HPE targets open era wins with new 5G as a service offerings

HPE introduces its open NFVi as a service, adds first launch of 5G SA core software.

HPE has outlined its ambitions to offer operators NFV infrastructure and 5G network functions software on an “as-a-service” basis.

The company today launched a new 5G core software stack designed as containerised network functions (CNF) sharing a common data layer for deployment in operators’ cloud environments. The stack is “mostly” composed of HPE’s own code and software, with some additions from partners such as Affirmed Networks for specific functions.

It is also moving its NFV infrastructure (NFVi) to be available via its GreenLake “as-a-service” platform, offering operators a consumption-based model to deploy 5G infrastructure and the applications that run on top of them.

By the second half of 2020, the core stack will be the first telco software “blueprint” available on the company’s GreenLake Infrastructure-as-a-Service platform. The GreenLake NFVi as-a-service offering includes telco-specific hardware and software “blueprints” designed for core, RAN and edge-specific workloads.

HPE says the 5G as-a-service portfolio will enable telcos to access its solutions “truly as a consumption model”, and that it will break the “stranglehold” that vertically integrated major vendors such as Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei have had over operators.

Consumption-based pricing

HPE’s point of differentiation is that its IaaS model means it will be able to charge operators for consumption rather than on a subscription or license fee basis. ie operators will pay for what they use, allowing them to scale investments with growth.

This sort of cloud-native pricing has not always been replicated by NEPs even where they offer cloud-native software. For example, TMN reported last year that Nokia’s cloud core for Three UK is not charged on a per-usage basis.

Phil Mottram, VP and GM Communication & Media Solutions, said, “We will give you cloud native core network functions on a pre-packaged basis and charge you on a consumption based model, so we offer a very viable solution that is more open and with a charging mechanism linked to usage.” Mottram said that early discussions with operators have focussed on operators paying on a per-user subscription basis – so that for every 5G customer that attaches to the 5G core, HPE takes a payment.

Opening up the NFVi layer

To go with the usage based pricing, HPE is heralding its ability to act as a foundation layer to support the new trend for open-ness in the network.

HPE’s Martin Halstead, Global Chief Technologist, Telco Servers, told TMN that telcos can deploy HPE’s  5G Core CNFs on other infrastructure, as well as HPE’s. Or they can deploy other CNFs upon the underlying HPE NFVi layer.

The company is developing a range of hardware and software blueprints to support different telco workloads, working with component vendors such as Intel to make sure that the applications layer (VNFs, CNFs) work on HPE’s infrastructure.

The company took today’s launch as an opportunity to state that it would increasingly be looking to support Edge and vRAN functions deployed within an open architecture. Mottram said that HPE is “increasingly” seeing operators express interest in a more open RAN approach, and the company is clearly hoping to benefit from the political manoeuvrings in the industry to support more Open RAN development and deployment.

Halstead said that the push for a disaggregated architecture will come from operators looking to introduce more flexibility into their vendor selection.

“Typically the sales model is the operators would say, ‘I want to deploy HP infrastructure in my environment for the radio access network. And I want you, Nokia or Ericsson or whoever, for the radio access network, so Nokia/Ericsson, you need to make sure that your applications work on HP infrastructure.’ That’s the case for a number of operators that aren’t just going for a full stack solution. NFV is very mature as a market so that separation of applications from  the infrastructure is pretty much accepted out there today. It’s a bit earlier than that for the radio access network.

“Some of those application vendors we also compete with, so for example, Nokia manufacturers its AirFrame servers which supports its Airscale RAN. So it’s only really the operators who are going to say, “Look, I don’t want you with the AirFrame and it’s got to be HPE. So they’ve got to push the the vendors to work with us as well.”