Software Engineering based Telco
Software-ization is one of the most powerful new concepts within the Telco equipment development (most probably having the same or even more impact than IP technologies). It proposes the complete implementation of the core network, and partially of the radio functions, as software running on top of common hardware platforms for development and maintenance efficiency.
Currently the network architecture is designed for black boxes, which exhibit common functionality and communicate over standard protocols and interfaces. In order to avoid vendor locking, operators select two or more vendors and interoperability is a main requirement. As the standardized features usually cover more than the needs of an operator, the main differentiators are related to costs (CAPEX and OPEX), robustness and capacity.
With the common acceptance of network implementation as software, a new level of development efficiency can be achieved, by breaking the current protocol boundaries and providing alternative inter-communication mechanisms currently used by internet software; such as common libraries and APIs, alternative inter-process communication for co-located programs, parallelization and synchronization through non-protocol based mechanisms and simplified interfaces such as REST based.
Apart from software development, softwarization brings the opportunity for automatic software installation and testing, which will greatly reduce the deployment and the update time resulting in faster and cheaper platforms with basic functionalities and the possibility to upgrade, on-demand, capacity, robustness and security.
In certain software engineering dominated areas, the standardization process was already partially replaced by adopting best-practice, open-source implementations as de-facto standards such as OpenStack in the cloud environment. These de-facto standards are easy to create and to be massively supported by the community providing very easily a large coverage of the main required functionality. However, they usually lacking features for interoperability, security and reliability, thus providing also an additional means for market differentiation apart from cost and capacity.
With the 5G ecosystem we see a very large opportunity to further adapt the architecture of the network towards these major softwareization characteristics, solving specific issues by applying the necessary strengths. Our previous platforms – OpenIMSCore (www.openimscore.org) and OpenEPC (www.openepc.net) were software only implementations on top of common hardware. From this perspective, we have already a very large experience on how to develop Telco network functions as software as well as how to quickly adapt and to make new functions and interfaces.