ZTE 4MIX Distributed Cloud Solution Builds 5G-Ready Cloud Infrastructure

Cloudified reconstruction of telecommunications networks is already the consensus of global operators. Virtualization technology brings many advantages such as cost reduction, flexible scale-in/out. However, with the advent of 5G, new challenges and problems are constantly emerging.

5G has three major application scenarios: enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), focusing on 4K/8K HD video, VR/AR and other high-bandwidth services, requiring a transmission rate 10 times faster than 4G; High Reliability and Low Latency Communications (uRLLC), focusing on high-reliability and low-latency services such as self-driving car and telemedicine, requiring a delay as low as 1 millisecond; massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC), focusing on smart city, smart home and other massive connection services, requiring to support accessing 1 million devices per square Kilometers, 10 times that of 4G.

Therefore, 5G networks need to have higher performance and more powerful management capabilities, and also need to be flexible and intelligent to meet a wide variety of application scenarios.

At present, the early NFV network infrastructure cloud solutions have bottlenecks in many aspects, and need to be further reformed in terms of deployment architecture, network performance, and operation and maintenance (O&M) convenience.

Distributed Deployment

5G completely realized control and user plane separation (CUPS), driving the network evolving to a distributed deployment architecture. On the one hand, flexible and high-performance edge nodes are built at the edge of the network to get close to end users: through the local offloading of high-bandwidth services such as 4K/8K and AR/VR, the occupation of the core network and backbone transmission network is reduced, and the utilization rate of bandwidth resources is effectively increased. The high-speed processing capability is moved to the edge, effectively supporting services requiring ultra-low latency such as self-driving car and telemedicine; in addition, edge nodes need to be flexible and scalable to meet diversified 5G application scenarios.

On the other hand, a network-wide intensive central node is constructed: providing a resource pool shared across regions, effectively improving resource utilization; achieving efficient centralized management of massive nodes, and coping with the rapid development of network scale; at the same time, the central node also supports to build an capability exposure platform to provide digital services, to help operators achieve value innovation.

Therefore, a distributed deployment architecture with features such as flexibility, high performance, and high efficiency will be the main development trend of telecom cloud network.

Hardware Acceleration

Early telecom network cloudification solutions turn traditional network infrastructure based on dedicated hardware into the unified resource pool based on common X86 servers, breaking down resource silos and achieving flexible resource scale-in/out. However, with the advent of 5G, facing the challenges from the performance requirement for ultra-low latency and exponential growth of service scale, common servers lose competitive edge in performance and cost.

Hence, hardware acceleration technology is tightly concerned by the industry. Current mainstream hardware acceleration technologies include: offloading the data switch function of virtual switches in the telecom cloud platform to the FPGA SmartNIC, to improve forwarding performance; introducing the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) into the unified cloud resource pool as a kind of high-performance computing resource, to make full use of GPU’s excellent processing capabilities to improve the computing capability of the telecom cloud platform, so as to provide better support for HD video, AR/VR and more services; using ARM processor virtualization and other technologies.

The new-generation telecom network cloudification solution should converge these hardware acceleration technologies to comprehensively improve forwarding performance and computing performance.

AI-Based Intelligent O&M

5G drives network functions (NF) moving to edge nodes close to end users. This trend leads to the dramatic growth of edge nodes by ten times even hundred times, and the O&M workload gets doubled accordingly. Besides, after the cloudified reconstruction of network structure, though layered decoupling significantly reduces hardware costs, more complicity is brought to O&M work. Therefore, telecom operators are looking for more efficient O&M approaches.

To this end, the deep application of AI technology becomes the key driven force for constructing automated, intelligent O&M. The AI technology is capable of analyzing multidimensional complicated problems across layers and domains, and brings higher processing efficiency to multiple aspects of O&M through rapid root cause analysis (RCA), real-time dynamic resource adjustment, capacity predication and analysis, and gradually fully automated O&M mode, to release manpower continuously and reduce OPEX effectively.

Container + Virtual Machine

5G NFs will be based on components and microservices. With advantages of less resource occupation and easy migration, container is considered as the resource carrier more fitting to 5G microservice architecture.

