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How Robin Leverages Open-Source Technology to Expand 5G Private Networks

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Guest: W. Brooke Frischemeier
Company: Robin.io
Show: Let’s Talk

Now that most providers and companies have adopted 5G technology, it’s started to evolve at a much faster pace. When you talk about 5G, most people think of mobile phones, but it’s also about private networks as well.

According to W. Brooke Frischemeier, Senior Director of Product Management, 5G and Edge at Robin.io, “Until about a few years ago, I didn’t really know what we were going to do with private 5G, but we’re part of a number of coalitions now.” Frischemeier believes “it’s going to enable a lot of things in rural areas and one of the things I find fascinating is smart agriculture.” Smart agriculture can make it possible to do things like monitoring insects. Frischemeier says the next big benefit of 5G is smart cities, which has “absolutely huge deployment options.”

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Open source is playing a considerable role in the democratization and use of 5G. On this issue, Frischemeier says, “It really helps to spark innovation and it helps up and coming companies like ours because when you get in one of these big monolithic deployments where a single vendor just lays down the physical infrastructure, the cloud platform, the automation, it really doesn’t leave a lot of room for a lot of innovations, especially on the automation side and the cloud platform side.” With that in mind, open source leads to a disaggregation of hardware and software and promotes a more open architecture that any company can choose from.

As far as what open-source technologies are driving this growth, Frischemeier indicates many are focused on the Kubernetes API. Another open-source technology is Open RAN, which has become absolutely critical. In fact, Frischemeier says, “people are asking for the roadmaps to be fully Open RAN-compliant because, again, this is going to allow that disaggregated software community to come together to put together solutions.” Frischemeier finally adds, “One of the big evolutions or promises we’ll see of a disaggregation of services will be edge computing, and MEC outlines a beautiful framework for that and it also provides a conduit back into Open RAN, so we can have applications that feed back into the network and vice versa.”

Robin is focused on helping customers get to day one faster than you could in the past. It’s not just about deploying but about lifecycle management. Robin likes to onboard all of this before a company gets to day one, so all of the ongoing lifecycle management of past deployments becomes easy and crosses multiple domains from bare metal to Kubernetes, configuration support, applications, network functions, network services, switches, and routers.

At KubeCon, Robin is showcasing CPN, which is their enhanced Kubernetes platform that runs both containers and virtual machines. Frischemeier explains, “When it comes to virtual machines, you can run them as the standard space cube vert, which we do, or you can run them better the way we actually do with our original option, which is our own container run time because you can pin CPUs more efficiently with how we bypass the hypervisor layer.” By leveraging Open RAN, Robin can reduce jitter and eke out more performance. Frischemeier adds, “When it comes to MB cap, we do what we call metal to services orchestration, where, in a single workflow, we can update your bare metal servers, bios, FPGA, configure storage, do something on the BMC, deploy a patch, as well as launch a cluster, launch your applications and functions and then launch the service.” This can be done in either brownfield or greenfield environments. According to Frischemeier, “We’ve had customers come to us and say, you’ve been able to deploy things that used to take us 10 days and now you can do it in minutes because we have that multi-domain orchestrator with great observability. Now you can do resource planning and observability that includes your physical resources, as well as your clustering, your network connectivity, etc.”

The summary of the show is written by Jack Wallen


Here is the rough, unedited transcript of the show…

Swapnil Bhartiya: This is your host Swapnil Bhartiya and welcome to TFIR Let’s talk a special edition for Q con. And today we have with us, Brooke Frischemeier, senior director of product management of 5G and [email protected] Brook, it’s great to have you on the show.

Brooke Frischemeier: Thank you for having me.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Let’s talk about 5G. Before we talk about open RAN and open source, I just want to understand a bit about the evolution that is going on in 5G. And if you remember last year, the U.S. Government, they released some spectrum, which further democratized broadband or 5G. So if you can just quickly give us kind of what kind of evolution or progress or development you have seen in the 5G space in the last 12 months or so?

