AWS and Nokia Collaborate to Drive Operational Simplicity with Carrier-Grade Performance in Cloud RAN
Today at Mobile World Congress, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Nokia will showcase a Cloud RAN solution that combines AWS’s reliable and secure infrastructure and cloud services with Nokia’s new In-Line Cloud RAN SmartNIC and Cloud Native RAN Software. The joint solution aims to solve three key challenges. First, it will reduce the complexity to integrate and deploy a disaggregated hardware and software product stack. Second, it will enable carrier-grade RAN performance with high radio density in a single server. Third, it will simplify and accelerate the process to configure and continuously maintain the RAN solution after it’s deployed in the field. This builds on AWS and Nokia’s work together, which focuses on leveraging AWS to improve costs, reduce time-to-market, and accelerate innovation in telco network operations.
The joint solution will offer customers the rich feature set of Nokia classic RAN with the fully managed container, automation, observability, and infrastructure services from AWS. Communication Service Providers (CSPs) can take advantage of the same cloud services such as Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS), AWS Telco Network Builder (AWS TNB), Amazon CloudWatch, and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) for RAN that they use for OSS/BSS, Mobile Core, and Enterprise IT workloads in a seamless way across far edge and cell site locations. In addition, customers can use data analytics and AI/ML services, like Amazon QuickSight, Amazon Redshift, and Amazon SageMaker, for more advanced network assurance capabilities.
Accelerating deployment time by simplifying the integration of a disaggregated hardware and software solution
Telcos have started to embrace a disaggregated hardware and software-based product model because of the flexibility to select their hardware and software vendors of choice for each portion of the solution stack. It allows them to adopt new innovations as they become available, eliminates lock-in to a specific vendor, and helps them launch new services faster. But multi-vendor configurations are more complex to integrate and troubleshoot, and CSPs face a major challenge to resolve issues when there is no single-threaded owner.
AWS and Nokia aim to remove this complexity by creating a prevalidated solution where Nokia RAN Containerized Network Functions (CNFs) run using Amazon EKS across AWS infrastructure located at the CSP premises. The solution will be pretested from both a hardware and software perspective, helping to save CSPs several months of development effort and cost to validate the full stack. As part of this integration, AWS will validate the mechanical and thermal performance of the Nokia Cloud RAN SmartNIC in its cloud infrastructure to optimize the performance over the temperature ranges of a cell site.
Enabling high radio density, performance, and power savings with Nokia In-Line Cloud RAN SmartNIC and AWS Arm Based Graviton3 processors
5G enables data-rich use cases like 8k video streaming and AR/VR immersive gaming. To meet the increasing demand for high data rates, CSPs have to add more spectrum to each cell site. It requires more radios, including those based on Massive MIMO technology that support up to 64 transmit and receive antenna elements for higher bandwidth and throughput. Alongside the RAN performance, CSPs are increasingly looking to reduce energy costs, and they are seeking energy efficient RAN solutions to achieve it.
AWS and Nokia will work together to meet these challenges by combining the Nokia Cloud RAN SmartNIC with AWS’s Amazon EC2 instances powered by AWS Graviton3 processors, which are deployed broadly in infrastructure across AWS Regions. The Cloud RAN Smart NIC, based on an In-Line acceleration architecture, is designed to process the entire RAN Layer 1 functionality, which requires specialized computing capabilities beyond that of a general-purpose CPU. This reduces the number of cores required for the main CPU to handle the less compute intensive Layer 2 software processing, resulting in a lower TCO. In-Line acceleration also provides the benefits of carrier grade Layer 1 performance, with support for high throughput, bandwidth, capacity and a high number of MIMO layers. The AWS Graviton3 processor will have up to 64 available cores for Layer 2 processing while supporting multiple Nokia Cloud RAN SmartNICs. Because AWS Graviton3 processors and Nokia Cloud Ran SmartNICs are Arm-based, they offer the potential for power consumption savings, which is becoming more critical as energy costs rise. Previously, using the AWS Graviton2 processor, CSPs have been able to reduce their total power consumption by over 70% for a 5G core network workload.
Simplifying software configuration and maintenance through cloud services
As the number of features grow to deliver the promise of 5G, CSPs are faced with the challenge of configuring and maintaining thousands of containerized network functions. They need to accelerate their ability to provision the high volume of network functions and make continuous software updates to sustain the network performance. As a result, they are turning to software-based architectures for better agility and scalability. In the current disaggregated hardware and software model, configuring the RAN software network functions is a time-consuming, labor-intensive task that often requires job-specific specialists like network engineers and site technicians to write custom scripts and continuously update them as the network evolves.
AWS is simplifying the process for software lifecycle management through AWS automation services such as AWS TNB and Amazon EKS. They enable the CSP to quickly configure the infrastructure, network functions, and cloud connectivity to make an operational network. Once the network is up and running, the AWS TNB service will help manage the lifecycle of the network services including scaling resources, applying software upgrades/patches, monitoring health checks, and reconfigurations.
In addition, capabilities for analytics, insights, and monitoring are critical for managing the RAN network. With the increasing network complexity, it becomes more challenging to monitor different components and provide meaning outcomes. AWS and Nokia will expand the observability of both the infrastructure and the network functions using Amazon CloudWatch for logs, metrics, and alarms, giving CSPs a single pane of glass for management across the entire network. CSPs will be able to move this data to other AWS services such as Amazon Athena for more advanced analytics.
Together, with the RAN software management from Nokia, CSPs will be able to identify faults and remediate issues, resulting in a more reliable and resilient network. CSPs will be able to build a software-centric, disaggregated, cloud-based radio network that leverages advanced cloud services and tools like DevOps and Continuous Integration/Continuous Development (CI/CD) methodologies to reduce overall time-to-market.
The two companies are demoing the solution at the AWS booth at Mobile World Congress Barcelona. If attending the show, stop by the AWS booth, located at Upper Walkway, South Entrance at the Fira Barcelona Gran Via, to learn more. You can also visit the Nokia booth for more information in Hall 3, Stand 3A2 and 3A20.