Get the Edge – Thanks to Efficient NFV Infrastructure based on ARM

An interview with Robert (Bob) Monkman, Sr. Enterprise Marketing Manager- Networking Software Strategy & Ecosystem Programs, ARM.

By Erik Larsson

Erik Larsson (EL), Enea: How are market trends creating challenges for NFV infrastructure?

Bob Monkman (BM), ARM: There will be a strong need for infrastructure optimization and efficiency due to the simultaneous evolution to 5G and virtualization. Racing towards 5G and 2020, we are going to see many more access points, which will put higher pressure on the network, with considerable higher bandwidth and far lower latencies. Introducing 5G and NFV at the same time introduces overhead and we need to leverage existing datacenters with fixed real estate and a fixed power envelope. This means that the performance per Watt and per cubic foot will have to be far more efficient in order to achieve the right density.

EL: What’s the solution?

BM: ARM technology and the ARM ecosystem are contributing to this much-needed efficiency. In this new network paradigm, our goal is to deliver 3x the compute density and up to 10x the acceleration of key workloads; we are also able to feed computation more efficiently with up to 6x memory bandwidth and up to 4x interconnect compared to other solutions. When you combine the many core scalability with power efficiency and network offload, you can achieve very high overall efficiencies.

EL: Could you give some examples of these efficiencies?

BM: For compute density, ARM can deliver very compact cores and optimized implementations of L2 cache, for example using the ARM Cortex-A72. This results in 2-4x better compute density in SoC solutions.

'In the case of workload efficiencies, ARM partners and SoC licensees have a long experience of delivering accelerators (packet processing, crypto, traffic management, etc.) in recent NFV PoCs we have seen network efficiencies up to 10x using network offload. In addition, we have seen up to 80% reduction in jitter, which means highly deterministic performance compared to software-only designs, and finally dramatically lower latencies. The bottom line is that all this delivers real economic efficiencies for network operators, such as lower cost (BOM) for vCPEs.

EL: Could you tell us about the Pharos NFV PicoPod?

BM: The PicoPod is about density and space efficiency. As the world’s smallest OPNFV Pharos pod, it is an easily accessible NFVI platform for developers. Instead of a 20 U rack with a space requirement of 20 cubic feet, the NFV PicoPod is only 1 cubic foot. It’s like a datacenter in a box; we like to say that this brings NFV to the masses!

EL: What about container approaches?

BM: Containers are a good way to get virtualization efficiencies: over the last year we have seen an expansion of the virtualization approaches in the OPNFV community. There is the traditional approach with OpenStack management of KVM-based VMs in the core, but at the edge people are looking for a lighter weight solution such as OS virtualization based on containers using for example Kubernetes to deliver micro services. I see this approach in POCs and trials. In this containerized approach, we expect lower memory footprint since there is no guest OS in the container, more efficient resource consumption, higher density than with VMs and also a faster deployment of VNFs using for example Kubernetes. We actually built a PoC with containerized VNFs on ARM-based NFVi and it works great for vCPE use cases.

EL: What is the ARM ecosystem?

BM: The goal of the ARM ecosystem is to deliver compelling efficiencies for space, power, performance and cost of NFV infrastructure. In May 2017, we announced the ARM Infrastructure Developer Ecosystem (AIDC), with a dedicated portal at
This portal is a resource to find building blocks, solution providers and domain experts for next generation data center, cloud and network infrastructure.

The solution library has partner white papers and solution briefs on next-generation infrastructure. The developer resources contains information on hardware development platform, software and open source projects.

EL: How does ARM partner with Enea?

BM: Enea is one of the founding partners of the ARM ecosystem. Enea provides technical integration services and a Pharos lab for OPNFV testing to enable developers to test and validate their software.

ARM and Enea have collaborated for several years. In 2015, Enea did the initial bring up of the OPNFV architecture for ARM hardware, delivered the first “Arno” release and launched the world’s first ARM-based NFV lab compliant with the “Pharos” specification from OPNFV. More recently, Enea ported OPNFV to the NFV PicoPod in collaboration with ARM and Marvell in Q2 2017.Today, Enea hosts a multi-architecture NFV lab with 10+ pods, and has demonstrated world-class expertise for NFVI platform technology.

EL: Thank you, Bob!