Unlocking the full benefits of cloud-native computing and containers for telcos

By Tomotake Koike, Senior Chief Solution Architect, Cloud Native Computing Practice, HPE Advisory & Professional Services

Cloud native computing completely changes the architecture of the company. It provides a new level of efficiency and innovation for digital transformation, and it applies to many industries.

The telecommunications industry is no exception. How do cloud native computing technologies, especially Kubernetes, benefit the telecommunications business? The answer lies in the rapid development of container orchestration technology and innovations in the cloud native computing community. (Read: What are containers?)

The challenges at Kubernetes for telecommunications companies

Originally, it was the common understanding that Kubernetes was not suitable for large, complex data transfers due to its basic properties. The ‘upstream’ development project in the Kubernetes community focuses on simplicity as a platform concept. It is the same for Kubernete’s network architecture, which provides a single network path, and data transmission goes through the container network interface (CNI). Due to the limitations of adapting to these basic concepts, telecommunications organizations felt that Kubernetes did not match the requirements of their network functions, as the U-Plane requires massive throughput.

The basic concept of Kubernetes architecture operations is simplified by limiting its development to the minimum necessary functions so that the network can be easily managed and controlled (although the iptables management itself, etc. is very complicated). In this way, with the Kubernetes cluster in upstream vanilla mode (no plug, etc. installed), it can be maintained with CNI. There is only one network, and to hide the topology inside the cluster, communication basically takes place with network address translation (NAT) to the outside. But even though it is control-plane (C-Plane), this becomes a major obstacle in network functions that handle user-plane (U-Plane) packages that require very large throughput and transaction processing system (TPS). Orchestrating these types of cloud native networking (CNF) features has been very challenging.

You may be asking: But what about virtualized networking (VNF) features? Even with VNF, in a complete virtual environment, when you connect from VM Host, you will implement NAT or a bridge of the virtual switch on the host and connect. However, this configuration cannot adequately handle the high throughput and TPS packet communication required by the U-plane.

Fortunately, VNF can leverage technologies such as single-root input / output virtualization (SR-IOV) and data plan development kit (DPDK) that make the resources of physical devices available directly from VMs to accelerate throughput.

A breakthrough for U-Plane

CNI also has several plugins available that make the resources of physical network devices directly accessible from the container (or pod), just like VMs. By using one of these, it becomes possible to meet the U-aircraft’s difficult communication band requirements. However, as mentioned above, the Kubernetes cluster can only manage one CNI, and if this is intertwined with physical network resources or Kubernetes orchestrators (such as IPAM and Service Discovery linked to pods by Kubernetes), the benefits of the feature will not be achieved and manageability will be deteriorated.

To overcome this challenge, new functionality has become available in the cloud-native computing community: Multi-CNI. This allows you to attach several different types of CNI to pods. First, for the network managed by the Kubernetes cluster by default, you must implement it with a general CNI (such as Calico, etc.) managed by Kubernetes as a full-service. On top of that, for CNF pods that handle U-planes, you need to add an off-road network interface to physical network devices. By doing this, CNF enables Kubernetes U-Plane package processing and fills this gap in Kubernetes for telecommunications service providers.

HPE can help you get the most out of cloud-native computing

HPE has a long history of providing IT consulting services to telecommunications service providers to drive their cloud-native computing-based network function transformation. What we have learned is that their top priority is the operation of Kubernetes and platforms without requiring excessive communication performance. As we see more development of Kubernetes functionalities and plugins, it is clear that Kubernetes will become the most common platform for telecommunications service providers.

HPE Advisory and Professional Container Adoption Services can help your team design their adoption roadmap and architects, build and run your container platforms. Whether on-premises or off-premises, we want to build on a truly scalable, standard, repeatable and reliable way to automate the integration of your unique features into your production environment.

To learn more, see our Briefly about HPE Container Adoption Solution.

Learn more about advice and professional service from HPE Pointnext Services.

Koike, Tomotake.pngTotake Koike has a strong interest in new, comprehensive technologies, especially in cloud-native areas. He joined HPE in 2006 as a solution architect working with delivery to telecommunications companies, having previously developed his skills in this area with a network equipment supplier. Tomotake joined its current HPE team in 2018 to work with cloud-native computing.

Service experts
Hewlett Packard Enterprise

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