Key for Edge Computing
For SD-ME architecture to be functional – a mobile access layer (like LTE or WiFi), a Data Center, hardware and software are necessary. Alef is the software provider in this value chain and has the entire software stack to build the Edge Internet using SD-ME. Alef’s SD-ME software stack can be divided into 3 layers – Mobility and Gateway, Cloud and the Application Enablement. The Mobility and Gateway layer consists of various network services to process and route incoming mobile traffic to intelligently determine what can be served from the edge as well as setting up a session and creating CDRs and IPDRs to be recorded in Alef’s central site. These central site services are tied to certain packet core functions related to the control plane that have been brought into Alef’s SD-ME architecture, but centralized. Alef’s Cloud layer enables Private Edge networks to be connected seamlessly together to provide connectivity and mobility across Private Edge networks and into the Public network. The Application Enablement layer provides an application framework to easily deploy Mobile Edge applications to satisfy the most stringent of latency requirements at the Edge. All of these layers work symbiotically and seamlessly in the SD-ME stack. Another hallmark of Alef’s SD-ME is every layer is open and programmable, and has connectors and APIs to take advantage of some of the best software out in the marketplace from 3
CUPS - At Every Layer
Each one of the software layers – Mobility, Cloud and Application Enablement – follows Software defined principles. Alef has implemented CUPS (Control plane User Plane Separation) in addition to CDPS (Control Plane Data Plane Separation). The control plane is centralized while the user and/or data planes are localized. This is implemented in every layer of Alef’s software stack – gateway, cloud and application. Data plane processing applies to Software Defined Networks (SDN). Whereas, Alef performs user plane processing in addition to data plane processing at the application level. User plane processing means keeping track of the state of the user, and what to serve from each Edge location, and at what quality, to that user. The advantage of a CUPS and CDPS architecture is we reduce a great deal of complexity in the network. The centralized Control Plane is used to set up a session while the localized Data and User Planes allow for the SD-ME solution to deliver low-latency and high performance to the end user. Further, separating these layers allows Alef to keep the footprint in the Edge site very small and light, positively and dramatically impacting the TCO.
Hardware abstraction is critical to achieve independence from any specific hardware provider. While there is a slight performance penalty for moving away from deploying SD-ME directly on bare metal and over a virtualized or containerized Cloud native environment, abstracting the hardware layer allows Alef to deploy its software on Bare Metal as a Service (BMaaS) environments in both Micro and Metro Edge Data Centers. This allows Alef to focus on its core software competency of creating virtualized network and application services relevant to mobility and edge computing in order to deliver a premium experience to Enterprise end users. In order to overcome any loss in performance from hardware abstraction, Alef employs libraries such as DPDK, which is the Data Plane Development Kit that consists of libraries to accelerate packet processing workloads running on a wide variety of CPU architectures. Alef also employs SRIOV (single root input/output virtualization), which in virtualization, is a specification that allows the isolation of PCI Express resources for manageability and performance reasons. A single physical PCI Express bus can be shared in a virtual environment using this specification.
Full Application Development Enviornment
Alef’s vision is to create a completely programmable open API software stack at every layer to allow developers to take advantage of the powerful SD-ME environment it has created. Alef has connectors and services available for developers to port their applications over to the SD-ME stack to take advantage of the power of the Edge. In the future, Alef will provide a full network services and application development environment or plugins to existing ones. If an existing application is containerized or virtualized, it will be very easy to deploy it on Alef’s SD-ME stack.
Automation is vital to quickly deploying Alef’s software stack and onboarding Enterprise customers. We pride ourselves in fully automating the installation of software into the virtualized Edge compute environment. We automate the creation of the virtual machines and or containers through our centralized controller, and make available for installers a UI that makes it easy for any installation team to merely execute a Shell script to perfect the installation. We refer to this set of automation rules as Installation Automation. Alef also champions Integration Automation, which is the automation required to automatically onboard Enterprise wireless traffic be it from WiFi or LTE networks, and in the future, 5G networks. These automated SD-ME Edge deployments can easily be managed from a centralized console. Typically the Cloud infrastructure layer will be managed by the central controller of Cloud companies such as VMWare and Red Hat. Alef will leverage this automation layer of the Cloud Infrastructure layer as well as automation from BMaaS providers as well on the compute layer to get an integrated Private Edge system automation and administration view. Finally, Alef has its automation to deploy updates to APIs, software and other services and any associated licensing at every Edge site.
Cloud Application Continuity
For an Enterprise already committed to and using Cloud applications in a multi Cloud environment that includes AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Salesforce Cloud and others, having application availability from the Origin or Hyper Cloud is critical. Alef provides an onramp to the Hypercloud through local breakout of wireless traffic directly to a peering location at an IXP located in a Metro Edge Data Center. This is a core SD-ME capability that Alef provides Enterprises to protect the latter’s investments in current Cloud applications as well as to provide maximum application performance. This results in bandwidth savings as such traffic is managed and served locally with high SLAs, as opposed to using expensive leased lines to reach the Hyper cloud.
Companies have created a virtualization and containerization environment called Software-Defined Data Center (SDCC), have made it easy for SD-ME companies such as Alef to deploy software on top of Cloud native functionality using either their Hypervisor or Kubernetes layer. While a certain degree of miniaturization of the SDDC layer in Micro Edge locations does provide some Cloud native functionality and services to Enterprises and deployers of SDDC, merely having some SDDC functionality on a bare metal compute layer is insufficient to unleash the power and promise of the Edge. This is where Alef’s Software Defined Mobile Edge comes in and provides the software layers of network and mobility services as well as Application layer functionality to deploy new and existing Edge applications. Mobility is an important capability to ensure Private Network users can easily cross over and “roam” into other Private Networks with full guest privileges, as well as into Macro/public carrier networks, and continue to have their Edge services available. We refer to this constancy as Edge Roaming, and we bring this level of innovation to the Edge.
Proper coordination between different Edge Cloud instances is critical to ensure the user has a smooth experience with regard to session handoffs as he/she traverses across the Private Network and crosses over into an adjoining Private Network or into a Macro Public network. This is referred to Edge Mobility. Session handoff is critical so the Edge compute session can continue uninterrupted. Edge Roaming is the ability for a user to roam outside his/her immediate Private Network into another Private Network tethered to the same neutral host ePC or into a Public Network also tethered to the same neutral host ePC and part of a Roaming marketplace. With Edge Roaming, a user will be registered as a guest in these guest networks and have Edge compute and application resources available. This requires accessing the user’s traffic on 3GPP interfaces such as S1 and S8, which is part of Alef’s innovation.
Application constancy refers to the user’s application state being stored and resumed as the user moves from one Private Edge site to another. This is referred to as Edge Orchestration, another of Alef’s core value propositions and product differentiators. Edge Orchestration requires maintaining the user’s application state and refers to the movement of microservices