Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has launched HPE 5G Core Stack, an open, cloud-native 5G core network solution featuring pre-integrated software and hardware that is available on a pay-as-you-use basis from mid 2020. It will enable service providers to deploy a 5G core network with less risk and lower upfront investment as a result of consumption-based pricing.
To realise the full value of 5G, service providers need to deploy a 5G radio access network, backhaul, and a 5G core. HPE says that the combination of HPE 5G Core Stack with HPE GreenLake delivers a purpose-built, open platform for 5G that is scalable and ready to support both unpredictable traffic growth and future 5G evolutions.
HPE argues that while it’s important to bridge between previous and current infrastructure investments, the true potential of 5G will only be unleashed through the adoption of open, cloud-native platforms that enable service providers to accelerate innovation and bring new services to market quickly. Deploying an extensible, cloud-native 5G core, it says, allows service providers to swap out network functions as needed, respond to market developments and avoid vendor lock-in.
The company says its cloud-native 5G Core Stack is a turnkey solution that offers slicing, interworking with previous generation network technologies, and end-to-end automation. It includes stateless containerised network functions (CNF), a shared data environment (SDE), a common platform-as-a-service (PaaS) architecture, end-to-end Management and Orchestration (MANO), and an automation framework. All of this is pre-integrated on carrier-grade infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS).
“Openness is essential to the evolutionary nature of 5G. With multi-generational networks, where services delivered across 3G, 4G, 5G, Wi-Fi and edge networks will be common, service providers need to reduce operational costs and keep themselves open to multiple networks and technologies while avoiding being locked-in to a single vendor approach,” argues Phil Mottram, VP and GM of HPE Communications and Media Solutions. He notes that the business case for investing in 5G network technology is challenging, because although there are substantial functional gains and improvements to operational efficiency, a lot of upfront investment is required when the value of monetisable use cases is still not clear.
“Investing in a new 5G network before the revenue streams are there is financially and technically challenging for many carriers,” he says, noting that HPE’s approach means service providers can start rolling out 5G today and pay for it as their revenues grow.
HPE has a long heritage in telecoms. It has provided carrier-grade infrastructure and software components through its Communication and Media Solutions (CMS) business for years. Its GreenLake service has been developed over 10 years to deliver the cloud experience to apps and data everywhere using a single unified operating model. HPE is also leveraging a portfolio of telco-specific hardware and software blueprints for edge and core workloads.
These HPE blueprints offer validated configurations optimised for specific core and edge telco workloads. The first blueprints are available today, with other blueprints rolled out over time. HPE GreenLake will also provide open software-defined infrastructure as a service for network equipment providers or service providers that want to deploy their own software stacks.
- HPE 5G Core Stack – an open, cloud-native, container-based software stack that delivers the core network capabilities required to deliver new 5G services to subscribers and enterprise customers.
- At the telco edge – a general purpose platform that enables Virtual Radio Access Networks (vRAN) and Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC), providing an IT service environment at the cellular network edge.
- At the enterprise edge – Aruba Central services, including Air Pass Wi‑Fi/5G roaming and Air Slice SLA management to help extend the 5G footprint to the enterprise edge by allowing seamless access to Wi-Fi connected users and IoT devices. Aruba Central is a unified network operations, assurance and security platform for wireless, wired and SD-WAN environments.
- IaaS with HPE GreenLake – available via a pay-as-you-go, managed services and elastic model to provide an attractive, fast ramp for rolling out 5G services by reducing the upfront CAPEX barrier to investment.
HPE is late to the 5G party but has taken an interesting – and some would same opportunistic – approach. It has certainly thrown down a substantial gauntlet to rivals with its pay-as-you-earn business model. Its messaging emphasises that the model and approach could unlock vendor strangleholds on the industry, which it’s hard to think is not aimed directly at the likes of Vodafone and BT who have warned of rising costs and substantial delays if they are forced to remove Huawei equipment.
But it would be wrong to read this just within the context of the ongoing Chinese-American trade war. This approach is equally threatening to other network vendors such as Nokia, Ericsson and even the likes of Ciena.
While it’s not entirely new to offer a leased network equipment approach, in the past this has been accompanied with a hefty services bill in the form of operations outsourcing and fully managed services. This was big business 10 years ago, with Ericsson hoovering up substantial contracts – such as $5 billion deal with Sprint. But although these deals were hailed as “game changers” at the time by some analysts, problems soon began to surface. Managing a network in a steady state with a steady set of services is one thing, but when agility becomes the name of the game, service providers quickly realised they needed greater control so they could move at their own (faster) pace and not be held hostage by their contracts.
HPE has been careful in how it is marketing its new approach – it’s not just cheaper with costs aligned to revenues (set to appeal to CFOs and shareholders of businesses groaning under huge debt burdens), it’s also more agile, more open and supports more innovation (equally appealing to investors looking for service providers to grow those new 5G revenues). And just in case anyone dismisses HPE as not being “telecoms enough” it has carefully pointed out its long dalliance with the industry and its carrier-grade credentials.
With Salesforce attacking the software layer (see Salesforce spends $1.3 billion on buying Vlocity), and HPE now reinvigorating its attack on the network layer, we are entering very interesting times in the telecoms market. The message is clearly that while telecoms may be somewhat “special” it is not as special as it believes, and far more similar to other digital enterprises than it cares to admit. There is probably an 80:20 rule at play here; but it’s no longer necessary to have everything 100% custom built for telecoms. This is a huge challenge to large telecoms-specific ISVs and NEPs.