re:Invent 2022 highlights Amazon’s MEC and RAN efforts

Vodafone, Intel and others showcased new solutions leveraging AWS technology

Amazon Web Services (AWS) held its annual re:Invent event in Las Vegas, Nevada this week. The week-long fête spanned the depth and breadth of the myriad services AWS offers, but there were a few interesting tidbits for AWS telecom customers buried there as well, especially around AWS partnerships in Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) and Radio Access Network (RAN) technology.

While not strictly re:Invent-related, multinational telco Vodafone used the timing of the event to announce the opening of a MEC test showcase facility in the U.K., with AWS and IT consulting services provider Kyndryl. Vodafone’s new EdgeInnovation Lab has been opened at MediaCityUK, in Salford, England. The new facility sports dedicated MEC servers on premises. AWS and Vodafone collaborated to launch a distributed MEC zone in Manchester as part of AWS’s Wavelength Zone infrastructure. The partners said they hope the lab will foster the development of new MEC-related apps and services in the surrounding Greater Manchester, area near where the lab is located.

JMA Wireless announced plans at re:Invent to deploy its 5G XRAN solution on AWS’ Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) Anywhere. The solution is aimed at businesses, network operators, schools and government agencies interested in building and managing private 5G networks. XRAN is cloud-native, said JMA, and uses the CBRS frequency spectrum to achieve speeds of more than 1 gigabit per second (Gbps), scales to thousands of users and is software-upgradable, JMA noted. 

Amazon EKS Anywhere is a deployment option for EKS that helps customer deploy Kubernetes clusters on customer-managed infrastructure, rather than relying on AWS’ own servers. JMA noted that this effort builds on work that it started in August 2021 with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), where it deployed XRAN on multiple outdoor campus cites running on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) server hardware. “Leveraging Amazon EKS Anywhere, the network is being upgraded to 5G,” said JMA Wireless in a statement.

AWS also announced an effort with Intel to certify “a specific set of use cases for Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) Anywhere on Intel Xeon scalable platforms.” The goal is to offer Communication Service Providers (CSPs) optimized solutions, Intel said.

Intel said that AWS is working on validating Amazon EKS with Intel’s FlexRAN reference software. Other validated platform components include open-source projects such as Multus, SR-IOV, DPDK, MacvLAN, and IPvLAN, said Intel. The process will include certification of bare-metal deployments of EKS Anywhere on third-party Intel-based compute platforms. What’s more, the companies will work to make sure customized operating systems can be deployed with EKS Anywhere and third-party hardware, including firmware, accelerator firmware, Network Interface Cards (NICs), and BIOS settings.

“By offering service providers access to optimized solutions for both greenfield and brownfield deployments, operators can take advantage of the cloud elasticity in their end-to-end network infrastructure, including the RAN (radio access network),” said Intel.

T-Systems, the operating service provider business of multinational telco Deutsche Telekom (DT), announced support for Amazon’s External Key Management (EKM) service. EKM is a managed service used to create cryptographic keys to protect data. The service uses hardware security modules to protect and validate keys and integrates with most other AWS services that sport data encryption. With this announcement, T-Systems will authorize and manage access to data on behalf of its customers. The company noted that it will create and store the encryption keys in its EU-based data centers, outside of AWS infrastructure.

This will help EU businesses that want to run sensitive workloads in the cloud but need to comply with regulatory frameworks requiring local storage, said T-Systems. Customers retain full control and visibility over key creation, location, and distribution. T-Systems said the new service is an outgrowth of its previously announced Data Protection as a Managed Service, which it first began offering in March of this year.

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