Why Cloud RAN
Cloud RAN (Radio Access Network) is anticipated as the next revolution for cellular network infrastructure, and considered as an optimal solution to enhance capacity and coverage, while reducing latency caused by increased traffic. Though the virtualized nature of cloud RAN is thought as a challenging approach to replace the traditional, distributed RAN architecture, the cloud architecture is favored by network operators for their RAN infrastructures to enable new serviceability and simplified deployment approach.
Facing the explosive increase in traffic by connected devices, mobile broadband and other networked services, network operators are assessing the investment of Cloud RAN deployment. Though it was considered disruptive to implement at first, economical factors such as decreased average profit per users and severe competitions for subscribers/users make Cloud RAN a favorable option to lower TCO (total cost of ownership) and reduce latency.
Cloud RAN Framework
The framework behind Cloud RAN is that, by adopting NFV (Network Function Virtualization) and cloud computing orchestrations in RAN infrastructures, operators can aggregate computing resources, service scalability, cell layers and wireless standard compatibility. Under a Cloud RAN architecture, large numbers of BBU (Baseband Unit) and RRH (Remote Radio Head) are centrally deployed as a central data center. These components are connected by cables, such as a fiber one. In other words, the components that used to be distributed are now implemented centrally. Though the cost could be disruptive to revolutionize the infrastructure, the economical benefits are continuous, such as simplified hardware management and maintenance, resource pooling, lower latency and aggregated connectivity to meet different demands for service and applications.
Another major benefit of Cloud RAN is the use of open platform hardware, which is a significant economical advantage. Traditional BBU are based on proprietary hardware, so that the software and hardware maintenances are carried out by a single vendor. Closed-sources make system maintenance difficult and costly. On the contrary, in a centralized Cloud RAN setting, there can be thousands of BBUs and RRHs connected by a common interface fiber link cable. Thus, the network computing platform must be in open architecture, like Intel x86, in order to provide real-time virtualization for the pooled components. In fact, virtualized components ensure real-time performance by dynamically allocating hardware resource and through centralized coordination capability, the performance for wireless communication services can reach micro-second level, far beyond the original millisecond stage.
Cloud RAN is also considered a significant application for NFV and is anticipated to be the framework for the upcoming 5G specifications.
Figure: Cloud RAN & Non-Standalone 5G NR, Source: Heavy Reading
Virtualization-optimized Cloud RAN Ready Solution by Lanner
As mentioned, Cloud RAN maximizes investments by adopting open platforms to act as the network computing servers to coordinate with the aggregately pooled BBUs. Among various vendors supplying open hardware, it is recommended to go with a fully dedicated manufacturer like Lanner to ensure compatibility and reliability.
Lanner has a full range of Intel x86 based hardware appliance with virtualization-needed technologies, featuring up to CPU blades, up to 12 dual Intel® Xeon® processor E5-2600v4 CPUs with a total of 264 core counts, higher memory bandwidth and Intel SR-IOV/ AVX-512 new instructions to significantly accelerate packet processing efficiency.
Regarding Cloud RAN level traffic, Lanner leverages the latest packet processors to offer 100GbE high-speed throughputs with capacity up to 1.2Tbps, ensured for ultra-high-performance across multiple deployment scenarios. In addition, Lanner hardware solutions are DPDK compatible for optimal efficiency.
As a Cloud RAN ready hardware vendor, Lanner’s solutions come with NEBS compliant design, full-redundancy, and carrier-grade high-availability critical to ensure 99.9999% uptimes (the six-nine). Future-proof is included in the design of the platform for future upgrades in CPU, network I/O and swappable modules.
- 6U Rackmount
- 6x Compute Blades & I/O Blades
- Dual Intel Xeon E5-2600v4 CPU & DDR4 Memory per Blade
- BCM56854/56860/56960 Switch Fabric
Future Consideration – Getting ready for 5G
Cloud RAN is expected to come into place for 5G, but there’s consensus within the industry that there will be a virtual RAN (vRAN) architecture with even higher flexibility and adaptability towards the rapid changes in near future. Deployment of value-added mobile services can be more instant to enhance user experiences.