In order to upgrade their infrastructure to meet the latency and Quality of Service (QoS) requirements of 5G while reducing costs, commercial or private network operators can implement a Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) architecture, and utilize Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) together with general purpose servers to implement Virtual Evolved Packet Core (vEPC) technology, replacing expensive proprietary hardware and software. ITRI's iMEC (Intelligent Mobile Edge Computing) platform combined with GIGABYTE servers provide an effective way to implement this solution.
5G - the next generation of mobile telecommunications technology, is on the horizon and promises to deliver a myriad of new services and capabilities such as Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) and Ultra Reliable Low-Latency Communications (URLLC) for massive IOT and Mission Critical Communications (MCC). A new band of the radio frequency spectrum between 30 – 300GHz has been opened for use, and a new telecommunications standard for 5G has been defined encompassing network speed, latency, the number of devices that can be connected, QoS and other conditions.
However, enabling 5G technologies requires not just a simple upgrade of User Equipment (UE) with a 5G modem and front end Radio Access Network (RAN) equipment. To meet the specifications of 5G such as speed, end-to-end latency and QoS, network operators will need to upgrade their entire front to backend network topology. Upgrading this network infrastructure to enable technically complex 5G service could be extremely costly. In addition to the spectrum purchase cost, infrastructure investment costs will be huge: the number of base stations required for deployment will be four times that of the past, and construction costs will be 10 to 20 times higher than that of the 4G period
ITRI's iMEC (Intelligent Mobile Edge Computing) platform combines NFV and cloud virtualization technology to minimize mobile backhaul bandwidth requirements and provide an ultra-low latency edge cloud platform.
Adopting iMEC together with GIGABYTE servers to replace propriety hardware and software is an ideal way to reduce infrastructure costs while enabling network operators to successfully transform their 4G network to support 5G technology.
iMEC can support a heterogeneous configuration of an ultra-dense 5G RAN with various vertical services, serving as an ingress point from the RAN to the core network as well as performing Self Organization Network (SON) functionality for the RAN, and local traffic breakout to offload traffic toward the core network. iMEC is designed to minimize end-to-end delay, perform QoS negotiation/management with the RAN and the Software Defined Networking (SDN) / NFV based core network, and also manage some virtualized RAN functions.
Due to the rapid deployment capabilities of virtualized / cloud computing, the network entity setup / configuration period for the core network can be greatly shortened using iMEC. Virtualized devices can also be easily scaled out according to additional demand and remotely & dynamically updated, ensuring a greatly reduced system maintenance burden. Furthermore, the load balancing capabilities of cloud computing further improves QoS. In addition to the migration and re-generation ability of Virtual Machines (VMs), a hot standby feature (in addition to the main VM, a redundant spare will also be available to take over) ensures a high level of network reliability.
ITRI's iMEC platform includes the following features:
iMEC can support both OpenStack NFV (OPNFV) and Kubernetes NFV Infrastructure (NFVI) solutions, providing a unified management interface for virtual machine and container application services, and providing application services for easy and quick deployment
Acting as a System Architecture Evolution (SAE) gateway, iMEC provides dynamic path judgment and can support the following usage scenarios:
Seamless Service Redirection can work with various cloud platforms such as AWS, Google Cloud etc. to meet the low latency requirements of 5G application services. The application service can seamlessly run on the iMEC platform, and the user application can connect to the application service of the iMEC platform without any modification needed.
iMEC is a distributed cloud platform with limited system resources, as opposed to a more traditional data center cloud. Therefore, in order to make more effective use of these limited resources, iMEC features Just-In-Time Service Initiation technology, so that application services can start dynamically when needed and shut down when not in use, reducing resource idleness. A containerized application service can be dynamically launched within 1 second.
GIGABYTE's H281-PE0 Hyper-Converged System is an ideal hardware base for iMEC, using a 2U 4 node chassis design with dual 2nd Generation Xeon Scalable Processors per each node, offering extremely dense compute performance capabilities optimal for NFVI. In addition, the H281-PE0 features a high level of expansion slot availability, providing up to 30% more capacity than competing models in the same class. Furthermore, the fully redundant design features of the H281-PE0, from the component level such as redundant hot-swap PSUs and fans, to the cluster level such as hot swap nodes, ensures 24-7 availability for an uninterrupted full time 5G service experience.
GIGABYTE's H281-PE0 also features a variety of powerful remote management tools such as a Chassis Management Controller (CMC) in addition to each node's Baseboard Management Controller (BMC), as well as a complimentary remote management suite, GIGABYTE Server Management (GSM), providing wide-area, large-scale deployment and management convenience.
Combined together with ITRI's iMEC, this system delivers a fully carrier-grade platform for service offload & bandwidth management together with low-latency application processing.
GIGABYTE also has a range of other server solutions available or in development highly suitable for network and cloud virtualization including to be used as an iMEC platform, such as the G291-Series (G291-280 / G291-Z20) GPU server series for an edge computing platform that can support AR / VR applications, or our upcoming H242 edge server series.
GIGABYTE will continue to focus on the development of products with a modular design that are suitable for iMEC, providing a system with a more flexible configuration that operators can adapt to their needs, and that can be deployed in a 5G network as a RAN node, aggregation node or core network node.
iMEC features Virtualized Evolved Packet Core (vEPC) functionality, allowing the UE to change signals between base stations without having to go back to the core network to complete the inter-base station handover. Only after the successful handover, will the necessary information be returned to the core network EPC. This can improve the 5G network service quality, especially when the user is moving at high speed.
iMEC provides redundancy at the infrastructure level with NFVI, without relying on physical modules. The abstract nature of cloud virtualization resources ensures the virtual network functions (VNF) running on it will not be affected by service interruptions due to physical server or network connection errors. For example, EPC key network entities such as Mobility Management Engine (MME) VMs can run multiple copies, with hot standby technology providing N+1 backup for each other. If the main VM fails, the standby VM can take over within a fraction of a second, without the user feeling the EPC service has been temporarily interrupted.
5G Standards include specifications for a wireless IoT - Machine Type Communication (MTC) - which places a huge burden on a network's Evolved Packet Core (EPC) in terms of system scale and scalability. iMEC can form a QoS policy through the Policy and Charging Rules Function (PCRF) network entity. The Software Defined Networking (SDN) controller will convert this policy to a ruleset, that will be published to the topology of the switch that groups traffic, and will use a Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) method to manage operations.
Virtualization technology allows iMEC to flexibly increase or decrease resource usage according to demand, so as to effectively utilize the overall resources. And in addition to the above-mentioned aspects of providing redundancy protection in NFVI, virtual resources and VNF can be dynamically managed, including the addition and removal of VMs, ensuring that every vEPC running can maintain proper configuration and operation.