Cloud networks are quickly becoming the cornerstones upon which many emerging 5G, private network, and IoT use cases are being built. The reason? The cloud can effectively meet current latency and bandwidth requirements and efficiently be scaled to address future demand, as well. Two key reasons for those benefits are hyperscale data centers and multi-access edge computing (MEC).
Corresponding with the growth of cloud networking is hyperscale data centers. Based on the latest data, there are more than 700 hyperscale data centers. That number is expected to balloon to more than 1,000 in the next three years, according to Synergy Research Group (figure 1). The United States currently accounts for almost 40% of operational hyperscale data centers and half of all worldwide capacity.
Hyperscale data centers are revolutionizing data storage by utilizing advanced hardware and software to achieve the necessary redundancies and scalability associated with cloud networks. MEC provides cloud computing capabilities at the edge of the network and is used by mobile operators, as well as for private 5G and telecom networks to achieve necessary specified latency and bandwidth.
Cloud networking has become the centerpiece of a new generation of use cases centered on IoT and 5G. Latency, as well as timing, are so critical in these applications because throughput and bandwidth are key performance indicators (KPIs). Figure 2 provides a breakout of cloud computing and its associated typical latency requirements. Ensuring that level of performance has placed greater focus on test solutions and processes.
Understanding Hyperscale Data Centers
To effectively implement testing procedures, it is essential to understand each architecture. A hyperscale data center houses critical computing and network infrastructure. Global corporations, such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Microsoft, rely on this architecture to scale appropriately as increased demand is necessary. This typically involves the ability to seamlessly provide and add compute, memory, networking, and storage resources to a given node or set of nodes.
Hyperscale data centers have distinctly different design and management issues to support such enormous data, storage, and scalability. Network equipment manufacturers (NEMs) are innovating at breakneck speed to develop solutions to meet these high-bar requirements.
In parallel, test companies are introducing advanced solutions, so NEMS have confidence in their designs. They must validate that their products will interoperate with third-party equipment and meet KPIs in complex, open networks featuring multiple vendors.
Living on the Edge
MEC architecture moves the network to the edge. Collecting and processing data closer to the user lowers latency and brings real-time performance to high-bandwidth applications to better meet emerging IoT and 5G use cases.
Technical and architectural standards for MEC are primarily developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). MEC procedures are designed above the 3GPP access layers, providing an optimized route from the UE application client to the network-hosted application servers.
Moving the network to the edge has changed how testing needs to be conducted. Interoperability and testing challenges include RAN slicing, UE route selection policy (URSP), and MEC mechanisms.
Creating an Open Environment
Creating a cloud environment that is functional and affordable has led to OpenRAN (O-RAN). O-RAN creates unprecedented flexibility for network architects, as well as delivers lower costs for vendors and operators. By lowering RAN costs, mobile operators can better support cost-sensitive 5G network use cases, including rural markets and private 5G networks.
Standards are created by the Telcom Infra Project (TIP). To further create a level of uniformity in an open environment that has a growing number of vendors, the O-RAN Alliance was established. It publishes specifications for 4G and 5G. Anritsu is a member of the alliance and is active in facilitating the testing of new O-RAN devices.
Maintaining Secure Environment
An increased focus on regulatory compliance, data privacy, and security has led to greater interest in protecting data in the cloud. Test tools must validate security efficacy against real-world applications and security traffic that scales to defend against the largest distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and advanced persistent threats (APTs).
Security is a concern because of O-RAN and the scalability of the cloud. The open-source architecture creates flexibility but, because there are so many vendors and COTS equipment is used, it is ripe for vulnerabilities that may expose the network. Factors such as flexible server infrastructure and autoscaling allow cloud networks to easily and efficiently expand or contract based on demand. They can also lead to security breaches.
Security testing must be conducted on equipment individually and at the system level. Additionally, latency spikes and packet loss can also occur during scaling, so testing for these performance parameters must be done.
As applications and data become distributed across multiple cloud environments, as well as on-premises and at the edge, networking solutions need to provide seamless end-to-end connectivity. Data Center Interconnects (DCIs) utilizing 400G or 800G Ethernet connectivity serve as spokes to link these network hubs.
Ensuring such vital connections must be done before installation. So, network traffic emulation is done prior to deployment. Engineers need test solutions that simulate actual peak traffic loads to “stress test” the network equipment and ensure it will perform in the most demanding real-world scenarios.
Testing doesn’t end at deployment, of course. RF testing and certification, RAN transport, and similar measurements need to be conducted in the field to verify systems. This is particularly important in emerging 5G use cases utilizing Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communication (URLLC), Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), and Massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC).
For example, Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS), factory automation, and telemedicine have unique requirements related to latency, densification, bandwidth, and speed. Anritsu offers the Field Master Pro MS2090A handheld real-time spectrum analyzer for RF signal testing and the Network Master Pro MT1040A Ethernet tester for optical measurements to ensure devices and systems meet specifications in mission-critical use cases.