After gaining numerous advantages from modernizing and disaggregating their core networks, CSPs are turning their attention to the radio access network, or RAN. They now seek to improve agility, reduce costs, and deploy RAN sites faster by decomposing the RAN. Disaggregation and virtualization of the RAN, however, requires a major architectural shift. The requirements for latency, performance, resource management, and scale for the RAN vastly differ from the core. While CSPs should consider applying the same design approach in disaggregating the RAN as they did in the core to maintain architectural and operational consistency, more planning is required to address the architectural concerns specific to the RAN.
Through working with CSPs worldwide to modernize their networks and deploy the core and RAN, VMware understands the technical and operational challenges faced by CSPs. RAN deployment requires extra attention, especially for the far edge cell sites, where the latency requirements and resource constraints are more demanding. While VMware believes that a hypervisor-based solution, powered by VMware ESXi, provides the better stability, security, and flexibility, we also want to help our customers who, in certain deployment scenarios at far edge cell sites, prefer to implement a bare metal server to run disaggregated and virtualized RAN functions.
Introducing Project Kauai
To help our CSP customers advance their journey toward modernized and disaggregated RAN with more architectural choices, VMware is introducing Project Kauai. The vision of Project Kauai is to add choice and flexibility through VMware Telco Cloud Platform RAN to help you deploy the most demanding areas of your RAN – far edge cell sites. While CSPs can continue to reap the benefits of the VMware ESXi hypervisor, the goal of Project Kauai is to complement our hypervisor solution by running disaggregated and virtualized RAN functions on a bare metal server.
Meeting Your Design Preference
Project Kauai aims to give a CSP multiple options for creating systems that optimize performance, minimize latency, overcome resource constraints, and simplify operations in the context of that CSP’s far edge cell sites, including their environment, preferences, use cases, and objectives. Each CSP architects its RAN sites in unique ways based on such factors as geographical locations, business strategies, and customer requirements. Project Kauai gives a CSP the choice and flexibility to select the right RAN architecture for its customers.
VMware Telco Cloud Platform RAN, through Project Kauai, utilizes the VMware Tanzu modern application platform to run Kubernetes on a single server host to support a virtualized distributed unit (vDU) or a combination of vDUs and virtualized centralized units (vCU), depending on your design preference.
As part of Project Kauai, VMware has developed a lightweight VMware Tanzu Kubernetes Grid (TKG) runtime that is deployed on the real-time version of Photon OS with the single-node Kubernetes cluster (SNC) configuration, where both the Kubernetes control plane and worker node are running on a single bare metal server, as shown in the image above.
Choosing the Right Combination for Your Requirements
The choice between the two deployment options, shown below, depends on the specific requirements of a CSP, such as performance, scalability, and management complexity associated with its RAN.
VMware ESXi Hypervisor Option
- Intermixing vDUs and vCUs from multiple vendors on same host is required by the customer.
- There is a variety of server types deployed across the network and there is a need for hardware abstraction and a consistent cloud management layer.
- There is a need to support advanced use cases such as high-availability, security, multi-tenancy, data recovery, shared storage, and other software-defined data center capabilities from VMware.
- CPU and memory resources are more readily available and accessible to support the VMware ESXi hypervisor and Kubernetes clusters at both near and far edge sites.
Bare Metal Option
- There is a need for deploying a single-node Kubernetes cluster, either on the far edge or near edge, to host vDUs or vCUs where the CPU and memory resources at these sites come with premium.
- Both vDUs and vCUs are provided by the same network equipment provider (NEP), and therefore, can share the same operating system kernel without a need for hardware abstraction.
- There is a near-term need to integrate a single-node Kubernetes cluster with a specific out-of-box solution, such as an in-line acceleration product.
VMware has successfully validated running a single-node Kubernetes cluster on a bare metal server to host vDUs and vCUs, along with radio units, from Saankhya Labs and IS-Wireless in the VMware Telco Labs. The joint solution can be demonstrated to a CSP upon request. VMware is also working with other NEP partners to host their vDUs and vCUs on both hypervisors and bare metal servers, providing choice and flexibility in designing the RAN.
Your RAN Operations are Also Covered
While we understand that supporting both hypervisor and bare metal is crucial in how CSPs design their far edge cell sites, how they operate them is as important as the platform itself. VMware Bare Metal Automation combined with VMware Telco Cloud Automation provides simple and automated instantiation of both hypervisor and bare metal versions of VMware Telco Cloud Platform RAN to help CSPs scale their RAN sites fast while providing overarching cloud-smart automation across distributed RAN sites. In addition, VMware Telco Cloud Service Assurance offers monitoring, analytics, and remediation capabilities to ensure proper RAN deployments and uninterrupted service delivery.
What’s in a Name?
The archipelago of Hawaiian Islands, as shown in the image below, resembles some CSPs’ networks. The chain of islands make up the state of Hawaii, the same way a chain of cloudified domains makes up CSPs’ edge networks. VMware provides a consistent platform that can be deployed across these domains, including the RAN, to deliver a unified operational experience.
Project Kauai is a new initiative that gives customers more choice and flexibility when it comes to deploying their RAN. The goal of Project Kauai is to complement our hypervisor solution by running vDUs and vCUs directly on a bare metal server.
Hypervisor or bare metal? The choice is yours.