Brooke Frischemeier:

Well, I’d say a lot of people are actually starting to do it, which is the big thing. A lot of people or companies have been waiting to see if someone can actually pull it off, especially with open RAN. Fortunately, we are a part of one of those networks, which I’m sure I’ll bring up a couple times today, but I think that’s the big piece and people are getting the automation down, they’re getting the integration down and they’re focusing on life cycle management. So I think it’s really in the deployment phase right now, which is the big new news.

Swapnil Bhartiya: When we talk about 5G, most of the people they talk about iPhones and all those things, but we are also talked to you about building private networks. So how is 5G enabling that as well?

Brooke Frischemeier: So it’s also enabling private 5G. I have to say until about a few years ago, or let’s say two years ago, I didn’t really know what we were going to do with private 5G, but we’re part of a number of coalitions now. And to me it seems like the most interesting part because it’s going to enable a lot of things in rural and one of the ones I find fascinating is smart agriculture. When you look at all the different things you can deploy to even monitor things like insects, I mean, it’s just amazing. And then the next big one, I think we’ll see a lot of wealthy nations starting deploy private 5G in terms of smart cities. And that has absolutely huge deployment options, but I think that’ll be very very interesting. So I feel like the used cases are developing better. And now that a lot of the underlying infrastructure, both hardware and softwares is coming up to play. As we mentioned earlier, we can see people moving into private 5G more and more.

Swapnil Bhartiya: One thing that is also unique about 5G versus it’s funny to use the word legacy or traditional network is now we are using all open source technology related hardware software. In the old days, it was used to be black boxes, now we are using commodity hardware as well. What role is open source playing in, in further democration or use of 5G technologies?

Brooke Frischemeier: So when I think of open source, I think of also other open frameworks. And, it really helps to spark innovation and it helps up and coming companies like ourself as much because when you get in one of these big monolithic where single vendor just lays down the physical infrastructure, the cloud platform, the automation, it really doesn’t leave a lot of room for a lot of innovations, especially on the automation side and the cloud platform side. So all of the open source leads to disaggregation of hardware and software, and it promotes a lot of more open architectures where a number of people can play. And, that absolutely positively sparks innovation and leads to more vibRANt infrastructure from any comforter, any company to choose from.

Swapnil Bhartiya: And, as you earlier to open RAN, can you talk about what are the open source technologies that you feel are going to drive this growth and evolution in the 5G space and also the technology that where Robin is playing a role?

Brooke Frischemeier: So absolutely positively Kubernetes that’s been around for quite some time. And our platforms are cloud platforms build off of Kubernetes. One of the things that Kubernetes is really offered as we move to a lot of these is, it has its own API. And when we look at some standards that aren’t ready yet, people are centering certain things around the Kubernetes eAPI. So it’s really put itself as a focal point or a way to bring a lot of different things together and it was a big help. The other big ones are tip open RAN, absolutely critical. There are still things being developed, but more and more in RFPs, RFIs, we see people asking for the roadmaps to be fully open RAN compliant, because again, this is going to allow that disaggregated software community to come together to put together solutions. And the other big one I would have to say is Etsy Mac, one of the big evolutions or promises we’ll see of a dis aggregating of services will be edge computing and MEC outlines a beautiful framework for that and it also provides a way a conduit back into open RAN, so we can have applications that feed back into the network and vice versa. So it opens up a lot of interesting opportunities and again, ways that people can innovate.

Swapnil Bhartiya: If you look at these technologies and if you look at the evolution of Robin, Robin has also come a long way.I’ve been covering lot Robin for a very long time, but I see the term. So if I ask you, what is the focus of Robin today, what would you say?

Brooke Frischemeier: Alright, So I could talk about this one for at least another hour, but I think.

Speaker 3: We have only 30 seconds.

Brooke Frischemeier: Yeah. I think the big thing about Robin is, we have great features with great performance. It’s about ease of use, ease of integration, ease of onboarding. It’s getting enabling you to get to day one a lot faster than you were in the past and once you get to day one, a lot of people think about just deploying, but they forget about the life cycle management. So we like to onboard all of this stuff before you get to day one. So all of the ongoing life cycle management past deployment becomes easy and crosses multiple domains from bare metal servers to Kubernetes cluster cloud platform, configuration supporting applications, network functions, network services, switches, and routers. How do we collapse those workflows from multiple domains into single workflows for both Greenfield and Brownfield applications?

