5G and 6G RAN Telco Cloud

Introducing Telco Cloud Automation 2.0 – What’s New?

VMware is pleased to announce the general availability of VMware Telco Cloud Automation 2.0. This latest version of VMware Telco Cloud Automation—released on December 14th, 2021—focuses on key feature upgrades and new capabilities for Service Providers. With Telco Cloud Automation 2.0, Service Providers can leverage enhanced multi-cloud operations and find improved network operability, network function and service management. What’s more, VMware Telco Cloud Automation 2.0 offers upgraded infrastructure automation and additional support for a robust ecosystem of ISVs/NEPs, resulting in better interoperability. This new version also presents, in Tech Preview, VMware’s “Project Lattice” for network slicing automation.[1] With these enhancements, Service Providers can build the foundation for new revenue-generating 5G services, address tight customer SLAs, and reduce operating costs and network complexities. In other words, Telco Cloud Automation 2.0 is designed for Service Providers seeking a modern network.

Below we describe some of the various novel capabilities of Telco Cloud Automation 2.0:

Multi-Cloud Automation for VMware Cloud on AWS and Tech Preview of Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS)

Driven by the need for business agility, acceleration in innovation and potential cost savings, Service Providers are undertaking the task of constructing distributed, multi-cloud networks. Telco Cloud Automation enables Service Providers to take full advantage of their multi-cloud ecosystem by providing a centralized management plane. As part of Telco Cloud Automation 2.0, Service Providers can leverage Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) public cloud resources with VMware Cloud on AWS and/or Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) (in Tech Preview). Telco Cloud Automation 2.0 can provision cloud-native network functions directly on native Amazon EKS, bringing unified management of workloads on-premises and on public cloud infrastructures. As such, Telco Cloud Automation 2.0 offers multi-cloud consistency, easing workload onboarding, instantiation and lifecycle management while promoting mobility from the network core to edge to RAN, and from private to public clouds.  Figure 1 below illustrates managing workloads both on-prem and over EKS and the video demonstration below depicts the deployment of a CNF on an EKS cluster.

Figure 1
Demonstration of VMware Telco Cloud Automation’s Multi-Cloud Operations over Amazon’s EKS

Project Lattice Tech Preview: End-to-End Orchestration with Network Slicing

As demands from customers to offer new, differentiated services increases, Service Providers are searching for new ways to fulfill—and monetize—these requests. Network Slicing allows Service Providers to create and monetize a new breed of services—from Massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC) or Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication (uRLLC) to enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB)—through standard frameworks to design, create, and manage network resources that can be packaged and exposed directly to the end users.

5G Network Slicing enables Service Providers to create on-demand, isolated, end-to-end logical networks running on a shared and common infrastructure. These programmable networks are associated with specific business purposes and follow a set of predefined SLAs with Quality-of-Service indicators (QoS) and security requirements. An integral aspect of Telco Cloud Automation 2.0, VMware created Project Lattice to deliver 5G Network Slicing to provide a standard way of managing and exposing network resources to the end user, while assuring the delivered slice’s purpose and characteristics (i.e., throughput, latency, geographical location, isolation level, etc.)

VMware plans to support, through Project Lattice, 3GPP standard-compliant Network Slicing management, enabling users to plan, design and instantiate end-to-end network slices across domains, as depicted in screenshots in Figure 2 below. Network Slicing capabilities add-on are presented as Tech Preview in VMware Telco Cloud Automation 2.0. For more information on Telco Cloud Automation’s “Project Lattice,” see the latest blog here.

Figure 2

Enhanced Network Operability

As the network edge continues to expand and Service Providers seek new, multi-cloud avenues to distribute their workloads, seamless operations and high network availability prove paramount. What’s more, with increasingly complex, dispersed networks come potential security vulnerabilities and threats. Telco Cloud Automation helps an operator view and provision Telco Cloud components over a centralized platform—from network services and network functions to the CaaS and virtual infrastructure. As part of Telco Cloud Automation 2.0, this single pane of glass UI allows operators to easily view details of their CaaS infrastructure, manage Day 2 CaaS operations (Kubernetes clusters), and control BIOS and firmware upgrades on the managed ESXi nodes.

What’s more, Telco Cloud Automation’s support for Day 2 CaaS operations, as highlighted in the Figures 3 and 4 screenshots below, allows for seamless upgrades of Tanzu Kubernetes Grid (TKG) management and workload clusters—ensuring that clusters are upgraded on an automated, rolling basis that preserves Kubernetes node customization,[2] network function and network service workloads during the upgrade process. With Telco Cloud Automation 2.0, moreover, a Service Provider can leverage multiple Harbor registries for a Kubernetes cluster—ultimately allowing the Service Provider to deploy a CNF from any of the configured registries.

