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ONF Intros Aether for 5G/LTE-Edge-Cloud-as-a-Service

March 4, 2020

The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) today announced Aether – the first open source platform for delivering Enterprise 5G/LTE-Edge-Cloud-as-a-Service. Aether (pronounced ‘ee-ther’) provides mobile connectivity and edge cloud services for distributed enterprise networks, all provisioned and managed from a centralized cloud. Based on open source components and optimized for cloud deployments, Aether simultaneously supports deployment on licensed (4G/5G) and unlicensed (CBRS) spectrum. Aether is easy to deploy, highly scalable and designed for rapid edge service onboarding in a multi-cloud environment. Aether is a key enabling platform for enterprise digital transformation, and is making possible a wide range of new business models for how enterprise networks are built, deployed and operated.

Leveraging Licensed and Unlicensed (CBRS) Spectrum

Today’s WiFi networks lack the reliability, capacity and security necessary for the pending enterprise deployments of Internet-of-Things (IoT) and automation. Mobile networks are superior in all these dimensions, but historically they have been expensive, complicated, and out of reach for the vast majority of enterprises. Aether eliminates the costs and complexities of deploying private mobile networks, making available the power of advanced 4G/5G networking to all enterprises.

New types of spectrum have recently become available for private networks, including the CBRS-band in the United States. Dedicated low priced licensed bands for enterprise use have also been released in Germany, United Kingdom, Sweden, Hong Kong and Australia, with more countries set to follow. This release of free and low cost spectrum is making private mobile networks a viable option for accelerating enterprise digital transformation. Aether is designed to be deployed with a mix of spectrum options, such as CBRS and licensed bands, making deployment by traditional operators and new entrants possible.

Aether Pilot Production Network

Aether is currently deployed in a modest production pilot supporting edge cloud services at two ONF offices, Intel Labs, and at other sites. This pilot is centrally managed and controlled from public cloud, with Aether Edge installations at each site. The entire deployment is maintained by ONF and ONF members using a distributed CI/CD DevOps development pipeline.

Aether Open Source Architecture

It has been possible for Aether to have been assembled and deployed with remarkable speed because it builds on ONF’s entire portfolio of open source projects:

  • Aether is built on the CORD® and ONOS® platforms, and runs in a Kubernetes orchestrated environment
  • Aether disaggregates CORD, placing necessary elements in the edge and others in the public cloud
  • Aether uses ONF’s mobile core (OMEC™), distributing the user and control planes across edge and central clouds, respectively, while providing the capability for the control plane to oversee the control of many user planes at remote edge locations.
  • Aether extends CORD with additional managed services capabilities to enable Edge-Cloud-as-a-Service deployment options
  • Aether leverages ONF’s SD-RAN project and consistent with the O-RAN architecture.

Aether Community

Aether, as with all ONF projects, is backed by ONF’s operator partners AT&T, China Unicom, Comcast, Deutsche Telekom, Google, NTT Group and Turk Telekom. Additionally, ONF, Intel, GSLab, Infosys, and Accelleran are actively collaborating as a distributed DevOps team enhancing and maintaining Aether

“China Unicom is very excited to be working with ONF and with a collection of suppliers to be building an Aether edge cloud solution that we plan to trial before year end. We are localizing Aether for the Chinese market, and integrating SD-RAN components to help pursue our O-RAN aligned vision for disaggregated wireless solutions.” Tang Xiongyan, Chief Scientist, China Unicom

“Deutsche Telekom is excited by the possibilities being enabled by Aether. We are eagerly looking forward to building on the successful collaboration on OMEC, the open source packet core that T-Mobile Poland has deployed. OMEC is a key building block for Aether, and this is yet another example where ONF has demonstrated the power to rapidly build new solutions by building on top of existing open source platforms.” Jochen Appel, Vice President Fixed and Mobile Platforms, Deutsche Telekom

“Intel is an active participant of the Aether project as enterprise private networks at the edge offer significant growth opportunities for the industry. By extending OMEC (ONF’s disaggregated open source mobile core) to support a centralized control plane in the public cloud and distributed data planes at the edges, and using ONF components, we’ve been able to rapidly create the Aether platform – another example of how technology building blocks of Intel’s standard high volume server platforms like the Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK) or Intel® Software Guard Extensions (SGX) provide the performance and scalability for newly emerging use cases.“ Pranav Mehta, Vice President of Systems and Software Research, Intel Labs

“Infosys is building multiple lines of business aligned with ONF platforms. We are actively productizing and supporting Trellis with a tier-1 operator, and see Aether as an exciting growth opportunity for us. Infosys can help Enterprises leverage private 5G networks to usher in a new era of innovation, create new experiences and improve operational efficiencies. We are happy to collaborate with ONF as an R&D partner and lead the development of key open-source components within Aether. We are also a consumer of Aether ourselves, with a live Aether Edge site in our lab connected to the distributed deployment being supported by the community.” Nitesh Bansal, Senior Vice President, Infosys

“Accelleran has been one of the first companies supporting Aether and the ONF’s efforts building a private enterprise mobile offering. Our cloud-native, open and intelligent RAN Controller (dRAX) has been fully onboarded in the Aether solution and can run on edge or cloud locations. Our radio units have been integrated into and are supported by Aether. We are committed to supporting the project and all the pilot deployments sites as a way to help accelerate the industry’s adoption of private LTE.” Frédéric Van Durme, CEO of Accelleran

“GS Lab is pleased to be an active contributor to both the Aether and OMEC projects. We are applying our specialized skills in 4G & 5G mobile core development, compliance, testing and deployment to help advance these open source projects. We believe this will accelerate innovation across the industry. It is exciting to make private LTE deployments a reality. Leveraging GS Lab’s product engineering and integration expertise, we are moving the mobile core to the edge.” Atul Narkhede, CTO of GSLab

“Aether opens the door for enterprises to rapidly deploy 5G and edge cloud services to help power their digital transformations. This can be done with a variety of flexible business models including in collaboration with telco operators, cloud operators, and third party providers. It offers the flexibility to utilize a wide range of bands including 5G, licensed bands, and CBRS. This cloud-enabled platform turns mobile connectivity and enterprise mobile edge cloud capabilities into a cloud-managed service, simplifying deployment and operations while delivering scalable and cost effective services.” Guru Parulkar, Executive Director, ONF & Executive Director, Stanford Platform Lab

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