Ericsson, Intel Partner on 5G Platform

The companies will combine technologies to create a platform to enable service providers to more quickly launch services around 5G, NFV and the cloud.

Intel RSD

Ericsson and Intel, which have partnered on a number of 5G-related technologies and products over the past couple of years, are coming together again to develop a hardware and software management platform that will enable communications service providers to more easily and affordably launch new services around 5G, network-functions virtualization and the cloud.

The multiyear collaboration effort will combine Ericsson’s software-defined infrastructure (SDI) offering with Intel’s Rack Scale Design (RSD) reference architecture (pictured) to create a platform that will provide cloud-like agility and efficiency to communications service providers (CSPs) that are looking to streamline operations and embrace modern advanced technologies like 5G and NFV.

Many, like AT&T and Verizon, already are populating their data centers with industry-standard systems and software and replacing more proprietary infrastructures as they adopt such technologies as network virtualization to help them more quickly spin up services and address rapidly changing networking demands. Those demands are driven by such trends as the cloud, the proliferation of mobile devices and the internet of things (IoT) as well as the push to move compute and storage capabilities from the data center out to the network edge.

“Telecom providers today face ever-growing pressure to transform their infrastructure and deliver a fast, seamless, reliable user experience wherever their customers may be,” Phil Harris, vice president and general manager of Intel’s Datacenter Solutions Group, wrote in a blog post. “As budgets tighten, providers must maximize their infrastructure investments to derive the greatest value from each server resource. The right systems management solution can help address this challenge by improving operational efficiency, deploying new customer services more quickly, and much more.”

The infrastructure management platform that Intel and Ericsson will develop will provide CSP data center administrators “a more efficient, cost-effective, and fine-grained way to manage a 5G network’s server resources,” Harris wrote.

5G is the next generation of broadband wireless that promises to bring significant gains in speed—10 to 100 times that of current 4G networks—greater network capacity and the ability to support more devices on a single network, something that will be critical given the tens of billions of smart, connected devices that will make up the IoT and the development of such systems as autonomous vehicles. IDC analysts predict that the market for 5G and related network infrastructure—such as 5G RAN, 5G NG core and NFV infrastructure—will grow from $528 million last year to $26 billion in 2022.

In a report released last year, Ericsson officials said that by 2024, about 40 percent of the world’s population will be covered by 5G networks. Though some 5G services began to roll out in late 2018, this year is when 5G handsets will come to market and a broad array of users will begin feeling the impact of 5G. Carriers like AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile are preparing their networks for 5G, with large-scale rollouts of services starting to come later this year into 2020. Those networks will continue expanding 5G capabilities in the coming years.

Ericsson’s SDI, which is based on Intel’s RSD, is designed to give users a common platform for managing and configuring compute, storage and network hardware. Through SDI, CSPs can create vPODs (virtual performance-optimized data centers), which are dynamically created collections of integrated hardware pulled together from a pool of resources and which can be used for a broad range of workloads. It enables fast rollouts of services, optimized performance and improved hardware utilization.

Intel’s RSD is a reference architecture that enables users to pool data center hardware resources that can quickly be pulled together and configured to optimally run workloads. It includes standardized APIs and various ecosystem solutions that can address a wide array of customer demands.

“The complementary power of these technologies extends the agility of the cloud to the infrastructure control interface, enabling unified management capabilities that accelerate hardware provisioning, simplify the workload migration process, and facilitate resource transition to production environments,” Intel’s Harris wrote. “In doing so, these capabilities help reduce the system’s overall cost of ownership.”

Because the platform is based on an open interface means CSPs can select whatever hardware best suits their needs while delivering the efficiency and agility they need, he wrote. As part of the effort, the companies will converge Ericsson’s SDI Manager software and Intel’s RSD reference software, but allow for backward compatibility for current customers. In addition, hardware and software developed as part of the partnership will be incorporated into future Ericsson hardware and possibly Intel server products.

Ericsson will show off its SDI Manager during the Mobile World Congress 2019 show in Barcelona starting Feb. 25.

The networking hardware vendor over the past few years has partnered with a number of tech vendors as it builds out its 5G efforts. Along with working with Intel on such 5G areas as routers, the company also has entered into partnerships with the likes of Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks, Nokia and Equinix.