Certification of containerized and virtualized network functions on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure

August 16, 2023 | 5 minute read
Sveta Shandilya
Senior Principal Technical Program Manager
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Today, communications service providers (CSPs) are gearing up to deliver lightning-fast connectivity, new innovative services, automated operations, and transformative user experiences. Oracle Cloud Infrastructure makes these things possible, providing scalability, automation, and cloud native support, all on a reliable distributed cloud. 

As a telco cloud, OCI provides the capabilities, features, and performance needed to deploy and operate virtual network functions (VNFs) and containerized network functions (CNFs) across the complete 5G core. CNFs and VNFs provide the flexibility for CSPs to deploy, manage, and maintain network services more efficiently through virtualization and automation.

With the ever-increasing demands of 5G applications and services, the performance and functionality of these network functions is paramount.  To address this critical need, OCI has launched the certification program to give network equipment providers (NEPs) and CSPs the confidence that their chosen NFs are compatible and performant in OCI.

How OCI certification helps NEPs and CSPs

Oracle’s certification program enables NEPs to onboard their network functions (NFs) to OCI. The program makes their 4G and 5G applications and services readily available as part of the OCI ecosystem and allowing them to support CSPs who are adopting OCI for their next generation networks. The certification program provides a robust test environment that validates that NFs can be confidently deployed, configured, and operated in OCI with full functionality and performance.

OCI offers a holistic approach to validation, encompassing functional testing to 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards, performance testing, and interoperability with other network functions. Testing ensures that you can deploy the applications with automation, fully configured in cloud environments, and readily integrated with common observability tools. Specific test cases are performed against the NF using the appropriate 3GPP release. When testing is completed, you can make the NF available to customers in the Oracle Cloud Marketplace.

By offering comprehensive test and validation, OCI is partnering with NEPs to provide CSPs with the assurance that the cloud native network functions underpinning key network services operate consistently and performantly in the cloud, allowing them to build and deliver reliable services to their end customers.

Pillars of certification

We have the following areas of interest for you to focus on for certification:

  • Onboarding: The complexity of integrating NFs into a new cloud environment network can be daunting. To support you, the certification program provides a team of dedicated 5G architects and engineers who have a deep understanding of telecoms and cloud to work with NEPs and onboard their NFs into OCI. From initial technical discussions to the final deployment, this dedicated team works with NEPs to ensure their NFs get properly onboarded and certified on OCI. This collaborative approach makes onboarding to OCI easier and more effective.
  • Functional testing: In the complex world of telecommunications, adherence to standards set by the 3GPP is mandatory. The certification program meticulously validates each function‘s conformance to these standards, ensuring that the key functionality required per 3GPP release is available and valid. By adhering to 3GPP standards, network functions can seamlessly integrate into existing network and interoperate with other components, enabling the service providers to adopt a plug-and-play approach to constructing their networks in the cloud.
  • Scaling and performance:  The certification program puts network functions through testing to assess the function‘s ability to scale and handle increasing user traffic and data. Performance tests are run to assess responsiveness to signaling messages and ensure that the function can handle the signaling traffic efficiently.
  • Interoperability: In a network environment, seamless interoperability between various components of the 5G network is essential for efficient communication and service delivery. OCI’s certification program assesses the compatibility of telco applications with other network functions by performing end to end testing from the user equipment and radio to the core to ensure NFs are properly operating together and delivering the required service. In the future, we’re adding API testing to further enhance our certification. Interoperability testing of this kind reduces the risk of integration challenges and simplifies the deployment process for telecommunication service providers.
  • Observability and Monitoring: Ensuring the smooth operation of NFs in a 5G environment requires robust observability and monitoring tools. As part of certification, we test and validate the integration of common observability tools, such as Prometheus and Grafana. Further, during testing, we use the OCI Observability and Monitoring service to provide real-time insights into the NF’s performance, traffic patterns, and potential issues. This approach ensures that the needed observability and monitoring capabilities are in place and any issues are quickly identified and addressed during the certification process.
  • Automated deployments: Deploying NFs in a 5G network is a complex undertaking, with numerous components and configurations involved. As part of NF certification, deployment of NFs is fully automated with Terraform scripts, ensuring consistency and reducing the risk of errors. Through infrastructure-as-code (IaC) principles, OCI facilitates efficient, repeatable, and scalable NF deployments.
  • Oracle Cloud Marketplace: OCI‘s commitment to advancing the 5G ecosystem goes beyond onboarding, certification, and automation. You can make the certified NFs available on the Oracle Cloud Marketplace, which acts as a hub for customers to discover and access a wide array of software applications, accelerating their ability to develop and deploy innovative services.

OCI and network functions

OCI has numerous advantages and capabilities for telco workloads. Beyond its comprehensive cloud services, OCI provides dedicated support for telco-specific capabilities, such as single root I/O virtualization (SR-IOV) and data plane development kit (DPDK), optimizing network performance and efficiency. OCI‘s cost-effectiveness is another key benefit, enabling businesses to scale resources as needed without overprovisioning. Further, OCI’s network is designed to be “flat,” which minimizes the hops between devices in its data centers, which is critical for network intensive telco workloads, such as 5G cores. Also, OCI’s security-first approach includes off box virtualization, allowing the network to be isolated and maximizing performance per server. Finally, OCI offers flexible Compute shapes that can be scaled by core, memory, and network to deliver exactly the performance needed, while reducing the overall total cost of ownership.  

Conclusion

The certification of telco-specific workloads on OCI eliminates testing and integration costs, streamlining the deployment process and accelerating time-to-market for innovative telco solutions. OCI offers telco operators a robust, cost-efficient, and certification-driven environment to power their 5G network workloads effectively. By providing a comprehensive certification process that ensures quality, adherence to 3GPP standards, interoperability, and readiness for the 5G revolution, OCI empowers NEPs to make their offerings readily available on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, allowing CSPs to build powerful and flexible networks.

For more information, see Telco Cloud Infrastructure.

Sveta Shandilya

Senior Principal Technical Program Manager


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