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Cavium, China Unicom Test 5G M-CORD

July 03, 2017

Service provider China Unicom is working with Cavium Inc. on demonstrations and tests of M-CORD architectures leveraging SDN-based white box switches for 5G implementations.

In fact, the companies this week at Mobile World Congress Shanghai are demonstrating multi-access edge computing based on the ON.Lab M-CORD SDN/NFV platform.

This is part of a larger effort through which China Unicom is working with Cavium to test its ThunderX ARM-based data center COTS servers and XPliant programmable SDN Ethernet white box switches. For the trials, which will start soon at multiple locations in mainland China, these Cavium solutions will be integrated with virtualized elements related to the mobile core, the radio access network at the edge, and the ONOS and XOS SDN and orchestration software.

Anyone who’s reading this story obviously has an interest in networking. But this story so far has served up a big bowl of alphabet soup. So, to review:

5G describes a new version of cellular networking technology. 3GPP is currently working to define 5G standards.

Networks based on 5G technology, which could go commercial as early as 2019, are expected to be capable of delivering connectivity of up to 10 gigabits per second. They should have the ability to scale to meet the needs of millions or billions of connected devices. And they will feature ultra reliable low latency communications.

M-CORD stands for mobile central office re-architected as a data center. This technology aims to lay the foundation for 5G cellular networking and services through support for disaggregated and virtualized evolved packet core, end-to-end slicing from the radio access network to the evolved packet core, mobile edge computing, and programmable radio access network.

Slicing will come in handy for Internet of Things applications in which the IoT device needs just a small slice of the network, Patricia Chang, senior manager of technology and architecture at Verizon, told me earlier this year. It also makes sense for broadcast events that require network resources only for a limited period of time, she added.

SDN, as I’m sure you already know, is the acronym representing software-defined networking. It allows for the automation and programmability of networks. With SDN, networks become more agile. That means they can more quickly respond to the needs of applications, customers, and network operators.

White box solutions enable network operators to leverage the hardware and software components of their choice.

Facebook has been a pioneer of white box technology. As part of its Open Compute Project, Facebook developed a white box DWDM transport solution called Voyager and contributed it to the Telecom Infra Project.

AT&T has been doing work around white box technology as well. It conducted live field trials proving multi-vendor open source white box switch technology is viable in real-life networks. Barefoot Networks, Broadcom, Delta Electronics, Edgecore Networks, Intel Corp., and SnapRoute also worked on that effort.

“What this means is we used a common, uniform open network operating system across multiple merchant silicon chips to build a piece of network equipment that met our stringent real-world data needs,” AT&T explained in April.

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