Verizon and Ericsson announced on Monday that they conducted a proof-of-concept trial for cloud-native, container technology on Verizon's live evolved packet core (EPC.)
Cloud-native and containers hold promise for faster development and deployment cycles in both 4G and 5G. Containers are lightweight, standalone, executable packages of software code that share an operating system, such as Linux, and can run large distributed applications.
Because containers have the bare minimum software that's needed to run an application, they can be more efficient than virtual machines (VMs). The move to containers and Kubernetes has been underway for a while now, but 5G is moving the needle.
In Monday's press release, Verizon and Ericsson espoused the operational autonomy that containers and cloud-native bring to new technologies, services and applications. The possible use cases can run the gamut from a large number of IoT devices that don't need networking to numerous smartphone applications that use data. On the more complex side, 5G will help provision and manage low latency solutions such as augmented reality and virtual reality that require computing capabilities at the network edge.
Each of the services and applications will require mixing and matching different combinations of network capabilities. Cloud-native—along with artificial intelligence and machine learning—will be able to dynamically allocate the appropriate resources while automating network configuration changes. Those changes would include the ability to scale up or scale down network function capacity to make sure the correct service levels and network resources are needed for each use case.
“The pace of technological advancement is rapid and is exponentially increasing. By evolving our core network past simply using virtualized machines and instead changing our underlying software architecture to run on cloud-native technology, we are able to achieve new levels of operational automation, flexibility and adaptability,” said Verizon's Bill Stone, vice president of technology development and planning, in a prepared statement.
Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp., said the trial was notable for two reasons.
"First, the release never mentions NFV, which I hope means that both companies recognize that for multi-tenant functionality, NFV is the wrong approach, period," Nolle said in an email to FierceTelecom. "Second, it’s a container-based approach, and it’s been clear that in the broad market containers are exploding as the hosting strategy de jour for applications. The only qualifier is that you can do containers and not-NFV and still not be cloud-native, and they don’t provide the details of what their architecture is."
The use of containers is already underway by telcos such as AT&T and BT, and there's no doubt more service providers will use them going forward. Last month, Apple joined the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), which is the home of open source technologies such as Kubernetes, as a platinum member.