Swapnil Bhartiya: Now, I’ll go to the very first point that you’re making there about that these 5G is in the deployment phase, and we almost touch upon some of the challenges. So I would understand that if we do look at this deployment pipelines, 5G is in today’s world, almost everything is a related new technology Kubernetes when you talk about, it’s a very complicated, so many knobs to turn and that’s where automation plays a very big role, so if I ask you what are some of the patterns or problem that you see people face when they try to deploy these technologies and how Robin is helping them with these open source technology that you folks are involved with.

Brooke Frischemeier: So you mentioned, I believe I heard a twinge in your voice that said Kubernetes was difficult. And I would say general probably is. So, first of all, it’s having the right interface where you don’t need to be a Kubernetes expert. You don’t need to go and manually configure NUMA nodes, there’s no hard coding, there’s no searching. It’s about onboarding the applications and the network functions, understanding how they fit together. So when you get to the deploy screen or you get to the scale screen, or the clone screen that you’re not talking about Kubernetes configuration, that you’re not talking about, which node has the following resources that everything is modeled for you, that you’ve already bought in and worked with people like Robin to onboard your models. So now you’re just doing things like saying, deploy this application and before I deploy this application, I need to make sure three or four other things are already there. And then I want to deploy this size or this flavor and you click go. And nowhere in there have I talked about searching for resources, nowhere in there have I talked about Kubernetes config. We have to massively demystify that. And just for one example, it’s why so many people struggled with OpenStack. And I was a big proponent of OpenStack. But, if you can’t make things intuitive without requiring a ridiculous amount of training, then you can’t expect your customers to successfully deploy their networks.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Now we are here at CubeCon, is there any announcement what are the things that you folks are doing showcasing or talking about at the event?

Brooke Frischemeier: CNP is our enhanced Kubernetes platform that runs both containers and virtual machines. When it comes to virtual machines, you can run them as the standard space cube vert, which we do, or you can run them better the way we actually do with our original option, which is our own container run time, because you can pin CPUs more efficiently because we bypass the hypervisor layer. And one of the big things, when we talk about RAN, open RAN in those applications is that reduces jitter and we can also get out some more performance, but CNP when we’re talking about that intelligent workload placement with an easy to use model that does doesn’t require you to use, have expertise that CNP it also has application aware storage, which is industry leading and numerous networking options, including network policies that you won’t find in a traditional Kubernetes that wasn’t really built for service providers. When it comes to MB cap, we do what we call metal to services orchestration, and where in a single workflow, we can go on update your bare metal servers, bios, FPGA, configure storage, do something on the BMC, all those [inaudible 00:10:07] deploy a patch, as well as launch a cluster, launch your applications and functions, and then launch the service. Of course, you can do that in both a Brownfield, or you can do that in a Greenfield environment, where you combine that all in a single workflow. We’ve had customers come to us and say, you’ve been able to deploy things that used to take us 10 days and now you can do in minutes, because we have that multi domain orchestrator with great observability, because now you can do resource planning and observability that includes your physical resources, as well as your clustering, your network connectivity etc. So that’s a big plus multi tenancy and roles based access. So when you start looking at observability in an edge system, that can be completely packed with stuff where they don’t have the luxury to physically segregate stuff. If you want to look at bare metal to services, observability, think about all the things you have to tie together and then you throw multi-tenancy on that as a wrinkle. That means on the back end, you need to be doing a bunch of different scraping and analytics where we can offer that up in a single package so you don’t have to do all that. But in a nutshell, those are some of the leading things we do. But again, it’s about ease of use that reduces time to outcome. We have numerous integration tools to help you onboard, or we work with you to onboard faster and you don’t have to be the expert. That’s the big thing we take that guesswork out of it for you,

Swapnil Bhartiya: Brooke. Thank you so much for taking time out today and talk about, of course, open RAN, how Robin has kind of evolved over time and sharing your insights on the 5G deployment. And I look forward to our next conversation. Thank you.

Brooke Frischemeier: Thank you. My pleasure. Thank you for letting me speak to your audience.

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