Cloud-Native Network Functions (CNFs) for Telcos: F5 Offers Operational Simplicity for the Migration to Cloud with Red Hat

James Feger 缩略图
James Feger
Published May 24, 2023

Service providers looking to migrate workloads to the cloud for both 4G and 5G networks can now also shift critical network functions to cloud-native network functions (CNFs) to help improve flexibility with lower latency and infrastructure resiliency while providing easier orchestration and management using Kubernetes. To further support the modernized cloud solution ecosystem, earlier this year F5 launched the first of a portfolio of “true” CNFs refactored from trusted BIG-IP security functions to improve operational simplicity and protect these new Kubernetes clusters outside of legacy security solutions.

F5® BIG-IP® NextTM Cloud-Native Network Functions is a suite of solutions which delivers the reliable functionality of BIG-IP packaged as lightweight CNFs with built-in automation and increased visibility capabilities. BIG-IP Next CNFs includes:

  • BIG-IP® NextTM Edge Firewall CNF
    Certified by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), its unique application-centric design enables great effectiveness in guarding against targeted network infrastructure-level attacks.

    Helps add, remove, and auto-scale DNS services to provide a hyper-scalable and secure DNS solution for service providers that provides much faster web browsing and reduced latency.

    Service providers can use fully automated solutions to instantly add, auto-scale, and remove IPv4/IPv6 IP address translation instances with integrated distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection.

Flexible Deployment in the Core, DCs, or Edge

Deployment flexibility is a key driver for performance and scale. While 5G is certainly a driver for the migration to cloud-native, monetizing 4G will still take another several years, so it’s a reasonable business goal to continue to improve operational performance of the existing core 4G infrastructure during this transition. Small changes using CNFs can be used to either refresh or replace existing workloads to deliver benefits now while building for the future.

If this is the first deployment of CNFs into your networks, we recommend starting with your edge networks as a greenfield opportunity to test and optimize the cloud workload. It’s why F5 focused our first CNFs on security—high volume 4G and 5G security and network protection are critical at the edge. Not only do they provide consistent performance with low latency, but the improved responsiveness results in higher QoE for the most demanding edge network customers—such as online gamers or high-volume video users.

CNFs Boost Performance, Scalability, and Delivery

Kubernetes provides a unified orchestration platform that greatly simplifies network functions for operators, reducing the cost of deploying and maintaining networks. But the reality of using a different Kubernetes vendor for each CNF increases complexity and cost.

An advantage of F5 CNFs is that they’re built on our own Cloud-Native Engine. This means that we provide an underlying platform for seamless and efficient consolidation of F5 CNFs that also supports cloud-native applications from other vendors. A clear benefit for consolidating F5 CNFs is the ability to accelerate performance even more to lower CPU usage, reducing CPU hops and providing a zero-copy architecture that optimizes resource consumption.

Red Hat provides a telco-optimized platform that can be deployed from central locations to the edge. This provides greater business agility and cost reduction by lowering expenditure through the use of non-specialized hardware and automation. Red Hat offers a real-time operating system and hardware acceleration to provide a more consistent service provider experience across different infrastructures.

Red Hat and F5 Help Realize the Promise of 5G with CNFs

The telecommunications industry is at an inflection point, and what we do now will set the stage for the next 10 years. Red Hat and F5 provide critical infrastructure to industry-leading operators who have built—or are in the process of building—resilient cloud-native architectures to improve IT clouds, telco clouds, or a combination of both.

These new modern 5G networks are optimized and now ready to support the CNFs which will eventually become the main delivery mechanism for network services. The first CNFs in the portfolio from F5 deliberately targeted the critical security functions for new clusters. More CNFs from F5 delivering critical network functions will soon follow.

One separate but important benefit for shifting to lightweight CNFs is their inherent energy efficiency and reduction in existing electricity costs. These result from combinations of improved CPU efficiencies, vendor and platform consolidation, and reducing overall power consumption in the core, DCs, and edge where they’re deployed. In collaboration with Red Hat, F5 is empowering operational simplicity for cloud-native capabilities across the telecom industry and moving toward a more resilient future.

Red Hat and F5 together offer a unified, agile foundation for 5G networks which support the transition to CNFs. For more information, check out the new 5G eBook from Red Hat and F5.