Software-defined networks and the virtualization of network functions, two of the most revolutionary technologies in the information and communication technologies (ICT) sector, along with cloud computing, are at the heart of a new scientific research project that aims to achieve high performance and dynamic traffic processing in 5G networks.
IMDEA Networks, a Madrid-based research institute, and TELCARIA, an SME in the ICT innovation sector, are launching an innovative project that seeks to harness the enormous transformative potential of the network architecture currently enabled by the virtualization of network functions (NFV - Network Functions Virtualization) to the potential of networks defined by software (SDN - Software Defined Networking). Both technologies have matured greatly in the last decade and are set to play a leading role in future 5G networks.
"5G networks are nothing less than a complete redesign of current communications technology, providing us with a fusion of the network with computer systems", states Arturo Azcorra, director of IMDEA Networks. If they are to be able to meet the demands of 5G, the networks of the future face great challenges such as the exponential growth in the flow of data flow and the number of connected devices and terminals, as well as the need to drastically reduce latency and operating costs, whilst delivering high reliability and security.
"The objective of this research is to separate the processing within the network from factors such as location, time, scaling and the hardware itself," explains José Félix Kukielka, one of the researchers at IMDEA Networks. "The development of new dynamic mechanisms will allow the processing to be implemented wherever and whenever it is needed, in a scalable way and also independent of the different types of underlying hardware, which will also be almost always heterogeneous, since it can consist of commercial or proprietary products. This new way of understanding the network architecture will add great flexibility to the design, operation and management of the new 5G telecommunications networks. "
SDN networks and virtualization techniques enable strategic and centralized network management, protecting the network and maintaining a stable flow of information, as they allow traffic incidents to be solved instantly. According to José María Roldán, PhD student at IMDEA Networks and Telcaria who is leading this research, "the key to achieving the dynamization of the network is to allow the basic blocks of software to run and migrate without problems in a multitude of locations in the network, with minimum interruption of traffic and without the end users noticing".
Currently, there is tremendous demand for business services based on the cloud, but an upgraded network architecture is needed, one which provides faster access to heterogeneous applications and guarantees the security of the services provided, as well as their scalability and storage. One example of what virtualized SDN networks in the cloud can achieve would be the creation of a virtual channel in an existing network, which allows an Internet provider to offer a guaranteed high-speed connection without the need to enable or create a new physical connection.
"We are moving towards the launch of 5G and at the same time making it possible, since we are now developing the communications technology of the future that will make possible the deployment of 5G networks and services," explains Roldán. Telcaria's slogan is focused on that immediate future: "We transform hardware-based companies into software-based companies".
This research has been selected in the last call for aid from the Ministry of Education and Innovation of the Region of Madrid for the recruitment of young researchers to carry out industrial doctoral projects simultaneously in companies and in assigned research centers. This regional initiative successfully combines the efforts of scientific research and the ICT industry in a project that aims to lead innovation and evolution of current networks in order to adapt to the demands of 5G. It is also expected to support new business models in the region.
The funded thesis is called «Software and Virtualization Techniques for Improving Performance and Scalability in the Integration of SDN and Cloud-based Network Services in 5G Technologies» and will be completed in 2021.