ARM aiming for cloud telco land

ARM aims for telco cloud, as Cavium integrates C-RAN SoC reference platform.

Core processor provider ARM has laid out its ambition to be a major provider of technology underpinning telco cloud applications and infrastructure.

With an announcement of its vision for something it calls the Intelligent Flexible Cloud, and a deep commitment to the Open Data Plane (ODP) APIs to enable fleixble integration between its cores and specialised accelerators, the company said it wants to be a key player in cloud-based telco deployments.

The company says that with data plane processing requirements being increasingly distributed across the network, the Intelligent Flexible Cloud will enable OEMs and operators to build and deploy products that match the requirements of functions as they are placed across the network.

ARM IFC Intelligent Flexible Cloud

For instance, it sees data plane processing, with increased acceleration for functions such as security and DPI, will be a major requirement at the network edge. It cited IDC research predicting that 40% of IoT traffic will be stored, processed, analysed and acted upon close to, or at the edge, of the network. That means that high performance cores like the A57 will be well suited to Cloud-RAN basebands, for example.

ARM argues that a homogeneous software stack (like OpenStack or OpenDataPlane) on heterogeneous hardware will give operators vendor-diversity for cloud servers – ie. be able to build on something other than Intel x86.

Early validations came from Cavium and Freescale, both of which have built SoCs based on ARM cores. Cavium has announced a reference platform for OEMs building C-RAN virtualised basebands – wrapping up the  ARMv8-A-based ThunderX SoC with its UniFiRAN software solution and networking accelerators to create a full C-RAN design. It will be demonstrating the C-RAN and vEPC at MWC with live LTE traffic.

Cavium’s Gopal Hegde, VP/GM Server Processor Group, said the ThunderX SoC “can be a really good server-class platform for wide variety of applications”.

“Cloud RAN is one example where high end processors can be used. A second example  is NFV type applications –  and the benefit of ThunderX there is not only that it provides a standard COTS server but also ODP APIs give access to all accelerators – encryption, DPI etc – which many utilise today on bare metal hardware,” Hegde said.

Freescale’s ‎Head of Strategy & System Solutions, Digital Networking, Sam Fuller said that has created a “very low power, simple board design targeted at networking apps, at the edge of the network”. Freescale’s QorIQ LS2 family integrates ARM’s A57 cores, coupling the general purpose processors via the ODP APIs with its own accelerator subsystem that is optimised for packet processing.  Fuller said that design meant OEMs could integrate processing along with forwarding of packets in the data plane, with SDN control, and also serve in more legacy deployments with traditional routing and switching protocols in general purpose processors.

Charlene Marini, VP Embedded Marketing, ARM, said on a briefing call, “We see SoCs as the way to be able to achieve distributed intelligence across the network, as a key enabler for agile efficient network foundations moving forward.”

ARM’s ambition places its tanks firmly on Intel’s lawn – with the US giant long having harboured ambitions to be the core technology platform for distributed telco cloud platforms. Along with Freescale and Cavium, ARM has also announced partner support from Altera, AMD Embedded Solutions, Enea, Marvell and Xilinx.

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