As OCP continues to see the influence of 5G on the specifications and designs that are being contributed to the Foundation, I thought it would be good to hear from one of our members on how they are viewing 5G in the development of their solutions. So we’re fortunate to hear from the head of R&D from one of UfiSpace, an OCP Solution Provider and Community Member.
Ray Chang leads the planning and development of carrier grade switch and router product architectures for UfiSpace. In this Q&A, Ray shares his perspective drawing on his years of experience in disaggregation. I hope you enjoy these insights on this week’s OCP SP Spotlight.
Tell us about yourself and your background in the networking industry?
Hi everyone, my name is Ray Chang, I’m the R&D director at UfiSpace. I’ve been working in the networking industry for over 18 years. Prior to UfiSpace, I was building switches and routers mainly for cloud service providers and data centers. At UfiSpace, I’m responsible for the planning and development of white box solutions for data centers, telecommunication service providers and cloud service providers.
Give us a brief overview of UfiSpace and the markets you serve?
UfiSpace joined OCP in 2018 and at that time we were just getting ready to release our first white box solution, which was our S9500-30XS disaggregated cell site gateway. Since then, we are trying to become more active within the OCP community and make more contributions. In 2020, we contributed our 100G and 400G disaggregated core routers, which were based on AT&T’s DDC designs. This year we’ve expanded our cell site gateway contributions to encompass a wider range of use cases and installation scenarios.
Although we also provide white box switches for cloud and data centers, most of our efforts are focused on disaggregated telecom solutions. In a few short years, we’ve disaggregated the cell site gateway, IP/MPLS core router, IP edge router, aggregation routers and we’re working on a disaggregated fronthaul solution as well. Our aim is to provide our customers with multiple entry points for deploying an open network infrastructure. With that being said, we haven’t forgotten our roots in data centers and we’re also working on new 100GE/400GE data center switches.
I feel what sets us apart is that we focus the majority of our resources into R&D, sales and marketing. R&D is over 60% of our workforce with many of our engineers having more than 15 years of experience within the industry. We work with the world’s largest EMS companies for manufacturing. This way, we can concentrate more on developing innovative solution and spend time communicating with our customers to make sure our designs are going in the right direction.
Almost every day there is a new announcement about the impact and benefits of 5G and edge computing? How should enterprises/people be interpreting this hype and what expectations should enterprises, consumers, etc. have when it comes to 5G?
The rollout of 5G has definitely created a lot of opportunities for new solutions, services and business models. I believe there will be much more to come as more solution providers jump onto the 5G bandwagon. Some things people should keep in mind is that the 5G technology is still evolving. Network infrastructures are also going through a digital transformation. There will be a lot of new services, so it’s important to stay flexible.
This is why open networking will become increasingly important. With open standard solutions, you get access to a whole ecosystem of vendors. You can implement a disaggregated infrastructure with the capability of being upgraded as new features become available.
Let’s not forget that there are a lot of services using legacy technology in the field as well. There’s also going to be a period where 4G infrastructure and 5G infrastructure are going to co-exist. So, another benefit of open networking is that it can enable an infrastructure that can grow with the transition from legacy services to 5G and beyond.
Other than telecoms, where do you see 5G having the biggest impact?
Aside from telcos or mobile, I expect a major impact would be with the cable/broadband companies. With the CBRS spectrum now allocated for 5G, there’s speculation that cable companies can use it as well to build their own mobile network. This would be huge, as many cable companies do have a mobile customer base, except they are through MVNO contracts. To be able to build their own mobile network would definitely change the game.
Content providers may also find new avenues for content delivery with 5G private networking. We’ve worked on a project where we developed a private network to deliver live camera feeds all the way to the home premises on a private 5G network.
There’s also those who are part of the infrastructure ecosystem like the data centers and tower companies. There’s a lot of opportunities to grow the edge network. I expect there will be lots of collaboration amongst these parties for 5G network applications.
In your opinion what is the impact of open hardware on 5G and edge?
For service providers, they will get to have more options for choosing the right solution for them. Disaggregated hardware platforms are compatible with several software vendors so our customers can go with the most suitable solution provider for them. In terms of features, we can implement different features onto the same hardware models. So instead of managing multiple hardware for different parts of the network, service providers can utilize a common hardware platform and switch out the features. This reduces capex in terms of being able to bulk purchase equipment and reduces opex because maintenance can be simplified and streamlined.
