Container technologies, yet to be improved to meet carrier-grade requirements
Beginning with the establishment of ETSI ISG NFV, the telecom industry has developed by leaps and bounds over the last decade. VM-based NFV architecture has achieved tremendous business success. Cloud core networks are globally recognized by telcos. VoLTE, IMS, and PS network functions have been cloudified and telco cloud has become one of the most important infrastructures in the mobile communications field.
Considering ICT convergence and development of cloud native, the open-source ecosystem is progressively improving; containerization has become a new trend but also brings new challenges to the telecom industry.
Container technologies, yet to be improved to meet carrier-grade requirements.
It is well known that the interruption of core services on telecom networks, the infrastructure of communications, will significantly affect social, economic, and production activities. Carrier-grade reliability and performance are the most distinct characteristics that distinguish CT networks from IT ones.
However, container technologies derive from open-source organizations and there are no telecom-oriented optimizations. Though containers are elastic and agile, such advantages are not fully utilized to meet the high-performance requirements of telecom services for ultra-distributed and massive connections.
Different from VMs, containers focus on applications and are unable to detect underlying hardware faults. As such, applications deployed on containers cannot detect service sub health issues timely and thus have lower reliability.
Containers on the same server share the OS kernel, which makes the CNFs and CaaS tightly coupled. A platform upgrade requires correlative NE upgrades, increasing the O&M complexity.
Uncertain containerization evolution path
First, telecom services of different generations coexist on live networks, and the new and old hardware devices of different RATs need to work together. To introduce containers without affecting live network services, operators have to deploy new networks, posing huge investment and complex construction. Operators’ existing assets are not fully used because network and storage resources on the live network cannot be shared.
Second, open-source organizations in the industry and the ETSI standards team are promoting container technologies. Container-related standards have not been unified and are developing in a fragmented manner. Unified resource management is not considered in the de facto standards established by open source organizations in the industry. As a result, VMs and containers run on separated clouds, and resources cannot be shared among different container platform clusters. The siloed architecture does not support unified management.
Finally, there are various requirements on telecom services. Containers are further classified into VM containers and bare metal ones. Bare metal containers are unsuitable for certain telecom services. Therefore, there are multiple possible directions for container-based evolution of telecom networks, and the evolution path is uncertain.
Full-stack containers, the next step ahead for Telco Cloud
Huawei calls on the industry to reach a consensus on ETSI-defined standards, jointly promote the evolution of cloud native standards, and keep align with industry best practices. To deliver carrier-grade networks featuring high reliability, high performance, and easy O&M, we should continuously improve the capabilities of the core network to ensure that user services are always online, voice and data services are not interrupted, and agile O&M is achieved. With full convergence, we can realize a smooth evolution from VMs to containers with a deterministic architecture.
MWC Barcelona 2023 runs from February 27 to March 2 in Barcelona, Spain. At the conference, Huawei will further elaborate on full-stack containers and release innovative products and solutions. Huawei will continue working with its customers to develop optimal full-stack container solutions, helping operators achieve new business success in the 5G/5.5G era.