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Brocade steps up mobile strategy with virtual EPC software

LTE rollouts were too expensive, let's get it right for 5G

A year on from kicking off its mobile strategy, Brocade has followed up with a pre-Mobile-World-Congress announcement of its first virtualised Evolved Packet Core (EPC) offering.

Its Virtual Core for Mobile (VCM) is part of the company's strategy to target cellular networks with commodity Intel-based kit.

Speaking to Vulture South ahead of the launch, Brocade A/NZ's Gary Denman said a key requirement to address this market is that systems like VCM have to be able to live alongside the existing mobile core.

“We're moving things to the mobile edge,” Denman told The Register, “putting more information and capability out near the tower. That's more efficient for the network operator.”

The company is also hoping this approach positions them for the future rollout of 5G networks. 4G rollouts were “vastly expensive”, he said, so the next round of network standards needs a different model – especially since one of the drivers for 5G will be machine-to-machine and Internet-of-Things applications.

The virtualised EPC (vEPC) offerings are designed to offer scalable control and user planes, independent localisation, and network slicing (a mechanism that lets the same back-end infrastructure support different radio access networks).

The one software suite is designed to support mobility management entities, home subscriber servers, serving gateways, and packet data network capabilities, all the way from 3G through to future 5G network standards.

The company also sees the rollout as validation of its decision early this decade to adopt Intel's Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK) as the basis for its software-defined networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualisation (NFC) efforts.

Brocade systems engineering manager Phil Coates explained that many companies now moving from proprietary appliances to the commodity servers start by running their software in virtual machines with as little modification as possible.

Since the software is still optimised for its original hardware, it takes a performance hit in the virtualised world.

Using the DPDK is “about providing efficiencies [when] accessing the CPU,” he said – most particularly, the packet processing capabilities Intel's been baking into its CPUs – with the aim of “getting ASIC speeds using commodity hardware”. ®

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