Open hardware also enables innovation for the development of 5G and edge services. Solution developers can tap into parts of the network they may not have been able to do so before. For example, our disaggregated open routers have provided opportunities for any software solution provider to develop solutions for the carrier’s IP/MPLS core and IP edge networks. Whereas before, it was dominated by a handful of developers. With more developers joining the ecosystem, it becomes a catalyst for more innovation as features and solutions.
Most carriers and enterprises have a lot of legacy infrastructure. How do you help someone start to map out a route to open infrastructure?
As mentioned before, there’s no doubt in my mind that 5G will coexist with 4G for a while. There’s a GSMA report that projected, by 2025 much of the mobile devices will still be using 4G networks. From our experience working with our customers, we do see a lot more brownfield deployments than we see greenfield. We’ve designed our solutions to be able to work in both scenarios.
To help those who are interested in open infrastructure, we like to start with some experience sharing and open discussions to find a solution and business model that would best fit their needs. Everyone’s situation is going to be a bit different, so we combine the experience from our deployments with tier-one and tier-two service providers across the Americas, Europe and Asia to help build use cases and scenarios for them to consider.
With our disaggregated solutions, they have the option to begin their open networking journey from the access, aggregation, edge and/or core networks. Once we’ve narrowed down a solution to start with, we would conduct a proof of concept to measure the value and impact open infrastructure will bring to our customers.
For example, we worked with a telco in Taiwan. They wanted to enable an open network along with their 5G rollout, but they didn’t know what to expect using a disaggregated infrastructure. So, we used our previous deployment experiences to help them plan and designed a POC with our partners that would allow them to see how we were going to implement an open network solution. From the POC they were able to experience the sourcing process, installation process, training, and service maintenance processes of not only the hardware aspects, but the software side as well. In the end, I believe it was a success, they decided to move forward with us to disaggregate their cell sites.
UfiSpace is working across several open organizations including the Telecom Infrastructure Project (TIP) and OCP. How does open hardware fit into your overall strategy?
All of our products can be used for enabling open networking. So far, we’ve contributed our cell site gateways, disaggregated IP/MPLS core routers and disaggregated IP edge routers. We’re working on contributing our other solutions as well. Our goal is to provide those who want to adopt open networking with the means to do so.
OCP and TIP provide a very good guideline for us in terms of understanding what the end users need for their open hardware. Since one of the benefits of open hardware is its capability to be used across several applications throughout the network, standardization of specifications is important. What open organizations like OCP and TIP does is to consolidate what the majority of the service providers will need so that we can build a platform that can be used by as many as possible.
I mentioned before that we are pretty engineering heavy. A part of that team provides support for integrations with our software and NOS partners. Although we don’t build software applications, we have firmware and software teams to help speed up development for our partners.
One of the great things about being a member of OCP and TIP is the ability to mingle with the open networking ecosystem. A lot of our current partnerships are due to collaborations within OCP and TIP.
Share a bit about your technology roadmap and what's next for UfiSpace in the coming months? Introduce UfiSpace's roadmap:
For the next coming months, we are working on several new releases. Our goal is to provide solutions for the whole network infrastructure, from the RAN all the way to the core.
For our existing product lines, disaggregated cell site gateways and disaggregated core/edge routers, we’re working on extending our current offering. For example, we’ve expanded our CSGR family with both higher and lower capacity offerings to enable a wider spectrum of use cases for disaggregating cell sites. With our disaggregated core/edge routers we’ve introduced a high density 400G router that can create a single routing cluster’s capacity to 691Tbs.
We’ve recently announced a new product line of open aggregation routers, which are multi-purpose 25GE/100GE white box routers that fully supports SyncE and IEEE 1588v2 timing profiles. So apart from mobile ethernet aggregation and Open BNG use cases, these multi-functioning aggregation routers can also be used for fronthaul aggregation and PE routers.
We’ve also got new solutions in the works for the radio access network and 5G Open RAN and private 5G networks. This year will be a very exciting one for UfiSpace.
Link to UfiSpace networking products on the OCP Marketplace
Link to the UfiSpace networking solutions on the OCP Marketplace
Link to the UfiSpace website
Ray Chang - Director of Research & Development at UfiSpace
Ray Chang serves as the R&D Director for UfiSpace. He spearheaded the research and development at UfiSpace to deploy the world’s first commercialized distributed disaggregated chassis routing system, which is now being used as the backbone of global tier-one service providers. Before joining UfiSpace, Ray has over a decade of experience developing IDM and ODM products for 10G/20G/100G switches.
Ray has a Masters of Electrical and Control Engineering from National Chiao Tung University.