CNFs to Drive Container App Deployment on 5G Networks in 2021

The widespread availability of next-generation 5G wireless networking services will drive a wider range of containerized applications to edge computing platforms in 2021.  Most of those 5G networking services will be accessed via services provided by telecommunications carriers. However, as the cost of deploying 5G wireless networking equipment starts to decline, many IT organizations will also deploy their own private 5G wireless networks using appliances built around commercial processors.

Case in point: FreedomFi and its FreedomFi Gateway, which is based on an x86 processor that gives IT teams access to an inexpensive, small-cell radio on which to build out a cellular network. These gateways can then be managed via a software-as-a-service (SaaS) application, also provided by FreedomFi. The FreedomFi Gateway is available a public beta program.

FreedomFi CEO Boris Renski says in addition to making it more cost effective for IT organizations to deploy their own 5G services in support of an Internet of Things (IoT) project, rural communities will also be able to roll out 5G services without waiting for 5G services to become available in their area.

Renski says that as container network functions (CNFs) become more widely available in 2021, it will be more feasible for organizations to securely deploy edge computing applications using, for example, cloud-native firewalls deployed as containers on a bare-metal appliance rather than as virtual network functions (VNFs) that require virtual machines.

In general, interest in deploying containerized applications on 5G networks is on the rise. IBM recently extended an alliance with Samsung to deploy container applications on the Red Hat OpenShift platform based on Kubernetes, while AT&T has allied with IBM to provide a framework to centrally manage cloud-native applications deployed on edge computing platforms.

A 5G Open Innovation Lab created by a global consortium of developers, startups, enterprises, academia and government institutions founded by Intel, T-Mobile and NASA is also working to advance adoption of CNFs.

It may be a while before CNFs are as readily available as VNFs are today, but, starting this year, network services providers will more widely employ CNFs. That’s due to CNF’s greater portability across multiple platforms, as opposed to a VNF that can only run on a specific type of virtual machine.

Renski said as availability becomes more widespread, organizations contemplating deployment of edge computing applications at scale might want to consider their options. Relying on service providers to provide connectivity to each individual edge computing platform and associated endpoints can get prohibitively expensive, Renski says.

Many development teams would also prefer to exercise greater control over networking services without the need to involve a service provider in every software update, Renski adds.

Regardless of organizations’ chosen path to 5G, there may soon be more container applications running outside the cloud than in, as the number of edge computing platforms connected to wireless networking services rapidly accelerates in the coming year.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.

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