Vodafone and Arm test the potential of universal CPE

News

Customer premises equipment (CPE) has been ripe for disruption for years, characterised by too many boxes with dedicated functionality.

The collaboration between Vodafone and chip maker Arm uses the latter’s architecture to enable a cloud-native approach to universal CPE (uCPE).

CPE devices deployed by telcos include hardware-based firewalls, Wi-Fi routers and network switch and typically perform specific functions.

Containers and software

The rise of virtualisation, containerisation and software-defined devices has generated considerable interest in the potential of uCPE regarding the possibilities of multi-function, cloud native platforms.

Their use would reduce installation and maintenance costs, take up less space, use less energy and allow customers to upgrade services without ripping out hardware.

Eddie Ramirez, Senior Director of Marketing, Infrastructure Line of Business at Arm, explains the company has been working on uCPEs and looking to the edge with platform initiatives like ServerReady and Project Cassini.

He claims, “An ecosystem of Arm-based devices is ready to reshape the market. Arm-based uCPEs running cloud native software stacks can be scaled from four to 32 cores and provide enterprise grade connectivity services to a broad set of markets.“

To demonstrate these capabilities, Arm, NXP Semiconductors, Telco Systems, and Vodafone developed a proof of concept for uCPE that supports multiple enterprise services such as SD-WAN, routing and firewalls.

It combines the reliability of CPEs with the flexibility to easily add or remove services, the parties say.

Several applications were tested on a hybrid virtualisation and container platform from Telco Systems NFVTime on multiple Arm Neoverse-based processors, designed by NXP, to demonstrate support of real use cases that have constantly changing demands.

Tested in the UK



The uCPE was tested by Vodafone Group labs in the UK for both small and medium business, and enterprise use cases.

This was the first time the group had shown an orchestrated mix of container and virtual machine-based network functions running on the same platform. The Vodafone team successfully deployed and managed virtualised network functions (VNF) and cloud native network function (CNF) applications on a 35W (typical) system based on a 4-core Arm Cortex-A72 processor.

Gavin Young, Head of Fixed Access Centre of Excellence, Vodafone, noted, “The collaboration on uCPE highlights the increasing functionality Arm architectures can provide in the evolution to a cloud native approach to uCPE.

“Vodafone is committed to helping business customers who use its services reduce their own carbon emissions and lower-energy uCPEs will help with this goal.”

Scale is the key

Or as Ramirez puts it: “Network operators can benefit from a solution that can scale from the smallest office or retail location all the way up to large national or regional offices while meeting stringent cost and performance objectives with a seamless, fully automated software.

“The flexibility of the platform helps support remote deployment and management of services across multiple verticals. There is possibility to disrupt costs associated with network services through the Arm ecosystem that offers multi-vendor solutions.

“We can effectively scale down the cost of deploying services while increasing system performance to levels not seen with other platforms.”
More information here.