When thinking about the future of Telco Cloud in the emerging 5G connected world, NVIDIA’s newly released edge platform, EGX A100, is the platform I have been looking for when contemplating the emerging 5G connected world. EGX A100, the newest addition to NVIDIA’s EGX Edge AI platform, is more than just a marriage of a NVIDIA Mellanox ConnectX network adapter and a power efficient NVIDIA GPU on a PCIe card. EGX A100 shortens the distance between data and the processor reducing latency. EGX A100 is also a blending of ecosystems sorely needed to build the new 5G edge cloud. It is personally what I have been waiting for as it takes an “ecosystem village” to efficiently enable the Telco Cloud technologies I work with at Nuage Networks from Nokia.
Nuage Networks was founded to develop Software Defined Networking (SDN) that would allow many tenants to share the same physical networks using encapsulated virtual networks. Our solution, the Virtualized Services Platform (VSP), has been very successful at bringing “network automation” order to the world of VNFs/CNFs in the Telco Cloud systems managed by OpenStack, Kubernetes, and other ecosystem partners. VSP instantiates private networks based on policy inherited from over-arching management systems while providing an unparalleled set of networking features allowing only the right traffic to get to the right endpoint at the right time.
The general value proposition of virtualization is also becoming essential to 5G. Virtualization through VMs, and through more efficient containerization, allows many applications to run simultaneously on shared network, compute and storage resources increasing deployment flexibility while increasing utilization of capital resources by allowing multiple applications to run on shared hardware. The physics of 5G, and especially the introduction of short-range line-of-sight mmWave radios, legislates the need for many more base stations. It is essential that these base stations offer the efficiencies of virtualized services to many tenants due to the bandwidths, latencies, and economics involved. This is what is driving the edge explosion, and this is a problem that VSP with EGX A100 is perfectly aligned to solve: securely and efficiently virtualizing multi-tenant 5G edge nodes.
Virtualized networks, based on VXLAN encapsulation, have significant overhead especially for very small messaging packets often found in the VNF/CNF world. I’ve been very fortunate to work with the NVIDIA Mellanox ConnectX-5 and ConnectX-6 SmartNICs which have a programmable e-switch (short for embedded switch) which can process packets in hardware, under the control of rules from the Nuage Networks VSP (SDN). Since the ConnectX e-switch is purpose-built for processing packets, it is highly efficient, provides low latency, and is power efficient making the tunneling of packets nearly invisible to tenant traffic while freeing up the host node’s CPU to do other useful work. Because each NIC has its own e-switch, network performance intrinsically scales with the number of end points. Latency is also minimized with this solution due to the locality of the e-switch and due to the comparatively shallow IO queues.
The “edge growth explosion” contributes to the need to tear down the Telco Cloud data center walls. As these walls collapse, an extension to SDN known as SD-WAN can be used to connect these edge clouds by establishing secure and managed connections over any available network including 5G networks though the use of IPsec tunnels. The 5G edge implicitly has multiple tenants due to network slicing of MIMO base stations, so now the encapsulation needs to create privacy for tenants running in the same edge node. The ConnectX-6 NIC also offers crypto accelerators that offloads IPsec connections making them transparent and able to run at line rates.
So far all of this may seem very pedestrian if you’ve spent much time in the software defined world. With NVIDIA EGX A100, packets arrive in a secure and isolated way on the NVIDIA Mellanox SmartNIC, while the NVDIA GPU is on the same card with the ability to perform remote direct memory access (RDMA) directly into the NVIDIA GPU’s local memory! Wow! Now we can build vRANs, run detailed “securalytics”, and create highly versatile extremely compact 5G base stations all networked from a single pane of glass by Nuage Networks VSP. ConnectX-6 Dx brings innovative time-triggered transmission technology for telco (5T for 5G) that supports highly accurate Precision Time Protocol which allows it to send and receive real-time data between the radio unit and the baseband units. In the Open RAN world, this is referred to as an eCPRI or enhanced Common Public Radio interface, the open standard for 5G networks.
Earlier I mentioned the importance of the ecosystem along with all of this hardware innovation. To rapidly develop new edge solutions, we need building blocks. NVIDIA recently launched NVIDIA Aerial, a set of SDKs to enable software defined radio and signal processing applications on NVDIA GPUs. The ecosystem of developers in this space are creating the building blocks that will accelerate the utilization of EGX A100 and the growth of data moving to and from the 5G edge. Over the next few months I’ll be investigating NVIDIA Aerial SDKs and EGX A100 with Nuage Networks VSP in an exploration of networking at the edge. Please watch for my blog updates about this work.