However, container technology is not mature enough in the telecom field, as it has weaknesses in orchestration capability, security and other aspects. Moreover, most of present cloudification projects use VM solutions which have developed and evolved in long-term practices and have many advantages. Thus, the two technologies are both important to 5G, and the industry is exploring how to make selection and balance between them.

To address such challenges, ZTE promotes the 5G-Ready 4MIX distributed cloud infrastructure solution. It is based on the distributed architecture with“Core Cloud + Edge Cloud + Access Cloud”, and integrated with HCI, container, hardware acceleration, AI and other advanced technologies, to build the 5G-Ready cloud infrastructure featuring green, energy-saving, flexible adaption, performance acceleration, intelligence, and high efficiency.

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Figure 1: ZTE 5G-Ready 4MIX Distributed Cloud Infrastructure Solution

Features of 4MIX distributed cloud solution:

MIX Deployment Modes: for different DC scale requirements, providing matched deployment solutions rapidly and accurately, such as automated large-scale deployment for center cloud, and green lightweight deployment for edge cloud.

MIX Resource pools: combining two mainstream open source cloud platforms, OpenStack and Kubernetes, to build the integrated resource pool, to carry out unified management and orchestration of VM, bare metal, and container sources, and flexibly allocate resource according to demands of upper layer applications.

MIX Hardware: combining X86 servers and acceleration hardware such as FPGA organically, and carrying out unified management through the same cloud platform, to significantly reduce hardware investment and guarantee high performance of the network, so as to bring the most cost-effective solution.

MIX O&M Modes: by virtue of remote control, AI and other technologies, building the end-to-end closed-loop automatic O&M for the entire distribute cloud, to bring the efficient O&M mode with unmanned remote site + centralized control at the center.

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Figure 2: Features of 5G-Ready 4MIX Distributed Cloud Infrastructure Solution

The 4MIX distributed cloud solution provides 5G scenarios with precise deployment solutions to flexibly match diversified demands, to achieve the best match of user experience and cost control, to give a big push to the construction of 5G-Ready cloud infrastructure. This solution won the “Best New Cloud Infrastructure” at the SDN NFV World Congress 2018, fully recognized by industrial authorities.

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Figure 3: Best New Cloud Infrastructure at the SDN NFV World Congress 2018

As the world’s leading provider of integrated communication solutions, ZTE is committed to building 5G core technology capabilities, actively applying in practices, and has been cooperating with many of the world’s leading operators. ZTE will continue to increase investment in research and development, promote the development of advanced technologies, and accelerate the commercial pace of 5G in the future.

Germany reportedly mulls Chinese kit vendor ban for 5G

Germany is the latest ‘western’ country rumoured to be thinking of prohibiting Huawei and ZTE from its participating in its 5G infrastructure.

This is according to a report from Reuters, which claims to have spoken to senior German officials who are planning a last-ditch drive to persuade the government to ban Chinese firms from getting involved in its 5G roll out on national security grounds. The report sounds slightly sceptical that any such efforts will succeed, but the mere fact that they’re giving it a go must be of grave concern to Huawei et al.

“There is serious concern,” one of these anonymous senior German officials told Reuters. “If it were up to me we would do what the Australians are doing.” They are, of course, referring to the decision made by the Australian government back in August to rule out any foreign vendors it thinks might be subject to governmental interference – a clear reference to China.

This seems to be part of a broader drive to have more of a conversation around 5G security in Germany than is currently taking place. Huawei, of course, has insisted that nothing is more important to it than security, but it must be pretty concerned that these stories keep coming up. Even if no ban takes place this sort of thing must compromise the trading environment for Chinese vendors, who will presumably have to go to greater lengths to prove themselves than the likes of Nokia and Ericsson.

ZTE rediscovers profit at the conclusion of a nightmare year

Chinese kit vendor ZTE actually managed to turn a profit in Q3 2018 now that everyone has stopped victimising it.

