HPE launches server optimised for Open RAN

Intel-based product is optimised for OpenRAN, but can still leverage IT economics and common MANO software to bring down TCO, HPE says.

HPE has announced a new range of servers, coupled with management and orchestration software, specifically aimed at the Open RAN market.

The offering, which HPE terms the Open RAN Solution stack, includes a new server class called the ProLiant DL110 Gen 10 Plus, that HPE said has been optimised for Open RAN performance. Coming with the dedicated server is HPE’s automation and orchestration software. The O-RAN network functions and the OS/Container platform in which they would sit are open to other partners to deploy.

HPE’s aim is that telcos can use the Open RAN Solution Stack as a deployment blueprint, giving them a consistent infrastructure and management capability, no matter what RAN software providers they choose to work with.  In turn that could give them a 25% reduction in TCO, according to HPE’s own calculations.

The servers are based on Intel’s upcoming 3rd generation Intel Xeon Scaleable processors (Cooper Lake) and contain specific accelerator options designed to match the requirement of vRAN workloads. They will compete in the market with solutions from the likes of Dell, SuperMicro and Quanta Cloud Technology.

Claus Henrik Pedersen, VP, Communications Infrastructure Solutions, HPE Communications Technology Group, said that although the servers are Intel based at chip level, they are not dependent on an implementation of Intel’s FlexRAN reference architecture.

“It is more open than that,” Pedersen told TMN on a media call. “When it comes to some of our big partners they may be putting in their own PCI cards with accelerators for their radio processing. In that sense it is a standard platform. There is nothing that makes it Intel-specific.”

Up to this point HPE has been steering operators and partners to its Edgeline EL8000 servers for Open RAN workloads, which are often sited towards the edge of a network, for example at a location such as the Central Office (always a confusing term for non-telco land).

The PDG10PTS (!) is a 1U server, 44cm deep, with front cabling and mounting. HPE says that it can support 18 narrow band RRUs using 4×16 PCIe slots, or 6 Midband RRUs with 100MHz bandwidth. RUs can connect using the O-RAN 7.2 fronthaul specifications. The servers can also support other functions that are likely to be sited at the same location, such as fronthaul gateway and the cell site router software.

One big Open RAN debate is whether standard hardware platforms running third party vRAN software can match the performance of dedicated baseband products. The likes of Ericsson and Nokia would say that Open platforms cannot benefit from the same silicon-software integration of platforms such as Ericsson’s ERS basebands.

Companies such as Picocom are developing their own dedicated small cell Open RAN silicon. And Qualcomm too thinks that it has a chance to drive more radio-specific silicon into the market.

HPE says it has five telcos already interested in trialling the hardware as they test out RAN processing on commercial, Intel-based hardware.

Pederson said that standardising the infrastructure and MANO environment in the RAN gives telcos a different challenge than in the core, as it involves thousands of sites. And he added that the company is not “positioning ourselves as competitors to traditional vendors.”

“We are here to leverage what we do best into the networks, for example in where we add value in MANO.” Another area is in exploiting HPE’s compute value, “leveraging the scale of IT industry economics to design platforms that are highly optimised for specific network workloads.”

The Open RAN server range is the first of the reference “blueprints” that HPE has released from its newly formed HPE Communications Technology Group. The company announced a core network technology stack just under a year ago, wich was its first telco specific blueprint. (LINK)

The CTG, led by Phil Mottram, will be the business unit that rolls up all HPE’s telco-facing hardware and software technology, including the assets acquired via Silverpeak and Aruba.