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Marvell showcases its new no-compromise Open RAN solution with ecosystem partners using best of cloud, wireless compute architectures

By Peter Carson, Senior Director Solutions Marketing, Marvell

Marvell’s 5G Open RAN architecture leverages its OCTEON Fusion processor and underscores collaborations with Arm and Meta to drive adoption of no-compromise 5G Open RAN solutions

The wireless industry’s no-compromise 5G Open RAN platform will be on display at Mobile World Congress 2022. The Marvell-designed solution builds on its extensive compute collaboration with Arm and raises expectations about Open RAN capabilities for ecosystem initiatives like the Meta Connectivity Evenstar program, which is aimed at expanding the global adoption of Open RAN. Last year at MWC, Marvell announced it had joined the Evenstar program [read more]. This year, Marvell’s new 5G Open RAN Accelerator will be on display at the Arm booth at MWC 2022. The OCTEON Fusion processor, which integrates 5G in-line acceleration and Arm Neoverse CPUs, is the foundation for Marvell’s Open RAN DU reference design.

5G is going mainstream with the rapid rollout of next generation networks by every major operator worldwide. The ability of 5G to reliably provide high bandwidth and extremely low latency connectivity is powering applications like metaverse, autonomous driving, industrial IoT, private networks, and many more. 5G is a massive undertaking that is set to transform entire industries and serve the world’s diverse connectivity needs for years to come. But the wireless networks at the center of this revolution are, themselves, undergoing a major transformation – not just in feeds and speeds, but in architecture. More specifically, significant portions of the 5G radio access network (RAN) are moving into the cloud.

Hyperscale clouds and software defined networks have helped accelerate innovation, value creation and growth across nearly every industry. Technologies such as virtualization, disaggregation and open standards have enabled the agility, efficiency and massive scalability at the center of this data infrastructure revolution. Such benefits have great appeal to 5G carriers pursuing large growth opportunities in the industrial and enterprise markets. So, if you want to open up and virtualize your radio network, why not leverage the infrastructure that delivered these benefits to the data centers that already serve these markets? Been there. Done that.

Limitations of Legacy Compute Architectures in Open RAN

The first carriers to trial early Open RAN solutions found that those systems offered flexibility but fell short of the performance, energy efficiency and cost of established, integrated 5G radio networks. The reason is simple. Existing Open RAN alternatives rely on legacy compute architectures and implement the lower layer 5G protocols on the host server’s CPU cores. These general-purpose CPUs were designed for application-centric processing of use cases like web hosting, email, eCommerce and iPhone apps, but not for the kind of data-centric processing in the complex, latency-sensitive 5G Physical Layer, also known as Layer 1 (L1). Read More: 5G Open RAN Lesson 101.

Open RAN and Network Optimization

Open RAN is not just about vendor diversification and interoperability. With disaggregation and open interfaces, carriers also see the opportunity to evolve the 5G RAN to a more flexible architecture that optimizes bandwidth, power and cost for diverse network traffic conditions and advanced features, such as Massive MIMO. The carrier-led O-RAN alliance specifies the “functional splits” across the Radio Unit, Distributed Unit and Central Unit that allow flexible partitioning of workloads across the network to reduce fronthaul bandwidth and promote multi-vendor interoperability [read more].

Image: Open RAN interface options

Bottom line, Open RAN facilitates 5G network optimization while driving innovation across the disaggregated elements of the RAN by encouraging 5G ecosystem diversification and open collaboration among multiple software and hardware vendors. Realizing these benefits, particularly in a virtualized RAN environment, requires the best of cloud and 5G architectures which, until now, has not existed in the market.

The No Compromise Open RAN Solution

As a pioneer of the DPU and the SmartNIC, Marvell realized the benefits of inline acceleration in the cloud early on. In 2005, the Marvell® (Cavium®) OCTEON® introduced the industry’s first DPU. Now in its seventh generation and widely deployed in SmartNICs for networking, security and storage acceleration in cloud data centers, the OCTEON family includes the OCTEON Fusion processor, which integrates multicore Arm Neoverse CPUs, and is at the heart of the new Marvell 5G Open RAN Accelerator Platform.

Image:  Marvell 5G Open RAN Accelerator Card

The OCTEON Fusion architecture integrates Arm Neoverse CPU cores and scales from mid-capacity small cells to high-capacity macro cells supporting traditional integrated and open, cloud RAN implementations. In the Radio Unit (RU), the family offers processing solutions for smart radio heads requiring more compute power to support the complex beamforming algorithms associated with massive MIMO antenna arrays. As part of Marvell’s portfolio of semiconductor solutions for RAN infrastructure, this platform enables OEMs to construct no-compromise Open RAN solutions with world-class silicon and supports industry standard and open-source software and APIs to facilitate O&M integration and product development.

Meta Connectivity Evenstar Program

The Evenstar program by Meta Connectivity is a collaborative industry effort dedicated to expanding the global adoption of Open RAN. Through developing a unified platform architecture , Evenstar removes interoperability risk and helps MNOs deploy flexible Open RAN solutions from a growing ecosystem of technology providers. With this program, Meta Connectivity is collaborating with key silicon component and compute architecture providers like Marvell to further optimize performance, cost and power efficiencies in the 5G Networks for operators.

We at Marvell are proud of our collaborations with Arm and Meta Connectivity to facilitate 5G-Cloud convergence. Our no-compromise 5G Open RAN solution represents a big step forward. With open standards and proven, best-in-class RAN features and the virtualization and scaling techniques used in the most advanced clouds, we are helping to realize the promises of 5G and fuel our world with intelligent connectivity.

The Marvell 5G Open RAN Accelerator platform will be featured at the upcoming Mobile World Congress 2022 in the Arm Booth #5A19.

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