We attended Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Las Vegas-based Atmosphere conference. It was very well attended, and this was Aruba’s first in-person user conference in over two years as we come out of the pandemic. Aruba made several important announcements at the event, including a formal Network as a Service (NaaS) offering, a series of broad cloud-services announcements, a formal unveiling of the Aruba/Pensando partnership, and the availability of industry first location-based access points.
The biggest splash came with Aruba’s NaaS announcement. While the company has been offering NaaS for two years, most of the deals were custom deals. In one of the smaller group meetings, the company shared a few of the logo wins, which included Texas A&M, Brookfield Properties, and Trevecca. What Aruba has done is standardized its offerings to a number of “service packs” that resellers can approach customers with. The company basically took its two years of experience and and packaged up what it felt were the best practices and the most common packages, which include wireless, switching and more. On a related topic, 650 Group announced that it is publishing a NaaS report, which of course includes historical and forecast data for this up and coming market. Additionally, in the small group breakout meeting, some resellers were asking questions about what happens at the end of a three or five year subscription and whether the offering can be split up or must it be sold as one. We feel that Aruba will be working closely with their partners over the next year or so to support them as NaaS gains stickiness, but that there is some genuine interest as markets move away from pure CAPEX models towards subscription and as-a-Service.
The company also announced significant enhancements to its Aruba Central Cloud-Managed Services offerings, with Aruba Central NetConductor. NetConductor allows for cloud-based central management of wired, wireless and WAN systems as well as to SASE systems. It also integrates the capabilities of two other functions well known to Aruba customers, Network Access Control (NAC) and Dynamic Segmentation. Aruba has based NetConductor on some widely used protocols like EVPN, VXLAN and BGP which would allow for integration with both Aruba gear and non-Aruba gear.
During the first day’s keynote sessions, HPE CEO, Antonio Neri, spent quite a bit of time on stage. Former Cisco CEO John Chambers joined him on stage so that they could discuss the HPE and Pensando’s partnership. It was interesting to see Chambers literally hugging Neri, especially considering that Chambers ran Aruba’s arch-nemesis, Cisco Systems, for two decades. It made the keynote very interesting. We covered the Aruba-Pensando announcement last fall and you can find more about it here. Another thing that is interesting is that Neri’s presence was felt beyond the Chambers discussion, as Aruba Central is now part of HPE GreenLake. HPE claims that this gives IT admins a single operating model for network, compute and storage services across edges, data centers, and public clouds.
Aruba announced that its newer access points have all been shipping with a location-based feature that leverages GPS. This is a differentiator for Aruba because it said it is not charging extra hardware or subscriptions charges to use GPS. We’ve been thinking about what this function can do for Aruba customers. Relative location capabilities have been around on WLAN Access Points and on Bluetooth beacons for several years now and many vendors offer it. However, the way we see it is that having a GPS capability makes location capabilities far easier to use because what Aruba’s location capabilities do is position all the APs on an absolute basis, and thereafter, a relative service like wayfinding, dwell time analytics and the like can be anchored to specific places on a floor plan without having to get the ruler out, so to speak. Also, maintaining control over inventory can be simplified because these Aruba APs know where they are, like, what ceiling tile they can be found in, or what building they were moved to.
In summary, at the Atmosphere show, Network as a Service has become a major talking point in the industry, Aruba’s cloud service now shares the stage with other top players in the industry, and Aruba announced a really cool function on its access points that simplifies location services.
Hyperscalers, Open RAN, Private 5G and chip announcements were top news at the MWC show in Barcelona last week. Based on disclosures at the show, Open RAN looks to go commercial in 2023 and 2024, hyperscalers are obtaining contracts to carry an increasing amount of telecom-related workloads, Rakuten Symphony is amassing a growing list of partners, Qualcomm/Marvell and other chip companies are taking front-stage at MWC, and there were a variety of new private 5G-related announcements including those from Cisco, Huawei, Mavenir and Federated Wireless. We took some time to compile some of the most noteworthy announcements, sorted by company.
DISH chairman says 5G deployment is 6 months behind schedule. DISH says it fell behind on a technical level and that it realized it has to become the systems integrator. Expects to light up 25 metro regions in June, representing 20% population coverage.
Huawei is pivoting towards fiber in certain markets like the home market. It announced, for instance, Fiber to the Room (FTTR) and contrasted it to Wi-Fi which it claims has a variable experience. Huawei's wireless Chief, Ryan Ding, keynote speech noted several points. By the end of 2021, Huawei signed more than 3,000 commercial 5GtoB contracts with Chinese operators and partners for industry applications (implies operators involved in all), including coal mining using remotely controlled shearers communicating over 5G.
Mavenir showcased End-to-End 5G Core, IMS and automation hosted on AWS. The company calls this a "pilot" and asserted that using a core on AWS system would reduce TCO and speed up rollouts. Mavenir also announced 5G Radio Units from 8T8R to 64T64R (Massive MIMO) that use Qualcomm chips and that it plans to develop vDU RAN software based on the Qualcomm X100 5G RAN Accelerator Card, both systems of which are expected to be available for global deployment in 2023.
