Open vRAN in Prime Time
Published on 05 Sep 2022
Radio access networks have resembled the uncharted wilderness of the telecommunications landscape for some — a region best explored by intrepid explorers with specific equipment.
This persistent view of the specialised nature of RANs has been challenged by the telecom domain's transformation, which has seen the introduction of mature virtualisation technologies, the availability of open platforms to build, and a thriving ecosystem that has supported numerous highly visible transformation journeys. Those that pioneered open vRAN in greenfield installations have been mainly successful, and this has provided possibilities in brownfield networks, where the advantages of open vRAN may help make them more efficient and competent. There is now a well-trodden road that benefits those who pursue it.
Cloud Platform Difficulties
The scalability and configurability of cloud resources have long been appealing to operators, but there have been obstacles to using these advantages in the RAN. Predictable performance and minimal latency necessitated tradeoffs for effective cloud use. It was challenging to fulfil the rigorous timing and synchronisation requirements. Meanwhile, the narrow footprints offered to impose physical limits that limit capacity. The need for proprietary hardware acceleration successfully maintained a hardware dependence that hindered deployment and flexibility. Operational problems outweighed the advantages, such as the lack of zero-touch provisioning.
These obstacles have been solved through technological advancements, the RAN vendor ecosystem, and open-source efforts. The infrastructure of edge computing has expanded and now provides more advanced capabilities. As implementations have evolved, they have become suitable for contemporary network deployment. Standardised servers with general-purpose GPU and FPGA accelerators that can enable virtualisation have reduced previous hardware dependencies. The advancements that began with virtualisation have made the cloudification of RAN feasible. This change allows operators to move from conventional infrastructure and service development methods to cloud-native patterns of thought.
Open-source software initiatives played a significant factor in the evolution of RAN technology. They have served as the foundation for a larger ecosystem. Open techniques have increased the number of people who may collaborate to solve RAN-related issues. Open-source initiatives have offered chances for innovation by facilitating the addition of additional capabilities to the RAN, hence allowing new approaches to solving complicated issues. This has enhanced the possibilities for expanded industry-wide cooperation
Open methods boost the network's adaptability by enabling network operators to introduce functional aspects into their networks when needed. The flexibility to incorporate RAN components as required gives operators more network control. However, this degree of control necessitates the mastery of integration tasks that many conventional operators have not had to learn.
Numerous characteristics of open vRAN systems that have been proposed provide network and operational security advantages. Standardised interfaces at various levels of RAN operations give additional telemetry possibilities that may provide useful security information. The bigger, open vRAN ecosystem provides supplier variety, which helps mitigate the effects of vulnerabilities by decreasing the likelihood that various suppliers have the same flaws. Telemetry is not the only benefit of visibility, though. Open-source software enables greater comprehension of code quality and gives developers full control over their development activities.
The ability to adopt a cloud-native mentality offers security benefits. The foundation of CI/CD procedures, the capacity to deploy incremental changes more rapidly, helps accelerate the resolution of security concerns. Security updates may be sent out faster and more assured when deployment risk is minimised.
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