Spotlight on Tech

To unlock the full potential of 5G, operators must embrace Open RAN — Symworld Cloud can help

Brooke Frischemeier
Head of Product Management, Unified Cloud
Rakuten Symphony
December 7, 2022
minute read

Open RAN is a game-changing Radio Access Network (RAN) evolution combining RAN functionality with cloud-native design, scale, and automation.

Legacy RAN was and is still intentionally designed using closed and proprietary architectures that locked operators to a particular vendor, for both radio and supporting hardware (baseband units).

Now with Open RAN, operators can not only decouple vendors but also software from hardware, facilitating the migration to a cloud-native model. The key functionality is provided by containerized Network Functions (NFs) – software that runs on virtually any Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) server. Furthermore, Open RAN provides a consistent set of functionalities and APIs across all vendors, reducing integration, implementation, and lifecycle management (LCM) times.

Why is this important? Because the resulting cloud-native model enables workflow orchestration and network automation that can deploy, scale and heal without intervention. This is extremely beneficial for remote locations that have historically required expensive truck rolls.

Open RAN and perceived challenges

The O-RAN Alliance develops specifications that drive open standards and interoperability. This eliminates vendor lock-ins while increasing competitive innovation. Long story short, this provides operators with business agility that helps them generate revenue faster than ever before.

Tremendous benefits aside, operators have concerns related to Open RAN deployments.

For example, interoperability is one perceived challenge. When one thinks of open networks the first thing that comes to mind is, “How will I make all of these vendors work together?”

While that is an essential consideration, generally it is not a stumbling block. Vendors who work in an open environment centered around disaggregation generally adhere to standards. They realize that their ability to quickly demonstrate interoperability is key to their success. Additionally, in today’s world of containerized software, vendors can quickly change, test and deploy new code.

But interoperability is so much more than getting your RAN vendors to properly connect. One must also solve for end-to-end solution interoperability and efficiency up and down the operations stack, and be mindful of a few aspects:

  • First things first, there is no one-size-fits-all RAN solution or deployment model and advanced routing capabilities, such as source-based routes.
  • Resources, NFs, NF vendors, and applications will be deployed and migrated all over the network, far edge, edge, regional and core. Each environment has different restrictions and configurations.
  • RAN and edge NFs will come with specifically tuned configuration requirements that must be deployed at scale from remote locations.
  • RAN NFs are very network-heavy where cloud platforms require multiple IP addresses and advanced routing capabilities, such as source-based routes.
  • Not all vendors are on the same containerization roadmap. Harmonizing and sharing resources and operations between containers and Virtual Machines (VMs) is critical. Having one platform for CNFs and another for VNFs (even if they are from the same vendor) is not a migration strategy, it’s a technology anchor created from poor decisions. Unaccommodating legacy platforms have dire consequences.
  • Operation stacks and end-to-end services and protocol interoperability are all critical aspects to consider.
  • Multi-tenant considerations such as Role Based Access Control (RBAC), chargeback, and per-tenant observability are needed.

Most importantly, as you tackle the problems above, don’t simply use them as a series of checkboxes.

Ask your vendor not just WHAT, but HOW interoperability will affect the organization

The industry is moving into a new era of RAN design, cloud platforms and automation. Do not settle for traditional solutions that they tell you “know and love”.  This means you are:

  • Being given the same old stuff as before, without innovation.
  • Wrapping numerous old systems behind a single pane of glass and calling it unified.
  • Faced with operations, resource, architecture and scaling silos.

Demand more! Things need to be easier, they need to take less time and require less expertise if we are going to meet the challenges of massive 5G rollouts.

  • How does this promote the efficient use of resources?
  • How does this reduce the number of workflows and operations silos?
  • How does this reduce my time to outcome for integration, deployment, and lifecycle management?
  • How does it use my existing tools, scripts, and executors to onboard legacy solutions and workflows?
  • How easy will it be to modify and change solutions that have already been deployed?

Delivering on the 5G promise

While such challenges exist, they can be resolved using an innovative approach to managing software applications, services, and physical resources, for providers and enterprises. Today, 5G operators, cloud platform providers, and over-the-top service providers require new solutions that provision capacity and automate multiple levels of infrastructure, hardware, software, cloud platforms, and appliances, while simultaneously consolidating VM and container-based services, reducing operations silos and costs.

Symworld™ Cloud enables this vision with three revolutionary products that demonstrate unprecedented flexibility, ease of use, and real-time scale. Our products have been enabling operators to deliver on the 5G promise with unmatched lifecycle simplicity, performance, scale, and advanced workload placement, unified under the covers by design to be one, not just a single pane of glass.

The current implementation of Symworld™ Cloud solutions has demonstrated the potential for a 40% reduction in OPEX, scalable orchestration, and automation for RAN and Core, and a 50% reduction in CAPEX by enabling Open RAN and Core on commercial hardware. It does so while reducing deployment timelines by 80% and in many cases from days to minutes for complex multi-domain automation. These are not our own numbers but those calculated by our customers.

As we continue to innovate our services, we are working actively to further decrease costs for operators, as well as develop our work in areas like network slicing and AI-driven automation. Invest a few minutes of your time and unlock a wide range of performance benefits. Connect with our experts and explore how our products can help bring interoperability into your architecture.

Interested to know more? Hear from our experts on designing future-ready, cloud-native networks that help operators boost performance.

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