Case Study

Open source and edge computing are the basis of Deutsche Telekom’s new virtualised network infrastructure

The telecommunications industry is experiencing a dramatic transformation. Monolithic systems are making way for disaggregated systems, following the logic of separation between hardware and software: a key element today for making the control, management, and operation of networks more scalable, flexible and economically sustainable. Indeed, the combination of innovative microservices with an ‘agile’ organisational culture promises to shorten the time-to-market and to enable a more immediate offer of new services. In this context, network virtualisation technologies facilitate the development of ‘hyper-scalable’ solutions and greater process optimisation. This is precisely the challenge undertaken by Deutsche Telekom with the Access 4.0 programme, co-developed in partnership with Reply and selected domain experts.

Access 4.0 takes advantage of open source to create a scalable solution. Benefits are significant, as open software promises to eliminate the dependence on ‘closed’ hardware and software vendors, thus contributing to significant savings, both in terms of network management expenses and the costs associated with network development investments. Technology is now ready to support this transition: open source software is capable of containerising and managing infrastructure, following the example of large digital players, while the computing power enables the management of high-speed networks.

Access 4.0 constitutes a real paradigm shift, not only in terms of technology but also of the ecosystem, collaboration and agility. Indeed, Deutsche Telekom has implemented a scalable and efficient access platform, while also managing to drastically reduce the total costs associated with the solution. The networks can be built, planned and managed with a fraction of the workforce typically employed. Moreover, future implementations can be designed in a targeted manner, without any large investments in terms of time and resources.

Software and infrastructure upgrades are faster than traditional chassis-based networking technology. In the past, classic network infrastructures took weeks, months or even years to be implemented. These operations now can be completed in real-time and on a large scale. Planning becomes more flexible, and thanks to shared frameworks and the use of APIs, software, components and hardware can be mixed and adapted as needed. The adoption of so-called ‘CO-PoDs’ (Central Office Point of Delivery) – modules made up of hardware, open-source software and network connectivity – enables operators to provide and host voice and data services quickly and reliably. CO-PoDs can be located in Telcos’ existing central offices, or next to customers, to enable edge computing and cloud edge service models.

The Access 4.0 platform is currently focused on Deutsche Telekom’s broadband internet access for ‘fibre to the home’ (FTTH) or ‘fibre to the building’ (FTTB) connectivity. The first implementation of A4 will serve the FTTH connectivity services by Deutsche Telekom. The solution can potentially be extended to power other applications, such as latency-critical IoT solutions.The Access 4.0 approach is expected to change significantly the way networks operate, with a focus on software updates, rather than on infrastructure black boxes. “Managing this transformation is a major challenge”, Robert Soukup, Deutsche Telekom Access 4.0 Senior Program Manager says. “Edge computing facilitates the double advantage of a cloud-based virtualised network, which is close to the termination points at the same time. Thanks to Reply’s ongoing consultancy, the infrastructure will become increasingly agile, while the use of edge solutions will ensure the physical proximity of the computational resources required to reduce latency.”

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