The fifth iteration of the mobile network architecture (5G) is set revolutionize our lives in a way that no other wireless technology did in the recent past. Tactile internet, augmented and virtual reality, and connected and autonomous cars, are but some of the use cases that will be enabled by 5G systems.
5G networks will allow addressing the tight requirements of vertical markets such as industry 4.0, transportation systems (including the connected and autonomous car), smart grids, and healthcare. The first immediate results of this paradigm shift is that it will not be possible to deploy a dedicated mobile network for each vertical. Conversely, 5G systems will need to become fluid, adapting their characteristics to the heterogeneous and often conflicting requirements imposed by the different verticals.
The 5G-Lab aims at being a playground where new mobile networking solutions can be tested and validated in a controlled environment. The 5G-Lab is structured around three mains technology tracks:
1. A 5G-ready programmable wireless/mobile access network composed of LTE small cells and Wi-Fi Access Points;
2. An SDN-controller fronthaul/backhaul network supporting an advanced intent-based networking interface;
3. A lightweight Network Function Virtualization environment leveraging on Dockers and Click as execution environments;
The figure below depicts the high level 5G-Lab architecture. As is can be seen, we heavily rely on Docker to run the various system components. Kubernetes is used to automatically deploy, scale, and manage the Docker containers. Two types of nodes can be identified: RAN Nodes and Edge Nodes. Both types of node run a Docker daemon and are part of a Kubernetes cluster. RAN nodes implement wireless access functions and require specialized hardware in order to support the radio access containers, namely a supported SDR platform for LTE nodes and a supported WiFi interface for Wi-Fi nodes. Edges nodes on the other hand are standard machines with no particular hardware requirements beside those of the VNFs they must execute. As it can be seen from the figure all the 5G Lab components such as 5G–EmPOWER SD-RAN controller, the backhaul controller, and the LightMANO Orchestrator itself are all deployed as containers.