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Samsung and Vodafone have demonstrated an end-to-end data call using an Open RAN setup based on AMD processors – and they’re not the only ones turning to the Intel rival for chips.
February 13, 2024
The data call is being called a ‘first for the industry’ – and while that phrase is used so frequently to describe telecoms trials of various collaborative or technical permutations, this one seems significant in that AMD is in the mix rather than Intel – the latter having done a good job of getting its hands around the Open RAN silicon space almost entirely.
The trial was conducted in Samsung’s R&D lab in Korea using Samsung’s virtualized RAN software, powered by AMD EPYC 8004 Series processors on Supermicro’s Telco/Edge servers, supported by Wind River Studio Container-as-a-Service (CaaS) platform. The point of it was to verify optimized performance, energy efficiency and interoperability among the component elements.
The companies will demonstrate its test result exceeding 1Gbps throughput for multi UE on multi-cell configuration at MWC 2024.
“Open RAN represents the forthcoming major transformation in advancing mobile networks for the future,” said Nadia Benabdallah, Network Strategy and Engineering Director at Vodafone Group. “Reaching this milestone with top industry partners like Samsung and AMD shows Vodafone’s dedication to delivering on the promise of Open RAN innovation. Vodafone is continually looking to innovate its network by exploring the potential and diversity of the ecosystem.”
Kumaran Siva, corporate vice president, Strategic Market Development, AMD added: “The telco industry continues to demand new levels of performance and energy efficiency with increasingly complex workloads and stringent efficiency targets. AMD EPYC 8004 Series CPUs are optimized for modern edge and vRAN deployment models to enable the telco industry’s current evolution toward truly end-to-end open, virtualized networks. We are extremely proud of our collaboration with Samsung and Vodafone, leveraging our latest data centre processors to modernize legacy telco infrastructure and deliver the leadership Open RAN performance, efficiency and scalability needed to build highly innovative mobile networks.”
Meanwhile Ericsson and Telstra yesterday announced the deployment of AMD Genoa processors for the an Ericsson bare metal cloud environment, also known as a Cloud Native Infrastructure Solution. The release stated: “Combining AMD’s latest generation of processors with HPE’s closed-loop liquid cooling system represents another major technological leap for Telstra’s private cloud infrastructure. This method significantly reduces the overall cooling requirement of the system compared to traditional air cooling, especially in high-load situations.”
Technical and context specific stated enthusiasm for AMD silicon aside, there is perhaps a wider driving factor in telco’s looking to AMD for their chip needs, particularly when it comes to Open RAN. The entire concept of Open RAN was predicated on the idea that vendor plurality is a good thing when it comes to building networks, or to put it another way relying on an Ericsson/Nokia duopoly to build them wholesale isn’t a good thing.
For Open RAN proponents, the gold at the end of the rainbow is an open market where different manufacturers with particular specialisations – be it baseband software or radio antennas – muddle in on an interoperable playing field to build networks, which subsequently fosters innovation by letting new blood into the game, and eliminates any worries about relying on the two remaining large kit vendors that are allowed to trade in the West for the whole shebang.
When it comes to the silicon bit however, it’s thus far been pretty consistently Intel who is the supplier in Open RAN projects due to its dominance in the market – which, it has been pointed out, presents something of a fly in the ointment of the argument of Open RAN as an across-the-board competition maximiser if everyone is reliant on a single firm for such a key network component.
On the subject of not being tied to a single platform in this way, Freddie Södergren, the head of technology and strategy for Ericsson's networks division told Light Reading last year: "In general, providing choices and making sure that our cloud RAN is multiplatform is something we think is very important and of course it is fundamental to the Open RAN and scale. It's definitely something we hear customers talk about."
Today, the US unveiled a new $42 million funding injection to a group of industry players and academic institutions led by operators AT&T and Verizon, to create an Open RAN testing, evaluation and R&D centre in Dallas, Texas, and a similar satellite facility in the Washington DC area.
Called The Acceleration of Compatibility and Commercialization for Open RAN Deployments (ACCoRD) project, it’s list of vendors were announced as Microsoft, Nokia, Radisys, Airspan, Ericsson, Fujitsu, Rakuten, Samsung, Mavenir, VMWare, RedHat, Wind River, Ciena, Cisco, Dell, Intel, Amdocs, Keysight, and VIAVI – a list which AMD is not on.
With so much money sloshing around (particularly in the US but in Europe and the UK as well) to jump-start Open RAN into something a bit more tangible in the marketplace, not just the lab, no doubt AMD will be keen to continue making in-roads elsewhere into the space. The degree to which is manages this may end up defining how truly open Open RAN ends up being.
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