Enabling real-time subscriber analytics for edge deployments on Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service Anywhere (EKS-A)

September 5, 2021

Introduction

While the cloud offers unrivaled computing power and storage, sending all that device-generated data to a centralized data center or the cloud negatively impacts bandwidth and causes latency issues. Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) brings cloud resources to the network edge close to applications, connected devices, and end-users, eliminating the journey to the cloud data center. Because the user plane traffic is closer to the end-user, the operator doesn’t have to backhaul traffic to a central hub and saves money.

Thus, with edge computing, the data is processed and analyzed closer to its point of origin. Operating from within the Radio Access Network (RAN), edge computing enhances the user experience by reducing latency and ensuring highly efficient network operation and service delivery. 

Edge computing offers a new 5G ecosystem and value chain and the opportunity to develop new business models as an operator. By deploying edge computing, you can rapidly roll out new services for multiple use cases and vertical market use cases, helping differentiate your service offering portfolio. In addition, you can tap into new revenue streams by delivering innovative services closer to the end-user and improving the overall quality of experience. 

We’re excited to announce RADCOM has been named as a select launch partner for Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service Anywhere (EKS-A), which allows telecom operators to run Kubernetes outside of AWS, including in their own data centers, and on their infrastructure, enabling you to quickly roll out dynamic edge services and smartly optimize these networks using RADCOM ACE.

Amazon EKS Anywhere

EKS Anywhere gives customers the ability to use Kubernetes clusters, made by their own virtual or physical machines, as a new deployment option and choose where to deploy their workloads, making it easy to securely deploy and manage edge networks and deliver the following benefits to customers. With the ease of EKS-A deployments and the power of RADCOM ACE operators can dynamically launch multiple edge sites and smartly monitor and troubleshoot these networks providing customers the following benefits:

  • Ultra-low latency services

Deliver high-performance compute at the edge for faster application performance and emerging interactive applications like game streaming, virtual reality, and real-time rendering that require latencies of single-digit milliseconds to end-points

  • Edge data processing

Enable and offload data processing tasks to take place at the edge, whether that is an on-premises, rugged edge, or other edge location, or at a mobile provider network to conserve 5G device resources like power and bandwidth, for use cases like industrial automation, smart cities, IoT, and autonomous vehicles

Challenges in gaining edge visibility

Operators seeking to harness the power of edge computing using Amazon EKS-A and deliver high-quality services must acquire real-time visibility into what happens at the edge. This visibility needs to be from the subscribers’ perspective—so that operators understand the Quality of Experience (QoE) and Quality of Service (QoS) and can use advanced troubleshooting capabilities to drill down from an overall service view to a per-subscriber level. Only then can operators ensure the network performance at the edge and optimize service quality. 

However, the disaggregation of the control plane and physical separation of the control and user planes (known as Control and User Plane Separation, or CUPS) adds additional complexity to achieving visibility into the edge and ensuring coherent correlated collection and forwarding of traffic at the user plane traffic for monitoring purposes.

CUPS in mobile networks refers to the complete separation between control plane functions (which handle the user connection management, defining QoS policies, performing user authentication, etc.) and user plane functions (which deal with data traffic forwarding).

The core incentive for CUPS is to make user plane functions scale independently, allowing operators for more flexible deployment of the network and reduces latency to the customer. Control plane traffic can be centralized, and the user plane traffic is placed closer to the application at the edge. If data traffic increases, more data plane nodes can be added without affecting the control plane functions.

To ensure accurate, cost-effective network monitoring and troubleshooting, operators are dependent on two critical components:

  • Ability to correlate traffic flows on a per-subscriber, user device, RAN, or network slice basis
  • Visibility across all segments of the mobile network

However, the physical separation of the control plane and user plane sites makes it difficult to correlate the traffic flows on a per-subscriber basis, which prevents operators from gaining the ability to troubleshoot efficiently and focusing their resources on handling customer-affecting network degradations.

Assurance at the edge

RADCOM ACE is a unique, patented service assurance solution designed for monitoring cloud-native 5G networks deployed on Amazon EKS-A and fully supports user plane and control plane correlation in CUPS and efficient load-balancing of traffic that is highly scalable for top-tier network operators. Correlation is performed in a highly efficient way. Innovative correlation engines in the control plane site perform control plane decoding and send correlation information in an efficient method to the user plane probes to complete the identification of the user plane. The probes in the user plane sites perform user plane decoding and correlation with the control plane identifiers based on the correlation keys received from the RADCOM components in the control plane site.

This method provides multiple protocols related to the same user/session to the same probe, enabling correlation. It also allows horizontal and vertical scaling. This method is patented and unique to RADCOM ACE, supporting CUPS correlation in a very efficient way for edge networks running on EKS-A.

It enables intelligent monitoring of the RAN, edge, and network core for complete end-to-end visibility into the customer experience and service quality. This negates the need for flooding control plane packets to all probes and does not require operators to waste resources incurred by backhauling control plane traffic to edge sites for correlation purposes.

Figure 1 – RADCOM ACE running on Amazon EKS-A

The 5G core uses four main protocols:

  • Hypertext Transfer Protocol version 2 (HTTP/2) for the control plane to register, establish, manage user devices/sessions (this only occurs at the control plane locations)
  • NGAP/NAS: NG Application Protocol (NGAP) provides the control plane signaling between the NG-RAN node and Access and Mobility Management Function (AMF), and the Non-Access-Stratum (NAS) protocol provides mobility management and session management between the User Equipment (UE) and AMF
  • GPRS Tunneling Protocol (GTP) for tunneling the user plane traffic to carry subscriber traffic from the subscriber device to the internet or subscriber services (this only occurs at the user plane locations)
  • Packet Forwarding Control Protocol (PFCP) for communicating between the control plane and the user plane gateway functions
Figure 2 – Correlating control plane and user plane to troubleshooting edge services

Gaining end-to-end subscriber analytics requires understanding the individual sessions and stateful information contained within NGAP, HTTP/2, and PFCP to correlate subscriber-specific user sessions carried within the GTP. RADCOM ACE has a patented CUPS and MEC monitoring architecture which enables the exchange of correlation keys in lightweight messages and so provide the required visibility through the following:

  • Stateful load balancers process the control plane traffic, load balance it to the control plane probes, and forward the correlation XDRs to the user plane probes with session awareness
  • Stateless load balancers distribute the user plane traffic across probes ensuring pairing of the user plane user sessions and the messages carrying correlation keys

This patented solution provides critical subscriber-aware capabilities and end-to-end network visibility for operators to optimize the network performance and ensure a superior customer experience for edge services.

RADCOM ACE for end-to-end assurance

Figure 3 – Drill down from a KPI to the packet level on 5G

With Amazon EKS-A, edge networks are easy to launch. Along with innovative RADCOM ACE solution operators can detect network degradations and prevent service outages proactively using Kubernetes to automate the assurance deployment and solution lifecycle. RADCOM ACE is a dynamic, comprehensive service assurance solution that is highly efficient, provides end-to-end monitoring, coverage of the radio, including the RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC), and correlates the control plane and user plane data. Giving operators a subscriber perspective of the service quality and customer experience is critical for deploying new networks on EKS-A. In addition, RADCOM ACE delivers assurance at the edge, which provides real-time visibility into the subscriber experience so operators can proactively ensure these new low-latency service offerings.

For information on Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service Anywhere (EKS-A) visit AWS News blog and EKS-A partner page. For information on RADCOM ACE visit our website. You can also contact us directly for a virtual meeting or request additional info at https://radcom.com/contact/


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