The RMB 564 million was still down 65% year-on-year, but compared to the utter car crash that has been its quarterly announcements in the intervening time, any kind of profit represents a pretty significant victory in its own right. The amount of profit was right in the middle of the guidance offered at the end of August and ZTE is clearly desperate to start talking about something other than its various indiscretions.

“ZTE’s major business are rapidly recovering with the negotiation and signing of new orders and the further implementation of existing orders,” said the earnings announcement. “Meanwhile, the company has resumed normal operations in R&D, production and logistics. Specifically, its production and purchasing capabilities have been back on track, and its R&D progress has kept pace with the target preset at the beginning of the year. Also, ZTE has fully restored its customer services.”

As you can see from the summary table below, despite claiming it was pretty much dead in the water as recently as May of this year, ZTE still managed to pull in enough business to keep the losses for the first nine months of the year under control. While there’s no question it was in serious trouble, these figures also suggest ZTE might have been hamming things up a bit in the search for the mitigation it eventually achieved.

ZTE Q3 2018

End-to-end network slicing will be important for 5G

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Mr. Sun Dong, Marketing Director, ZTE Asia & CIS Region, looks at the significance of network slicing in the 5G era.

As the key infrastructure of the digital society, 5G will not only serve individuals but also accelerate digital transformation in many aspects of business and life. 5G can become a ubiquitous platform to satisfy diverse requirements for man-to-man, man-to-machine, and machine-to-machine communications.

While 4G provides broadband service to individual users, 5G needs to serve more diverse application scenarios and raise challenges on network capability and reliability. In a smart factory, serious damage could happen if service interruption occurs. With automated driving, human life is at stake and the network needs to provide an ultralow latency with 99.999% reliability. For VR/AR applications, the network needs to provide more than 1 Gbps bandwidth. The IoT has low requirements on network bandwidth and latency, but the network needs to provide up to 1 million connections per square kilometre. These scenarios place crucial and diverse requirements on 5G networks.

It is not feasible economically to build a new network for each type of service. But a single network could not simultaneously fulfil all the requirements of ultra-high bandwidth, ultra-low latency, and ultra-high reliability at the same time. It also introduces potential risks without service isolation.

Network slicing becomes an inevitable choice to solve the dilemma. Network slicing enables flexible slicing of 5G network resources into multiple virtual networks to meet specific customers’ requirements. In addition, network resources can be fully shared and dynamically balanced among services and therefore the network becomes scalable. Network slicing offers operators the capability and flexibility to develop new business models, and thus becomes a basic 5G network requirement.

An end-to-end 5G network slice consists of RAN, core network, bearer sub-slices and the management system to support its lifecycle management. Slicing and flexible deployment of AAUs, CUs, and DUs help to adapt to different scenarios.

The cloud-based deployment of CUs facilitates centralized management of radio resources. The co-location of DUs and CUs and the deployment of service anchors close to users improve the transmission latency.

The NFV-based 5G core network further introduces service-based architecture, which decouples network functions from hardware. The architecture implements components-based functions and adopts a stateless design with lightweight and open interfaces. It becomes more agile, scalable, flexible, and open.

The network slices are created by physical network virtualization. SDN architecture with unified management and control can achieve IP and optical layer synergy. This allows an open and programmable physical network to support innovation in network architecture and future services. The degree of intra-slice isolation depends on the slicing technology used. For example, FlexE and FlexO technologies could build rigid pipes that ensure strict isolation between slices with rapid forwarding implemented at the underlying layer. The technologies give flexibility to address different service requirements on bearer networks.

 

At 5G Asia 2018 in Singapore, 18 – 20 September, ZTE will demonstrate their cutting-edge 5G solutions. Meet them at 5G Asia.

ZTE loses another billion bucks but expects a profit in Q3

ZTE has, for some reason, decided to report earnings for the nine months ending 30 September 2018 and while they’re not good, they could be worse.

The numbers can essentially be broken down into historical ones for the first half of the year and forecasted ones for Q3. ZTE lost 6.8 billion RMB in H1 2018, which is around $1 billion. Meanwhile it expects a profit somewhere between not much and a billion RMB for Q3, which is presumably why it has served up the numbers in this way – to sugar the big loss with the promise of imminent profit.