Telefonica advocated for OpenRAN and explained its selection of technology suppliers such as radio/RRU/AAU (NEC, Comba, Airspan), Baseband (Altiostar/Rakuten Symphony), Small Cell (Node-H, Askey, Qualcomm), RIC (Nokia), as well as Intel, Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, IBM/Red Hat and VMWare. It says it selected NEC as the systems integrator. The pan-European operator said that Open RAN reduced vendor lock-in and is most cost-efficient over the medium/long term, however suffers from integration with OSS and the time to carry out interoperability tests until Open RAN is mature. It expects Pilots to continue during 2022, then initial deployments in 2022/2023, followed by "massive deployments" beyond 2023 (we think this means 2024).
Rakuten Symphony announced it had acquired San Jose, CA based Robin.io, an automation and orchestration software company. Rakuten Symphony also announced an Open RAN trial at MTN that includes Accenture and Tech Mahindra. Symphony also said AT&T will use Rakuten's Site Manager, a software system that designs workflows for network deployments; additionally, AT&T's proprietary capacity planning tool. Cisco and Rakuten announced a partnership described as a joint go-to-market model. Nokia is Rakuten's first "Symworld" partner, whereby Nokia's core software will be made available to Symphony customers.
Qualcomm. Made announcements about private 5G automation, a partnership with Microsoft about Private 5G, Mavenir portfolio expansion (also discussed elsewhere in this article), Fujitsu mmWave, and 5G FWA.
Orange announced plans to use Ericsson 5G SA core for Belgium, Spain, Luxembourg and Poland, Nokia 5G SA core for France and Slovakia and Oracle for 5G core signaling in all countries. It plans to launch SA commercially in 2023.
Microsoft Azure announced Operator Distributed Services, which is a combination of its 2021 acquisition of AT&T Network Cloud Services and Azure for Operators tools. The company explains that it will enable operators to run all their workloads, including RAN, core, mobile and voice core, OSS and BSS, on a single carrier-grade hybrid platform. Microsoft also announced that AT&T is integrating its 5G network with Microsoft Azure Private Multi-access Edge (MEC) computing to develop AT&T Private 5G Edge. Telstra collaborates with Ericsson and Microsoft to begin 5G-enabled edge compute trials.
Cisco announced ORAN partnerships with private 5G vendors like Airspan and JMA Wireless and said it is in customer trials with both vendors. As it had said a month earlier with its private 5G launch, this is being offered as a subscription service operated by Cisco, and Cisco will allow customers to use their own brand to market the service. Cisco announced it is on a variety of Private 5G projects including at Chaplin, Clair Global, Colt Technology Services, ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation, Maderia Island, Network Rail, Nutrien, Schaeffler, Group, Texas A&M, Toshiba, Virgin Media O2, and Zebra Technologies.
ZTE announced lighter Massive MIMO radios, its UniSite NEO and a new "Gen 2" FWA CPE based on Qualcomm Snapdragon X65 and X62 5G Modem-RF platforms.
Marvell announced 5G-related product line enhancements, including a reference design with DELL technologies that creates a server based baseband processing system.
2022/'23 Server Designs to Adopt Higher Speeds and use AEC to Address Server Connectivity
The AEC market has entered 2022 with solid momentum. We have many ASIC and cable suppliers entering the market to address a need to replace DAC in higher-speed network designs.
As we enter OFC this week, the market continues to increase in offerings. In addition, there is a strong backlog forming as Hyperscalers and most cloud providers look towards the technology to solve next-generation server-to-ToR connections.
Server designs continue to embrace AI/ML and HPC principles, which cause the NIC speed to increase from 25G to 100G and beyond rapidly. In addition, DPUs and custom accelerators increase bandwidth at an even faster clip. As a result, multiple 100G ports per server in the Cloud will be standard, and the current path of using DAC is not a sustainable path from a power or cost standpoint. AECs, which have already enabled the implementation of Distributed Disaggregated Chassis (DDC) deployments, are ready to enable a new deployment of NIC to ToR implementations.
We expect most server-to-ToR connections in hypersscalers to be AEC within our forecast period. It is clear that multiple Cloud providers are standardized on AEC and moving away from DAC. There are several different varieties of AEC, and in 2022 we expect Switch AEC and Shift AEC to be the most popular choices. As we look toward the end of the forecast, Secure AEC and Multi-Rack AEC will become an essential part of the ecosystem.
At OFC, it will be exciting to see AEC in action and begin the conversations about AEC adoption into Enterprise and SP data center architectures.
Fig.1 NIC-to-TOR Migration to Active Solutions/ Source 650 Group
By Alan Weckel, Founder and Technology Analyst at 650 Group.