HPE 5G Lab
Image: HPE

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) unveiled two major 5G initiatives on Thursday: The 5G Lab and a technical demonstration of automated 5G network slice orchestration. Both projects highlight the expanding use cases and growing innovations surrounding 5G connectivity in business.

SEE: Future of 5G: Projections, rollouts, use cases, and more (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Despite the coronavirus pandemic stifling many organizations’ progress and digital transformation initiatives, 5G has continued to grow, a 5G Americas report found. 5G connections globally as of Q1 2020 have surpassed 63.6 million, signifying a 308.7% growth since Q4 2019, according to Omdia data.

Commercial networks are seeing similar growth, with 82 networks now in existence, and it is expected to double to 206 by the end of 2020, a TeleGeography report found. With this growth, HPE took the opportunity to facilitate further innovation, specifically by building multivendor solutions.

“What we are pushing towards the market is the message that it is the time to build multivendor solutions,” said Richard Band, head of mobile core and 5G at HPE CMS. “If you look at the 5G market or the core network market there’s very few vendors left that can do the end to end [process].”

“Many of our customers, including Orange, are looking for ways to diversify their supplier base,” Band added. “Orange wants to build a multivendor network, and this robot demonstration that we’ve done with them was a first step in building this. The HPE 5G lab is an HPE initiative to encourage the emergence of the multivendor ecosystem.”

HPE 5G Lab

The HPE 5G Lab is a test environment where telcos and partners can experiment with and validate 5G network solutions. The mission of the lab is to help telcos accelerate 5G adoption and gain revenue quicker by getting hands-one experience with the latest 5G tech, according to a press release.

The lab is based around a specific group of HPE 5G solutions including HPE 5G Core Stack, HPE Telco Cloud, HPE Telco Blueprints for Core and Edge, and Aruba networking equipment, which HPE Lab users can utilize to test innovations, Band said.

“With the HPE Lab, we are dramatically increasing the proportion of standard IT tools and technologies in telco. Historically, telco has been a very closed environment. When I started 20 years ago, everything was proprietary—the hardware, even the cabling,” Band said.

“Over the years, we’ve moved away from this very proprietary [environment] and made it more aligned to the IT industry. This is an important step because now we’re adopting cloud-native technologies…which gives you very quick updates on services. We’re bringing this into telco,” Band noted. “It’s a huge challenge because it’s a new, different type of workload, different way of working.”

“This lab is intended to help the industry understand how to leverage all of these capabilities; ultimately, the objective is to have a much higher degree of automation and much faster innovation,” Band said.

The HPE 5G Lab is located in Fort Collins, CO, and is available worldwide to customers and HPE partners through remote access, including the provision of personnel to manage and operate the lab environment and help with integration and testing.

To access the HPE 5G Lab and validate via the 5G Core Stack, independent software vendors (ISVs) need to join the HPE Partner Ready program, which will allow them to demonstrate compliance with 3GPP standards and utilize the HPE 5G ecosystem, according to the release.

Automated 5G network slice orchestration demo

HPE’s second major announcement involves a partnership with Orange and Casa Systems that uses a kit robot to demo an automated 5G network slice orchestration.

“5G network slicing…is kind of a virtual private network from mobile networks,” Band said. “Network slicing is really about the ability to instantiate different splices, different networks, different characteristics, and isolate them logically from one another, also from a security perspective.”

The collaboration demonstrates the capability of a cloud-native 5G core network to recognize degradations in quality-of-service (QoS) on a common network slice for a mission-critical service and automatically self correct, creating a new dedicated network slice immediately, according to the release.

“We instantiated an initial network slice at those network functions and implemented 5G core network capabilities and we ran this robot,” Band said. “This robot is circulating and self- balancing kind of thing, and it’s a remote control. So the function that tells it what to do is not actually on the robot, but it is remote. It’s connected through this 5G network and then we start loading additional traffic onto the network so it gets saturated.”

“You start seeing that the behavior of the robot becomes erratic because it’s not getting instructions on time from the centralized server,” Band said. “At that point, we say, ‘OK, we will split.’ And we will instantiate different sets of network functions, different networks slices, but they’re just dedicated to this robot. We instantiate this automatically. Then we tell the robot, you can use this from now on. And at that point you see that the behavior becomes smooth again.”

Historically, if a telco wants to build a network, it builds it once and never touches it again. If it wanted to add to the network, it would take months or years to accomplish, Band said.

“What we are showing here is an ability to react in real time or near real time to conditions and adds capacity to the network. With that, the network works much faster,” Band said. “You get a much smoother experience as a mobile subscriber, but the real value, generally speaking for 5G and including for network slicing, is really for enterprise for their own internal processes or for the things that they will offer to you.”

The next steps for Orange, HPE, and Casa is expanding this use case demonstration into an end-to-end campus trial to move toward broader service availability, according to the release.

“This demonstration with Orange and Casa underscores our ability to automate and orchestrate the complete lifecycle of 5G services in cloud-native, multivendor environments,” said Domenico Convertino, vice president of product management, communications and media solutions at HPE, in the release.

“An open 5G Core is key for operators to break out of the single vendor lock-in of previous generation networks. The HPE 5G Core Stack, as well as our newly announced HPE 5G Lab, enable an accelerated evolution to 5G networking that is open and interoperable,” Convertino added.

For more, check out HPE moves closer to everything-as-a-service with Ezmeral and expanded GreenLake cloud services on TechRepublic.