The mobile communications industry has started to get serious about deploying autonomous 5G networks, marking the beginning of a new era for companies in the sector and their customers. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of mobile operators expect 5G core networks to deliver tangible customer experience benefits over the next three years, according to a Heavy Reading global report by F5 and other leading technology companies. Expert opinion in this area of networking.
With the 5G core network, mobile operators can benefit from the speed, flexibility and automated scalability of cloud-native architecture. Nearly half of respondents say the core functions of cloud-native 5G are ready to roll out at scale, while 28% say they are “nearly done”. Additionally, nearly two-thirds (65%) see value in network slicing for business services. A cloud-native core will allow operators to dynamically allocate appropriate resources (network slicing) to individual customers and use cases.
Another key finding in this research is that deploying a cloud-native IT architecture in a complex communications environment can be challenging. More specifically, the report notes that unexpected operational issues have emerged related to functional gaps in the scale of Kubernetes caused by industry-specific protocols used by telecom operators. Nearly half of the experts surveyed (49%) identified “the need to secure new Kubernetes clusters outside of legacy security” as one of the top three container deployment issues related to transitioning to the 5G core.
In the IT world, the Kubernetes framework is widely used to automate the deployment, scaling, and management of containerized microservices. However, Kubernetes is still new to operators. 31% of respondents cited Kubernetes’ immaturity regarding communication protocols as one of the top three barriers to moving to a cloud-native 5G core.
“Since Kubernetes was initially designed to deploy and manage applications for enterprise and web use cases, it should be complemented by the introduction of Kubernetes that does more, such as supporting more communication protocols, connecting inbound and outbound, and integrating with an wider communication network,” says Phil Klatt, Principal. The flagship product for service providers at F5.
“That’s why F5’s BIG-IP SPK solution was designed to include Kubernetes ingress that supports HTTP protocols and connections. It also uses network address translation and routing to allow the Kubernetes egress to provide a static IP address pre-selected to the external world, without affecting the internal dynamics of the cluster”.
Energy consumption is under control
The Heavy Reading study also asks respondents to choose the top three changes their organizations will make to their core 5G infrastructure to meet environmental goals and reduce energy consumption. The option chosen by 52% of professionals is to move as many functions as possible to a common infrastructure platform. Another 45% cite greater CPU/power efficiency on high-end sites, and 40% also choose to integrate functions and providers. In other words, telcos are looking to improve their network architectures.
live on the edge
In other independent 5G deployment developments, many mobile operators have begun to deploy computing resources at the edge of their networks to support applications and use cases that need highly responsive connectivity. More than half of respondents (54%) said they plan to deploy 5G data plans (features that transmit data between users and the internet) at the edge of their networks in the next 12 months, and another 39% intend to do the same within 24 months.
Network control functions are also gravitating towards the edge, but at a slightly slower pace, with 45% of professionals saying they are likely to deploy full-level control at a service provider’s edge in the near term. These operators also plan to deploy security features at the edge of their networks: 45-50% of respondents said they are likely to deploy an Internet firewall, RAN security gateway, and N6 applications at the service provider edge within the next year.
“While deploying an application in a public cloud can be relatively easy, deploying communication applications in hundreds or thousands of locations and keeping them up to date and secure is a very different proposition and requires complex operational tools,” says Alix Leconte, Vice President of service providers (EMEA) in F5. “Operators should avoid manually compiling application logic and security technologies in these environments, as this can introduce new security risks and increase operational complexity.”000