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5G-CORAL: A 5G Convergent Virtualised Radio Access Network Living at the Edge

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Integrated virtualised edge and fog solution enhances low-latency connectivity

An EU initiative has introduced an integrated and virtualised networking and computing solution to leverage the pervasiveness of edge and fog computing in the radio access network. This creates a unique opportunity for access convergence.

Digital Economy

The EU-funded 5G-CORAL project tackled augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), fog-assisted robotics, connected cars and the Internet of Things (IoT) where the whole network is virtualised and pushed to the edge of the network. “The main motivation was to reduce the latency of the services provided to users by pushing computation as near as possible to the user,” says coordinator Antonio de la Oliva. “We envisioned a network that runs close to the user in constrained devices and that’s able to provide zero-perceived latency services such as safety car applications, robot control, or AR and VR.”

Distributed system for enhanced connectivity, very low latency

The 5G-CORAL team defined a logical-centralised, distributed architecture over heterogeneous hardware by leveraging virtualisation. “So every function or service in the platform is virtualised over heterogeneous computing devices spanning the fog, the edge, and cloud computing systems, leveraging technologies such as multi-access edge computing data centres,” de la Oliva adds. “The most important outcome was the definition and demonstration of a system that is completely distributed and built out of microservices, and deployed in a multi-tier virtualised environment providing very low latency services.” Project partners delivered a convergent 5G multi-radio access technology (RAT) through an integrated virtualised edge and fog solution that’s flexible, scalable and interoperable with other domains, including transport, core and clouds. “With this solution, virtualised functions, context-aware services, and user and third-party applications are blended together to offer enhanced connectivity and better quality of experience,” de la Oliva outlines. “The integration of all the radio access network, transport, and core functions, services and applications into a common environment distributed across the edge and fog, and open for interworking with other network domains and distant clouds, is a major challenge that we addressed.” The partners successfully validated the technology at several real-world demonstrations in Taiwan, including AR navigation, a multi-RAT IoT gateway with an edge server, fog-assisted robotics and the 360-degree remote control of a robot.

Empowering future network architecture designs

According to de la Oliva, 5G-CORAL took place at a time when distributed systems were becoming a new way of building networks. This need arose due to new services that required very low latency. Different standardisation bodies are looking at how to integrate computing and networking in a single infrastructure. This will provide close-to-the-user services that promise very low latencies enabling such services. “These approaches are disparate and usually take completely incompatible views,” he explains. “5G-CORAL has taken all these different views and created a first-of-its-kind network architecture that integrates the views of the fully distributed networks and the cellular approaches, and demonstrated that this architecture is viable and works.” “5G-CORAL makes the promise of ubiquitous computing come true; its vision and evidence showcase a future where hundreds of devices collaborate dynamically with centralised cloud and edge servers provided by operators who offer services to users,” concludes de la Oliva. “It also demonstrates that microservice architectures can perfectly accommodate very complex scenarios and applications, scaling up and down to cover user needs.” Ultimately, this will open the door to new applications that harvest and use all of the computing power involving the user.

Keywords

5G-CORAL, computing, latency, edge and fog, IoT, radio access network, augmented reality, virtual reality, radio access technology

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