In brave new 5G world, data centres are pizza boxes... or football fields

Software, software, software... some hardware

OPFVN 2016 Flexible tech such as software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualisation will be a prerequisite for our brave new 5G world, reckon Intel and Ericsson.

Speaking at the open-source network function virtualisation (OPNFV) project, the general manager of Intel's SDN division, John Healy, said the technologies underlying 5G will need to allow agility, scalability and "mass enablement of devices".

Intel, of course, has a self-interested reason for wanting ubiquitous connectivity, as it will give the firm more places to shove its chips in the so-called 'internet of things' era.

He said: "NFV will be the underlying foundation for more flexible, 5G networks."

Healy said NFV and SDN are part of the same push "you can't have one without the other". The former is an attempt to replace dedicated network appliances with software running on off-the-shelf servers, while the latter separates the control plane from the hardware and puts the network intelligence into software.

He added: "For 5G to be effective, it needs to be more elastic, so we need a flexible infrastructure under that."

He acknowledged that 5G is still a long way off, although operators have said functional trials will take place in 2018/19.

"The industry is undeniably on a path to building much more agile networks. SDN and NFV are first two technologies with momentum, with 5G as the goal."

He said other technology similar to NFV and SDN will emerge. "They are the first movement, precursor efforts to the completely flexible, agile network," he said.

Susan James, head of NFV infrastructure at Ericsson, agreed that SDN and NFV will be a perquisite to the 5G network. "It will require a lot more automation and governance," she said.

"We'll also being to see more distributed data centres - some will be the size of pizza boxes and some size of a football fields - of which Ericsson has three.

She added: "Those edge sites will become really important as 5G and IoT come into play. The whole structure of the network will change significantly. We'll want to shift compute power around, and make networks more flexible, easy to change and dynamic." ®

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