and applications that depend on real-time responsiveness to data from both consumers and devices.
ETSI coined the term Multi-access Edge Compute (formerly Mobile Edge Compute) or MEC to refer to a set of open standards allowing the seamless integration of applications across multi-vendor edge compute platforms.
Companies in a wide range of industries have started to adopt edge compute as a key technology driving the transformation of their businesses. Examples include:
Nodes specific to 5G RAN are called gNBs and are responsible for all functions related to radio technology. The gNB nodes support NR devices via the NR user plane and control plane protocols. A gNB is a logical node rather than a purely physical one and is commonly deployed as a three sector site. In such a deployment, a base station is present at each site. However, one baseband processing unit (BBU) can also connect to several remote radio heads. For example, one base station can serve a building or factory that has multiple indoor radio heads.
Typically, a 5G RAN is split into two major segments, where one segment comprises one or more distributed units (DUs) and the other segment is a central unit (CU), communicating over with the F1 interface. The DUs are located at a specific site in the network edge and are controlled by the CUs. A CU can be located with the DU or somewhere closer to the network core, such as a regional cloud data center. Virtualization separates the networking functions from the hardware they run on, allowing them to be updated as technology advances. This makes 5G infrastructure a type of virtual RAN (vRAN).
Open RAN (O-RAN) is a term used for industry-wide standards for RAN interfaces that support interoperability between vendors’ equipment and offer network flexibility at a lower cost. The main purpose of O-RAN is to have an interoperability standard for RAN elements including non-proprietary white box hardware and software from different vendors. Communications Service Providers (CSPs) that opt for RAN elements with standard interfaces can avoid being locked-in to one vendor’s proprietary hardware and software.
In addition to the O-RAN Radio Unit (O-RU),O-RAN DU (O-DU) and O-RAN CU (O-CU), the O-RAN system architecture includes the RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC). There are two types of RICs, non-real-time and near-real-time. Both are logical functions for controlling and optimizing the elements and resources of an O-RAN.
Within a 5G RAN, SmartNIC solutions from Napatech deliver compelling improvements in the performance achievable on each server, by offloading critical functions from host-based software onto FPGA platforms. 5G RAN functions that benefit the most from this offload technology include:
In the C-RAN architecture, the basestation (BTS) is decomposed by decoupling its remote radio head (RRH) at the cell site from its baseband unit (BBU). Multiple RRHs are connected to a single, shared BBU over dark fiber, via a "fronthaul" interface that is either Common Protocol Radio Interface (CPRI) or Open Basestation Architecture Initiative (OBSAI). Separating the RRHs from the BBUs reduces the cost (both CAPEX and OPEX) of the equipment at the cell site. Depending on the level of aggregation, it brings some economies of scale to the BBU, the cost of which is also reduced whenever it's located indoors.
In the next phase of consolidation, several such BBUs are grouped together and aggregated to form a Centralized BBU (C-BBU). Within the C-BBU, processing resources are pooled and allocated based on RRH traffic. Often, a C-BBU will support both residential and business areas, with resource allocation adjusted dynamically as traffic patterns change during the day. This solution is limited to small clusters of RRHs because complexity increases exponentially with larger clusters of RRHs. It yields significant some cost savings compared to the basic centralized RAN approach where BBUs in both residential and business areas must be sized for peak traffic.
The next step is a true Cloud RAN architecture known as virtual RAN (vRAN), in which the centralized BBUs supporting large clusters of cell sites are virtualized. These "vBBUs" can be instantiated on standard COTS server platforms rather than on dedicated custom, fixed-function equipment from traditional RAN vendors. Depending on the approach, the fronthaul transport provisioning may require very high bandwidth and ultra-low latency, or nominal bandwidth and low latency or nominal bandwidth and relaxed latency. Also, computational efficiency is a major concern in some of the approaches.
The base stations in 4G networks are termed evolved Node B (eNodeB). The eNodeB performs perform the radio access functions that are equivalent to the combined work that the Node B and RNC perform in 3G UMTS networks.
Within a 4G RAN, SmartNIC solutions from Napatech deliver compelling improvements in the performance achievable on each server, by offloading critical functions from host-based software onto FPGA platforms. RAN functions that benefit the most from this offload technology include:
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Alternatively, click on one of the applications and services listed below to learn about specific functions and protocols that are accelerated by Napatech SmartNICs: