MWC 2O23: Intel flexes 5G muscle with new Xeon chip accelerated by vRAN Boost, among others

MWC 2O23: Intel flexes 5G muscle with new Xeon chip accelerated by vRAN Boost, among others.(Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP)

MWC 2023: Intel flexes 5G muscle with new Xeon chip accelerated by vRAN Boost, among others

  • Intel has integrated virtual radio access network (vRAN) acceleration into its latest 4th Gen Intel Xeon system-on-chip, supported by 14 industry heavyweights, including Verizon, Dell, and Ericsson.
  • The move will help network operators advance their efforts to deliver cloud-native features for next-generation 5G core and edge networks.
  • Intel also highlighted that nearly all vRAN and virtualized network core deployments run on Intel.

Intel Corp has been on a mission to virtualize the world’s networks. At the Mobile World Conference (MWC) this week, the chip giant unveiled its latest Xeon processor generation, the 4th Gen Xeon Scalable Processors with Intel vRan Boost, while emphasizing the fact that half of carriers’ core networks are virtualized and 95% of those run on Intel.

“vRAN is here, and nearly all deployments run on Intel,” the company said in a statement released yesterday. “The need for high-performance, scalable, flexible, and energy-efficient systems is driving the transformation of mobile networks from fixed function, hardware-based silicon and infrastructure to software-based, fully virtualized platforms running on general-purpose processors,” the chip giant noted.

The Intel Xeon SoC unveiled also received broad support from industry heavyweights, including Dell Technologies, Ericsson, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Rakuten Mobile, Red Hat, Verizon, VMware, and Vodafone, among others. “Accelerating the virtualization of the RAN positions communications service providers (CoSPs) to meet future requirements while improving RAN energy efficiency and reducing their total cost of ownership (TCO),” Intel added in its statement.

The 4th Gen Intel Xeon with Intel vRAN Boost chips

In a virtual press briefing, Intel’s Senior VP and General Manager of the Network and Edge Group, Sachin Katti, said the 4th Gen Intel Xeon with Intel vRAN Boost chips, did precisely what the name said. “They boost networks by offering a programmable infrastructure and eliminating the need for custom Layer 1 accelerator cards,” he said. “This new chip integrates vRAN acceleration directly into the Intel Xeon system-on-chip,” Katti added.

He noted that the 4th Gen Intel Xeon SoC was natively designed to power cloud-ready virtualized RANs. It will also deliver up to twice the capacity within the same power envelope and an additional 20% power savings due to integrated acceleration to address operators’ critical performance, scaling, and energy efficiency needs.

“We’ve chosen an integrated acceleration approach because it combines the benefits of inline acceleration with the flexibility and programmability of x86. That is preferable to any solution that shoves an entire Layer 1 into an inflexible hardware accelerator,” Katti added. He also highlighted that the 4th Gen Intel Xeon with Intel vRAN Boost is expected to match or exceed the performance-per-watt of the best custom dedicated Layer 1 accelerator cards when they enter the market.

To prove Intel’s point, the company, at MWC 2023, demonstrated how its Xeon Scalable processors with vRAN Boost could deliver an industry-first one-terabyte-per-second performance for 5G user plane function workloads within a dual-socket server validated by Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.

In addition, Intel also announced a new Infrastructure Power Manager for 5G Core reference software designed to work with vRAN Boost. The chip giant said the software helps to dynamically match run-time server power consumption with data traffic without hurting throughput, latency, and packet drop, to achieve further efficiency and performance gains.