Figure 3
Figure 4

Telco Cloud Automation’s airgap capabilities additionally establish a connection to a stand-alone server so a Service Provider can download CaaS automation packages and, consequently, improve security through CNF node customization with zero internet access. Airgap also allows an operator to seperate their network’s development from the internet to allow for isolated maintenances and upgrades.

Better Management of Network Functions and Services

To ease network function design, improve platform usability and corresponding template creation, Telco Cloud Automation provides a simple designer UI for operators to create, delete and update lifecycle operations. Telco Cloud Automation 2.0, moreover, includes a custom workflow designer, as depicted in Figure 5 below, so an operator can, for example, create custom automation processes.

Figure 5

Data plane intensive CNFs, such as UPF or vDU, also need a way to configure the Enhanced Network Stack (ENS), a crucial feature for high-performance network functions. Telco Cloud Automation 2.0 utilizes NSX-T’s ENS settings through its late-binding capabilities to optimize the network and increase throughput. To address RAN-specific workloads, Telco Cloud Automation 2.0 continuously adds RAN configuration functions to the network function descriptor.

Infrastructure Automation Enhancements

To address customer requests for specific platform enhancements and support seamless scaling of new network sites, Telco Cloud Automation 2.0 offers BIOS configuration automation, Intel’s Mount Bryce driver support, and Precision Time Protocol (PTP) network function automation. These integrations automate away complex and error-prone manual infrastructure-level operations that prove essential for running vRAN and other high-performance applications. For additional information on infrastructure automation and its numerous benefits, see the blog here.

Partner Ecosystem (ISVs/NEPs)

A fundamental aspect of any orchestration solution is its ability to evolve in a multi-cloud, multi-vendor ecosystem. As an infrastructure provider for many years, VMware has a robust group of network function partners certified on its technology (230+ network functions certified from all major equipment providers).  As part of Telco Cloud Automation’s efforts, many of these partners now integrate their VNFs and CNFs to both automation and infrastructure layers of the Telco Cloud (refer to the VMware Telco marketplace here for all certified partners). In fact, in quarter ended September 2021, eight CNFs from three vendors were Telco Cloud Automation certified. Notably, Telco Cloud Automation certified Nokia’s 5G core CNFs. The certification process validates the partner network function CSAR package conformity and the crucial steps of onboarding and lifecycle management over the Telco Cloud platform. This important process allows CSPs to accelerate the deployment of their network functions and limits the risks associated with interoperability.

Note: the VMware Ready for Telco Cloud program also allows network function partners to certify their software to produce xNFDs and packages on VMware Telco Cloud Infrastructure and Telco Cloud Platform.

Increased Interoperability

Telco Cloud Automation supports fundamental ETSI-MANO, TMF, 3GPP for network slicing and O-RAN guidelines for telco component interoperability and leverages native integration with VIM and upstream Kubernetes for northbound interfaces (e.g., placement, KPI collection, etc.). This architecture provides a streamlined and flexible approach for orchestrating telco standards-compliant workloads on a quickly-changing, multi-cloud ecosystem. Service Providers can interact with telco standards and allow Telco Cloud Automation to translate the requirements in cloud capabilities. Telco standardized interfaces facilitate Telco Cloud Automation deployment and interactions within a multi-vendor architecture. Telco Cloud Automation 2.0 also adds the following software interoperability:

ProductSupported Versions
VMware vCenter Server7.0u2d 7.0u3
VMware NSX-T3.1.3
VMware Integrated OpenStack7.1
VMware Tanzu Kubernetes Grid1.4 with Kubernetes versions: 1.19.12, 1.20.8 and 1.21.2
VMware Cloud Director10.3
VMware vRealize Orchestrator8.4 8.4.1 8.4.2

Paving the Road to Modern Network Automation

Telco Cloud Automation’s latest release offers robust layers of automation: infrastructure Automation and network expansion, multi-cloud deployment and CaaS automation, network function and service management capabilities, and network slicing automation. As such, Telco Cloud Automation 2.0 now offers a holistic, end-to-end automation and orchestration solution for Service Providers where an operator can now contain network complexity and enable a virtualized multi-vendor, multi-cloud, multi-location network—one that supports the necessary scale for a continuously-expanding edge.

In short, the confluence of Telco Cloud Automation’s new features and capabilities can unlock next-gen 5G services for customers, reduce network costs through ease of operability, improved functionality and scalability and support for Service Providers on their journey to modern network automation.

For a complete list and detailed description of features, capabilities and enhancements related to this release, see the Telco Cloud Automation v.2.0 Release Notes.

[1] The benefits of automated upgrades in the case of cluster customization preservation should not be understated. As presented in this article on TCA’s “late-binding” capability, node customization critically allows Service Providers to tailor their Kubernetes nodes and infrastructure to address specific workload requirements and tackle customer-specific SLAs.  

[2] Note: Project Lattice is currently offered as a Tech Preview in limited availability to Telco Cloud Automation customers. Request for access must be sent to Telco Cloud Automation product management team here.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.