Last month, Infoblox was a Gold sponsor for the Cloud Native World Virtual Event. I joined some of our partners and customers in the panel discussion Unlocking the Core: Moving to a 5G Microservices Core.
The network evolution from 4G, to non-standalone (4G/5G), to pure or standalone 5G, has begun for many sizeable mobile service providers. We discussed numerous topics, ranging from 5G core deployment strategies, the role of automation and orchestration in securing the 5G core, and the cloud-native services journey at the edge. The overwhelming scale of that evolution drives a strong need for automation, so I wanted to share my perspectives on some of these points and where Infoblox fits.
Designing and Deploying Microservices for 5G Networks
There are many clouds, technologies, service models, and deployment models today for operators to deploy microservices for 5G and MEC networks, and each operator will approach and solve this differently. But how will they do it? Use the public cloud? Private cloud? Hybrid cloud? Are they going to be container-based? VM-based? Are they going to use OpenStack? Or Kubernetes? Or are they going to use VMware?
Flexible orchestration is a top consideration. Operators need platform tools and solutions from vendors that afford them the flexibility to employ zero-touch provisioning capabilities to deploy these microservices will full lifecycle automation.
But so is a software-driven scale. Do operators want to run their services or subsets of services in their own data center? In AWS? Or Azure? In a small central office or an edge site? Operators need solutions that can span and scale everywhere – from the core to the edge – to allow them to size for a small MEC location that could comprise maybe a server or two, to something as significant as a core implementation with hundreds of racks.
And then there is the speed. In 5Gs Service-Based Architecture, network functions need to discover, select the right features and find the correct IP addresses and that must happen in a fast and automated way – through solutions like Infoblox provides for DHCP and IPV6 services for 5G radio that carriers need to identify and provision radio functionalities with the right functions uniquely.
5G Core – Overlay vs. Integration
Some operators may have utilized a 5G overlay (or Non-Standalone Model), migrating to a 5G standalone model over time. Others may have chosen to integrate the 4G & 5G cores. Some may have gone direct to a 5G standalone model.
From a reality standpoint – many operators want to capitalize on some of the high-speed 5G use cases and accelerate their time to market for new 5G services. They can accomplish that by leveraging their existing 4G network investments in transport and mobile core —rather than deploying an entirely new end-to-end 5G network. And they’ve done that. And they’ve leveraged virtualization, separated the control and user planes in ways to reduce costs on an LTE network that’s already been financed. Moving to 5G standalone and a cloud-native core will provide them with greater efficiencies and the ability to satisfy a more extensive number of use cases, ultra-reliable and low-latency communications, and network slicing.
From our viewpoint–we are agnostic on the radio being used and whichever path that operators choose. Infoblox is a core IP network service that can be delivered via orchestrated virtualized network functions (VNFs) and cloud-native containerized software solutions that runs in any of their environments, helping provide them the speed and capacity they need. We are a network function that can run in these environments — as software, as a container, as hardware — satisfying their need to run their existing evolved packet core (EPC), allowing them to tie the 5G core into the current and internet for however long they need.
The Role of Automation & Orchestration in Securing the 5G core
In 5G, visibility, discovery, automation, and control will be more critical than ever. And in every element, automation needs to be part of the design from day one. Automation tools must provide all means required for security, provisioning, monitoring. Overcoming orchestration complexity is an essential piece of security.
In 4G and 5G, both have security issues. And DNS is one tool (or platforms) that is leveraged by mobile carriers to analyze where DNS requests go, web pages, command and control, data exfiltration, and stuff like that. Operators deploying 5G and MEC are looking for solutions that maximize automation and alleviate the burden of maintaining a static register of services, operators, and applications sometimes called a Configuration Management Database (CMDB). Operators have struggled to track things like subnets, IP allocations, DNS records, zones, and views. The impact is that to perform lifecycle management (Create/Update/Decommission) of their configuration items, teams must perform tedious manual processes.
One great example is Infoblox. We provide built-in, well documented, and supported IP address management (IPAM) dynamic inventory and Zero Touch Provisioning capabilities with our partners at Red Hat Ansible with Ansible Tower that eliminates the need for customized external scripting. This capability helps reduce errors and provides full lifecycle automation functions within the Ansible ecosystem.
The Cloud-Native Services Journey at the edge
From my standpoint, we’re probably already seeing it, and I want to point to two examples: CoreDNS and External DNS.
- CoreDNS is a project in the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). It’s a fast, flexible, and modern DNS server that provides service discovery in cloud-native deployments.
- ExternalDNS is a Kubernetes add-on that makes Kubernetes resources discoverable via public DNS servers.
Infoblox employees are some of the top contributors to CoreDNS and ExternalDNS—and we’re seeing much interest in the solutions to automate, provide visibility, and simplify the network management of containers, services, and pods running within a cluster.
Kubernetes-based solutions like Red Hat OpenShift appear to win the market space right now. When we talk about CoreDNS and Kubernetes, we’re Seeing many commercial deployments backed by our partner Red Hat, especially among the Tier 1 providers in the US. We’re seeing commercial deployments of CoreDNS now, and ExternalDNS being integrated into one of the larger service providers in the US with a production installation ongoing, and expect to see that increase amongst other providers.