Shubh Agarwal, SVP of 5G solutions at Metaswitch. He leads Metaswitch’s initiatives to transform mobile: redefining the mobile network as a platform to support the next billion things, apps, and users.
In this interview he discusses the biggest challenges service providers are facing today in the transition from 4G to 5G and the technologies that are critical for success. Specifically, the role of service-based architecture, cloud-native principles, and multi-access edge computing.
SDxCentral: What would you say is the biggest challenge Operators are facing today?
Shubh Agarwal: We see that 5G is coming, and there is a lot of excitement about a wide range of applications across different verticals. Operators are trying to figure out how to deliver the promised services — faster speed, massive scale and lower latency. The big question is: how do we get there? How do we get this high-performance network out into the world?
Every generation brings in disruptions and challenges. This time around, the adoption of cloud technologies and sheer scale are the big focus areas. The reason is there is no way you can achieve 5G with legacy virtualization techniques or hands-on operational practices. Operators are trying to figure out how to automate their management lifecycles, instantly sign up customers and rapidly build up networks to meet the dynamic demands. Metaswitch has been talking about “cloud native” for the past five years, but now 5G is demanding it.
SDxCentral: When considering 4G to 5G migration options, what should operators keep top of mind?
Agarwal: The first question operators are prioritizing is to manage the massive bandwidth growth on their networks, which exceeds the revenue growth curves. Operators simply cannot afford to use existing technology in the network. They must understand that in order to deliver the performance at the right costs on 4G or 5G, they have to adopt disruptive technology. And the sooner they jump, the faster they deliver awesome experiences at a much lower cost per bit. Performance costs should be on top of their asks.
SDxCentral: You mentioned that a Service-Based Architecture (SBA) afford significant benefits, can you expand on this?
Agarwal: Service-based architecture (SBA) allows you to expose the network to very fast consumption by customers. For example, a gaming provider may want to use a 5G network to deliver a very high-performance game to their end-users. Network exposure allows any application provider to connect faster to deliver superior user experiences by leveraging the 5G network services.
Compare it to buying music. We used to have to go to a store to buy physical CDs making acquiring new music slow and resource consuming. Now most people get music on-demand through streaming services where new music is available instantly and the experience is very customizable. We believe that networks shall be consumed in a similar way by enterprises and application developers of the 5G ecosystem.
The operational benefit of SBA is that the networks can scale easily. SBA makes it easier to add nodes across any type of telco infrastructure or cloud and manage them through open source management tools.
SDxCentral: What role do cloud-native principles play in building 5G core infrastructure?
Agarwal: Cloud native is the fundamental way of building software that allows for the scale required by 5G. It enables the capabilities we have been talking about throughout this interview. If I want high performance, large scale, and to connect billions of devices, you have to automate. If you are going to automate, you need to use cloud-native principles. In the world of 5G, cloud-native principles and methodologies are mandatory.
Agarwal: The idea of needing multi-access edge computing stems from the need to deliver applications at a very fast speed and low latency. A simple consumer example is the desire to watch real-time replay of sporting events. Edge computing reduces the distance between the user and the content to enhance the viewing experience.
For the operator, it also means cost savings. For example, operators can have tens or hundreds of edge computing nodes that can optimize the traffic flow directly to or from the destination, instead of incurring backhaul costs to central sites. To manage these edge nodes, it’s best to be able to automate how the network is delivered. SDxCentral: Where do you see gaps in the technology available to support 5G today?
Agarwal: I believe the gap is the speed of technology adoption. All of our customers are defining the new architecture and expect these technologies to help them, but will they be able to adopt them fast enough? What is happening is that in the industry, operators are updating the radio to simplify deployments, but not the core network, severely limiting their capability to deliver new services and manage costs.
SDxCentral: What is Metaswitch doing to help close those gaps?
Agarwal: We have worked on adoption of cloud native networking, services and media plane technologies for the past seven years. We are driving these into the our new 5G core solution so it can automate, scale, and provide the flexibility that is required to deliver 5G services.
We have already gone through the learning curve of building products and deploying them at the scale required for 5G. We can help our service provider customers solve complex cost, performance and deployment problems faster.
SDxCentral: Any final thoughts?
Agarwal: A question that we frequently get is about our smaller size in the telco vendor ecosystem. We exist because we’ve been bringing groundbreaking technologies to market. Our ideal customers are the ones who seek to differentiate in a highly competitive market, armed with disruptive technologies , and are willing to work with us to build open ecosystems to ensure mutual success.