In terms of actual trading ZTE seems amazingly to have broken even as it blames the loss largely on the billion dollar fine it had to pay as one of the many conditions attached to it being allowed to trade with the US again. For the first six months of 2017 ZTE managed a profit of 2.3 billion RMB, which is around a third of a billion bucks.

Here’s what the ZTE announcement had to say: “The substantial decrease in results for the period from January to September 2018 compared to the same period last year was mainly attributable to: (1) the USD1 billion penalty mentioned in the “INSIDE INFORMATION ANNOUNCEMENT AND RESUMPTION OF TRADING” published by the Company on 12 June 2018; (2) operating losses and provision for losses resulting from the suspension of the major operating activities of the Company as referred in “INSIDE INFORMATION ANNOUNCEMENT” published by the Company on 9 May 2018.”

The second table below shows ZTE’s revenue mix by business unit and geography for the first half of the year. It’s interesting to note that one of the main reasons ZTE has been able to maintain a decent amount of revenue during its struggles seems to be government work within China. While you can’t blame the Chinese state for trying to help ZTE out during its troubles, this sort of thing won’t do much to allay the fears of Western governments concerned about letting Chinese kit vendors into their telecoms networks.

ZTE 1H numbers 1

ZTE 1H numbers 2

Japan is reportedly thinking about blocking Huawei and ZTE too

Hot on the heels of the Australia ban it is now being reported that Japan is thinking of taking similar action.

This definitely needs to be filed under ‘unsubstantiated rumour’ at this stage, but is also far from inconceivable, given the current momentum acting against Chinese kit vendors. GB Times reported in English about a Japanese language story alleging the Japanese government is thinking of blocking Huawei and ZTE from bidding on public contracts for building information systems.

Last week Australia decided the risk of the Chinese state exploiting the presence of kit from Chinese vendors in telecoms networks to get up to no good was too great and decided to err on the side of caution. There has been no hard evidence published that this happens, and Huawei thinks it has become a scapegoat in a growing economic and political battle between China and the West, but Western governments are increasingly opting to shoot first and ask questions later.

Chinese state-run media has apparently questioned the validity of the report, apparently blissfully unaware how imperative it is to question the validity of anything published by state run media. Having said that it could well be nothing, but it seems very likely that other countries allied to the US will seriously consider a similar move.

US effectively bans ZTE and Huawei from any valuable government work

President Trump has now signed the Defense Authorization Act into law, effectively banning the use of ZTE and Huawei components in many government or state-funded projects.

The new rules should hardly come as a surprise considering the political paranoia which has been swelling to tsunami levels over the last couple of months. With Republicans checking under their bed every night for the naughty Chinese government, it was only going to be a matter of time before the vendors were officially banned from US projects.

Although the vast majority of the bill is directed towards more traditional aspects of national security, a few clauses, specifically sections 886 and 889, point the finger at the two Chinese vendors. The bill had been working its way through the legislative red tape maze for months, with the House hitting back at measured included in the text which would have overruled the President’s olive branch extended to ZTE when turning over the ban. While Congress wanted a more extreme ban on the two companies, this is the new rules are somewhat off a compromise, but just as damning.

The ban will be rolled out over the next two years, with the pair effectively not being allowed to provide any components or services to processes or infrastructure which would be considered ‘essential’ or ‘critical’. Should the components be used to route or view any data on the network, they hit the sh*t list. Companies or departments which currently have these components in their networks have been instructed to remove and replace them. The FCC will be prioritising funding to assist with these projects.

Legal action will of course be launched over the coming months, the US is a big prize for the Chinese vendors, though we ponder how effective any challenge from Huawei and ZTE, or protests from the Chinese government, will actually be. The duo have been in the sights of the isolationist-inspired government for some time, with this bill perhaps being a critical blow.

Although the ban does seemingly go against the wishes of President Trump, who had worked to overturn the ZTE ban, we suspect the White House will be secretly happy with the outcome. Tensions between the US and Chinese governments have been on the rise again in recent months, primarily due to the anti-foreigner rhetoric which is being championed by the ‘Leader of the Free World’ in the Oval Office.

