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Aether: Private 5G and Connected Edge Cloud – What’s Next (Part 2)

Dec 13, 2021
Oğuz Sunay
Oğuz Sunay About the author

This is the second part of a two part year-end blog about Aether, the first open source private 5G connected cloud platform for enterprises. The first blog centers on background and accomplishments to date; this blog outlines exciting development plans going forward.

Looking Forward

ONF and the Aether community are planning to continue advancing the platform, enabling enterprises to observe a high quality Industry 4.0 experience. For this purpose, innovation, specification and development in the following areas are envisioned:

APIs for Coordinated End-to-End Management and Control

A private 5G connected edge cloud will require a multi-tenant means of operational control. While network operators will be responsible for lifecycle management and high availability with desired performance, enterprises will own the tasks of subscriber management, end-to-end network slicing management, end-to-end QoS management, and access control. This means that the traditional Operations and Business Management Systems (OSS/BSS) of telecommunications networks will need to be re-imagined for the Private Network. A set of open, widely accepted APIs that enable both the network operator and enterprise to control the solution, as well as interfaces towards operators’ wide-area OSS/BSS are needed by the ecosystem. ONF plans to help champion the specification of these interfaces using a “software-driven standards” approach. 

APIs for Industry 4.0 Applications

The private 5G connected edge cloud platform aims to enable 5G Connectivity-as-a-Service to enterprises going through Industry 4.0 transformation. This software-enabled transformation is driven by Industry 4.0 applications that enable automation of enterprise processes, manufacturing and machinery and need connectivity to a variety of devices on premises – cameras, sensors, robots, AGVs, tablets, and phones. Towards this end, while developing IoT applications, developers need a toolset that provides insights on connectivity between the application and the connected devices it monitors and controls, one that provides information on connected device identity, its location, and its state (asleep, active, non-operational, etc), and one that enables direct control of this connectivity for best overall experience. An open, widely accepted set of APIs, and SDKs will potentially fuel innovation around Industry 4.0 and its private 5G adoption by the ecosystem. As with the prior topic, ONF is in the process of helping to define and specify this toolkit. 

AI-based Closed-Loop Control for 5G Connectivity

A software-defined private 5G network enables collection of rich telemetry from all its components, RAN, edge cloud fabric and mobile core. This telemetry can be leveraged to develop AI applications that conduct control and adaptation using event correlation and automated reaction. These applications will potentially optimize customer experiences while simplifying operations. Such applications could leverage AI/ML platforms that are available from the ONF ecosystem. 

Aether Operationalization on Commercial Edge and Multi-Cloud Services

While Aether has been developed to be deployed, and lifecycle managed on bare metal at the edge and on IaaS at the central cloud, it is also possible to flexibly layer it on existing edge and multi-cloud solutions from cloud operators, including Google Cloud Anthos, Microsoft Azure Arc, VMware Tanzu and Amazon AWS EKS Everywhere. ONF has already realized a basic level integration of Aether with Google Cloud Anthos. We’d like to ensure that Aether can run across a spectrum of these environments.

Runtime Operational Control Enhancements

Runtime Operational Control (ROC) provides a private/localized network optimized means of programmatic control and configuration capabilities of all building blocks of this network. It achieves this by exposing northbound APIs towards external control and configuration agents, including portals, and automation applications, and communicating by the individual blocks via adapters that translate general control and configuration tasks to commands that these blocks can understand. For Aether, adapters for SD-Core, SD-Fabric, and SD-RAN are in various stages of development and this development will continue. In addition, we envision creation of adapters and YANG models for additional blocks, such as Wi-Fi networks (e.g. Open Wi-Fi), millimeter-wave networks that empower wireless distributed fronthaul (e.g. Terragraph), and alternative mobile core solutions that could augment SD-Core (e.g. Magma). 

Getting Involved

We plan to continue to advance Aether and bring a number of these innovative capabilities in 2022 by leveraging the ONF’s unique model of blending engineering resources from ONF along with engineers and other resources from aligned companies in the ONF community. The project will also build on the development efforts of the DARPA-funded work on Aether and Project Pronto. By combining forces, we will advance Aether as a community, to everyone’s shared benefit.

We invite you to get involved in this exciting endeavor; please contact Oguz Sunay (oguz@opennetworking.org) if you would like to learn more.


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Oğuz Sunay