The convergence between mobile and cloud infrastructure is an interesting topic. This post discussed why this convergence makes sense and how software-defined networking or SDN converges mobile and cloud infrastructure.
The current infrastructure for cloud networking is very inflexible, limiting service providers’ ability to monetize network resources and to scale their networks to deliver future, resource-hungry services. Virtualizing network resources is a very attractive approach for providing users with the required network bandwidth and level of service that they expect. This requires high-performance networks as well as flexible solutions which enable services to be scaled up and down. To address these requirements, SDN implementations use high-performance hardware switches as well as software networking layers based on a clear separation between the control plane and the data plane, providing the necessary flexibility. Thanks to technology improvements in very high speed data transmission, multicore processors and virtualization, the SDN concept can now be implemented and sophisticated Layer 4-7 services can be deployed on pure software architectures.
What about mobile infrastructure? The new generation of mobile infrastructure (LTE/4G) has to manage tremendous traffic growth. Mobile data traffic will grow 500-fold between 2010 and 2019, driven by the increasing number of users and the explosion in mobile video traffic. Fortunately, the infrastructure is simpler thanks to a full IP flat model. As in the case of cloud infrastructure, high performance is obviously a key requirement, but the required level of performance remains an order of magnitude lower than for to data centers. Flexibility is also a strategic requirement. Until now, mobile access and core equipment were developed to meet 3GPP equipment specification. The mobile infrastructure market is now integrating cloud concepts by using generic platforms to implement multiple networking functions in software, bringing tremendous cost savings and greater flexibility. Instead of developing application-specific hardware, new architectures can rely on generic hardware and software platforms, on top of which the required software function can be instantiated in a very flexible manner. The Cloud RAN initiative is part of this approach.
Today, LTE access and core equipment intensively use multicore processor technology to manage the aggregated mobile data traffic we mentioned earlier. To achieve high performance, they also rely on the SDN concept of a clear separation between the control plane and the data plane, so that dedicated processing cores can be allocated to data plane processing. This architecture extends to virtualized environments: LTE software functions can be instantiated in virtual machines to benefit from a high performance data plane and provide greater flexibility.
Let’s summarize how SDN converges mobile and cloud infrastructure:
- Cloud infrastructure relies on very high speed switches providing basic Layer 2-3 services. It requires additional Layer 4-7 services (implemented in software) to deploy functions such as firewalls, IPS/IDS, UTMs, ADCs etc. as virtual appliances.
- Mobile infrastructure relies on a high-performance software data plane providing sophisticated networking services that can be flexibly managed in a virtualized architecture. LTE software functions can be deployed within this architecture.
So, I believe that SDN converges mobile and cloud infrastructure not only is happening, but it is already on a fast track based on a SDN approach. 6WIND is providing software data plane solutions for both markets to help this convergence.
By Eric Carmès, 6WIND Founder and CEO