Advancing 5G with cloud-native networking and intelligent infrastructure

Equinix and Kaloom demonstrate network slicing for interconnection of core and edge at the 5G and Edge Technology Development Center

Oleg Berzin
Rodney Elder
Advancing 5G with cloud-native networking and intelligent infrastructure

The success of 5G technology is a function of both the infrastructure that supports it and the ecosystems that enable it. Today, the definitive focus in the 5G space is on enterprise use cases, ranging from dedicated private 5G networks to accessing edge compute infrastructure and public or private clouds from the public 5G network. As a result, vendor-neutral multitenant data center providers and their rich interconnection capabilities are pivotal in helping make 5G a reality. This is true both in terms of the physical infrastructure needed to support 5G and the ability to effectively connect enterprises to 5G.

Industry experts expect 5G to enable emerging applications such as virtual and augmented reality (AR/VR), industrial robotics/controls as part of the industrial internet of things (IIoT), interactive gaming, autonomous driving, and remote medical procedures. These applications need a modern, cloud-based infrastructure to meet requirements around latency, cost, availability and scalability. This infrastructure must be able to provide real-time, high-bandwidth, low-latency access to latency-dependent applications distributed at the edge of the network.

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How Equinix thinks about network slicing

Network slicing refers to the ability to provision and connect functions within a common physical network to provide the resources necessary to deliver service functionality under specific performance constraints (such as latency, throughput, capacity and reliability) and functional constraints (such as security and applications/services). With network slicing, enterprises can use 5G networks and services for a wide variety of use cases on the same infrastructure.

Providing continuity of network slices with optimal UPF placement and intelligent interconnection

Mobile traffic originates in the mobile network, but it is not contained to the mobile network domain, because it runs between the user app on a device and the server workload on multi-access edge compute (MEC) or on the cloud. Therefore, to preserve intended characteristics, the slice must be extended all the way to where the traffic wants to go. This is why we like to say “the slicing must go on.”

The placement of network functions within the slice must be optimized relative to the intended traffic flow, so that performance can be ensured end-to-end. As a result, organizations must place or activate the user plane function (UPF) in optimal locations relative to the end-to-end user plane traffic flow.

We expect that hybrid and multicloud connectivity will remain a key requirement for enterprises using 5G access. In this case, hybrid refers to private edge computing resources (what we loosely call “MEC”) located in data centers—such as Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers—and multicloud refers to accessing multiple cloud providers from 5G devices. To ensure both hybrid and multicloud connectivity, enterprises need to make the UPF part of the multidomain virtual Layer 2/Layer 3 interconnection fabric.

Because a slice must span multiple domains, automation of UPF activation, provisioning and virtual interconnection to edge compute and multicloud environments is critical.

Implementing network slicing for interconnection of core and edge technology

Equinix partnered with Kaloom to develop network slicing for interconnection of core and edge (NICE) technology within our 5G and Edge Technology Development Center (5G ETDC) in Dallas. NICE technology is built using cloud-native network fabric and high-performance 5G UPF from Kaloom. This is a production-ready software solution, running on white boxes built with P4 programmable application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), allowing for deep network slicing and support for high-performance 5G UPF with extremely fast data transfer rates.

With NICE technology in the 5G ETDC, Equinix demonstrates:

  • 5G UPF deployment/activation and traffic breakout at Equinix for multiple slices.
  • Software-defined interconnection between the 5G core and MEC resources from multiple providers.
  • Software-defined interconnection between the 5G core and multiple cloud service providers.
  • Orchestration of provisioning and automation of interconnection across the 5G core, MEC and cloud resources.

Architecture of NICE technology in the Equinix 5G ETDC

The image above shows (from left to right):

  • The mobile domain with radio access network (RAN), devices (simulated) and mobile backhaul connected to Equinix.
  • The Equinix domain with:
    • Equinix Metal® supporting edge computing servers and a fabric controller from Kaloom.
    • Network slicing fabric providing interconnection and Layer 2/Layer 3 cloud-native networking to dynamically activate UPF instances/interfaces connected with MEC environments and clouds, forming two slices (shown above in blue and red).
    • Equinix Fabric™ and multicloud connectivity.

This demonstrates the benefit of having the UPF as a feature of the interconnection fabric, effectively allowing UPF activation as part of the virtual fabric configuration. This ultimately enables high-performance UPF that’s suitable for use cases such as high-speed 5G fixed wireless access.

Combining UPF instances and MEC environments into an interconnection fabric makes it possible to create continuity for the slices and influence performance and functionality. Equinix Fabric adds multicloud connectivity to slices, enabling organizations to directly integrate network slicing with their mobile hybrid multicloud architectures.

Successful private 5G edge deployments deliver value in several ways. Primarily, they offer immediate access to locally provisioned elastic compute, storage and networking resources that deliver the best user and application experiences. In addition, they help businesses access a rich ecosystem of partners to unlock new technologies at the edge.

Secure, reliable connectivity and scalable resources are essential at the edge. A multivendor strategy with best-of-breed components complemented by telemetry, advanced analytics with management and orchestration—as demonstrated with NICE in Equinix data centers—is a most effective way to meet those requirements. With Equinix’s global footprint of secure, well-equipped facilities, customers can maximize benefits.” - Suresh Krishnan, CTO, Kaloom

Equinix and its partners are building the future of 5G

NICE technology is just one example of how the Equinix 5G and Edge Technology Development Center enables the innovation and development of real-world capabilities that underpin the edge computing and interconnection infrastructure required to successfully implement 5G use cases. A key benefit of the 5G ETDC is the ability to combine cutting-edge innovations from our partners like Kaloom with proven solutions from Equinix that already serve a large ecosystem of customers actively utilizing hybrid multicloud architectures.

To learn more about how we’re laying the groundwork for 5G use cases, read our 5G infrastructure white paper.


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Oleg Berzin Senior Distinguished Engineer, Technology and Architecture, Office of the CTO
Rodney Elder Former Global Principal
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