Confusion, contradiction and chaos; the three Cs of the Trump administration.

The new rules should hardly come as a surprise considering the political paranoia which has been swelling to tsunami levels over the last couple of months. With Republicans checking under their bed every night for the naughty Chinese government, it was only going to be a matter of time before the vendors were officially banned from US projects.

Although the vast majority of the bill is directed towards more traditional aspects of national security, a few clauses, specifically sections 886 and 889, point the finger at the two Chinese vendors. The bill had been working its way through the legislative red tape maze for months, with the House hitting back at measured included in the text which would have overruled the President’s olive branch extended to ZTE when turning over the ban. While Congress wanted a more extreme ban on the two companies, this is the new rules are somewhat off a compromise, but just as damning.

The ban will be rolled out over the next two years, with the pair effectively not being allowed to provide any components or services to processes or infrastructure which would be considered ‘essential’ or ‘critical’. Should the components be used to route or view any data on the network, they hit the sh*t list. Companies or departments which currently have these components in their networks have been instructed to remove and replace them. The FCC will be prioritising funding to assist with these projects.

Legal action will of course be launched over the coming months, the US is a big prize for the Chinese vendors, though we ponder how effective any challenge from Huawei and ZTE, or protests from the Chinese government, will actually be. The duo have been in the sights of the isolationist-inspired government for some time, with this bill perhaps being a critical blow.

Although the ban does seemingly go against the wishes of President Trump, who had worked to overturn the ZTE ban, we suspect the White House will be secretly happy with the outcome. Tensions between the US and Chinese governments have been on the rise again in recent months, primarily due to the anti-foreigner rhetoric which is being championed by the ‘Leader of the Free World’ in the Oval Office.

Confusion, contradiction and chaos; the three Cs of the Trump administration.

US Democratic candidates told Huawei and ZTE are a no-no

Democratic National Committee (DNC) has warned candidates against using devices manufactured by either ZTE or Huawei due to the threat the pair pose to US national security.

With tensions on the rise between the US and China, both Huawei and ZTE are remaining under the spotlight. Some might suggest there is a genuine threat to national security, while others might believe escalating the Chinese menace is a useful way to distract from domestic debacles, though the reason is irrelevant. With each passing week there is another example of Huawei and ZTE disappearing in the US.

The report comes via Reuters, with a source stating Bob Lord, the Chief Security Officer for the DNC, sending an email to all candidates warning of the threat.

“Please make sure that you are not using or purchasing ZTE or Huawei devices anywhere within your staff – for personal or work-related use,” the email stated.

Although the anti-Chinese rhetoric has been common throughout the last few months, it has largely been restricted to government proclamations. With the opposition now jumping the boo-China bandwagon, the sentiment could become much more common through US society. It is also one of the first example where an official has ventured into the personal lives of employees, instead of just limiting the warning to work-related activities. It might not be too long before the prejudice rubs off on the man-on-the-street.

The apparent threat is due to the proximity of the two organizations to the Chinese government, thus escalating the prospect of espionage through devices and network equipment. Government influence in ZTE is quite apparent, Shenzhen Zhongxingxin Telecommunications Equipment, a Chinese state-owned corporation, is the controlling shareholder of ZTE, though Huawei is a bit more nuanced. Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei previously worked as a military technologist for the People’s Liberation Army, though Huawei is an employee owned organization with little-proved government intervention.

This is of course just another example of the US turning against the Chinese. ZTE is still on thin ice following the ban from using any US components or IP in its supply chain, both Huawei and ZTE have been banned from being sold on military sites, while distribution deals with US telcos also disintegrated due to political pressure. Both have also been banned from selling any networking equipment to any government agencies or departments.

The cards are beginning to stack up, and it is starting to look very feasible both could be banned from US shores completely before too long on the grounds of national security. It does seem Huawei has the same hunch as it was reported in April the vendor was working on its own alternative operating system to Android. Complications with its relationship with Google could mean the millions of Huawei devices around the world are regulated to door-stops.