HPE pilots automated service to disaggregate RAN

It's hoping CSPs will consume platform as a service via public or private cloud


HPE has revealed details of its HPE RAN Automation, a service management and orchestration platform created to help network operators implement a disaggregated radio access network (RAN).

The platform allows communications service providers (CSPs) to manage the type of multiple-vendor environment that a disaggregated RAN will might bring about, as well as to automate their network functions.

According to HPE, the new cloud-hosted service offers management of multi-vendor RAN infrastructure, including existing 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G deployments, as well as virtualized RAN (vRAN) and OpenRAN solutions.

It is therefore aiming to be a key piece of the puzzle for network operators to migrate to a more open, disaggregated network that holds out the promise of reduced costs through automation and avoiding lock-in from vendors.

Although announced today, HPE RAN Automation is currently only available for trials and proof of concept deployments, with commercial availability planned for November this year, HPE said.

RAN disaggregation is about moving away from mobile networks based on costly monolithic tech and splitting out functions, especially those that can be implemented in software as virtualized functions typically running on standard x86 boxes.

This has already happened in the network core, yet trends such as the introduction of 5G, as well as sanctions against Chinese suppliers including Huawei by a number of Western countries, have driven the need to extend this to the RAN. But this can easily lead to increased complexity for operators, which is what HPE is hoping to manage for the network operators that turn to its new RAN Automation service.

"The operators see a cloud of complexity coming into the networking environment, they see an ageing workforce demographic, and they see a need to drive down the manual processes in how they deliver and operate networks," said Tom Craig, VP for HPE's Communications Technology Group.

According to Craig, around of 60 percent of mobile network operators still have no automation implemented in the network to any scale, which means there is a huge amount of manual overhead in how the sector is run.

"How do we drive these projects of disaggregation without again adding complexity to an already strained environment within the operators? How do we do it in a manner which is lowest unit cost?" Craig said, adding "We're cognizant of that and like today's announcement we're saying we will radically simplify your deployment of the RAN of the future in a way that is non capex intensive, is as-a-service and cloud driven."

HPE RAN Automation provides fully-automated lifecycle management for RAN functions, and includes the ability to predict failures using analytics, and signal to the relevant components to take appropriate remedial actions, HPE said.

The new platform is based around the Service Management and Orchestration (SMO) architecture of the O-RAN Alliance, a group of telcos and vendors defining the specifications for Open RAN implementations.

HPE said is it using continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) practices to ensure that HPE RAN Automation is constantly up to date with the latest specifications.

This enables HPE to provide a set of management capabilities across different hosting environments intended to simplify for mobile operators the deployment of third party virtualized distributed unit (vDU) and virtualized Centralised Units (vCUs) into the RAN part of their infrastructure.

HPE said that it does not plan to develop such third party network functions itself, but is supporting mobile operators with the HPE RAN Automation framework to manage them, plus the infrastructure on which these functions can be operated.

The latter refers to HPE's ProLiant DL110 Gen10 Plus Telco Server, which is optimized for telco deployments. HPE has recently worked with Qualcomm to sell a vDU solution based on the ProLiant DL110 Gen10 Plus and Qualcomm's 5G DU X100 Accelerator Card.

5G networks are expected to lead to more complex network engineering with a myriad of multivendor solutions, said IDC associate VP Ahmad Latif Ali.

"The creation and development of new RAN ecosystems will be critical for operators with management and orchestration through end-to-end automation becoming a key strategic priority for those CSPs looking to effectively operate heterogenous environments," he said.

When available, HPE RAN Automation will be delivered as a service on either a public or a private cloud. HPE said that it will be available through a channel partner program with "some key systems integrators," but said it was not making any specific announcements now. It will also be available for purchase by mobile operators as part of HPE's Greenlake subscription-based purchasing model, Craig confirmed. ®

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