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Open edge server speeds the path to 5G

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It’s common to think that a hardware accelerator is vital to provide better performance – but what does this actually mean when we consider the telecom open edge environment, where we run radio access and other service enhanced platform applications like MEC in the cloud?

We know that NFV workflow doesn’t need the specific hardware that legacy functionality required. Yet, it’s also true that even the best software cannot provide the performance offered by hardware acceleration - together, they have become an unbeatable combination.

So when do we need a hardware accelerator? Today, narrowband 5G with a 20MHz channel bandwidth can be achieved with the latest server CPUs, which offer up to 28 cores.

But, when we start to talk about all the benefits that 5G offers, we cannot restrict ourselves to 20MHz channels – to really see the full benefits of 5G, we need to talk about 50 and 100 MHz channels. And I’m not thinking of just the download capacity. There has also been a remarkable increase in upload capacity, forming the basis for industrial 5G use cases such as video analytics.   

As we know, speed creates heat and it is the same with hardware acceleration, particularly when all this is compressed in a compact environment, as in edge computing. We need to make sure that the heat generated is dispersed to provide long lasting performance. However, we cannot easily extend the cooling solution as we need to ensure sustainability and save OPEX.

We have achieved this by packing the Intel FPGA Programmable Acceleration Card (PAC) N3000 in combination with Intel Xeon Scalable processor in a very compact Nokia Airframe open edge server.  Utilizing the acceleration card in conjunction with the Intel Xeon Scalable processor keeps performance high with no increased cooling while operating at +55C – the solution can even benefit sites already installed 

More innovation at lower cost

Nokia AirFrame open edge server can support off-the-shelf commercial accelerators, giving Communications Service Providers (CSPs) more possibilities, allowing more innovation and lower costs compared to proprietary solutions which are designed for specific hardware acceleration only.

By integrating an Intel® FPGA PAC N3000 to the Nokia Airframe server, we are able to get a  performance boost for large configurations, while being  able to automate software upgrades  without the need for site visits, an essential component in cutting OPEX for Edge solutions. 

The Intel® FPGA Programmable Acceleration Card (Intel FPGA PAC) N3000 is a full-duplex 100 Gbps in-system re-programmable acceleration card for multi-workload networking application acceleration.

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Intel FPGAs can be programmed to deliver a wide range of high-bandwidth and low-latency functions that augment the capabilities of Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) running on a carrier cloud.

We have successfully been able to increase L1 handling leveraging the capabilities provided by the Intel® FPGA PAC N3000 hardware accelerator,  this shows that hardware accelerators are essential for handling massive traffic loads and channel bandwidth.

Supporting legacy radios

Nokia’s new Nokia AirFrame Fronthaul Gateway enables legacy 5G/4G CPRI-based radios to be easily connected (and converted) to the new Ethernet-based standard eCPRI / O-RAN interface as part of Radio Access Network cloud architecture. Fronthaul Gateway is integrated to the AirFrame open edge server chassis, offering OPEX savings while also maximizing the performance of the radio interface.  Fronthaul Gateway is equipped with the Intel Stratix 10 SX2800 FPGA processor, enabling its high performance L1 (low) processing, while at the same time keeping the existing (CPRI) radio interfaces unchanged.

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In general, several acceleration functions are needed in a high performance 5G radio network, with tens of thousands of edge site radios to be connected and managed.

We have cooperated with Intel for many years and progress with the new chipset as well the accelerator has enabled every new technology generation to provide the most optimized and compact edge solution.

Flexible and scalable

The Nokia Data Center Solution is a pre-defined and pre-integrated end-to-end solution designed to fulfill the requirements for different types of data centers. It offers a highly scalable and open infrastructure that can be deployed either centralized or decentralized or in a mix of both.

The Nokia Data Center brings together the compute, storage and networking hardware, the cloud stack, software defined networking and hardware management capabilities, offering a pre-tested and validated combination proven to support the needs of telco VNFs. Using the Nokia blueprint for a Data Center deployment provides several benefits compared to multi-vendor product deployments and on-site integrations.

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Ismo Matilainen

About Ismo Matilainen

Ismo is responsible for Nokia AirFrame and Edge cloud marketing. Feel free to ask him about anything related to AirFrame data center hardware and Edge capabilities in distributed 5G networks. He is particularly interested in new business models that use the 5G Edge network to drive digitalization.

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