Nokia Networks has entered the cloud infrastructure market with AirFrame - a product range designed for mobile network operators, which effectively offers a data center distributed to multiple locations at the edge of the network.

AirFrame includes Nokia’s own branded servers and switches, as well as a network platform built with telco applications in mind. Nokia says its hardware can handle sudden traffic spikes, efficiently run Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) and serve as the foundation for future 5G deployments.

Nokia AirFrame Cloud Rack
Nokia AirFrame Cloud Rack – Nokia

New arrival

AirFrame offers performance in the core and radio domains, carrier-grade security and support for Nokia’s recently announced Radio Cloud network virtualization technology.

The ‘telco cloud’ relies entirely on ultra-dense 1U server nodes with dual Intel Xeon CPUs, DDR4 memory and storage on board. Connectivity is provided by AirFrame Cloud TOR switches with 1.44Tbps capacity and SDN support.

Both are taking full advantage of Nokia’s telecommunications patents. Even the software-defined storage component includes “specific enhancements that make it more efficient than other solutions to run demanding VNFs”.

AirFrame was designed as a distributed system - the idea is, network operators can place a rack wherever they have customers, for example, under a mobile base station, so most of the processing would happen at the edge of the network. Nokia says this approach helps dramatically reduce latency - a key requirement for next generation wireless networks.

AirFrame servers are available immediately, individually or in pre-assembled racks (pictured right).

Nokia says its hardware is comfortable with running common cloud applications in parallel with the specialized telco workloads, so AirFrame users can expand into new business models, for example renting data center capacity for their own customers’ IT applications.

Advances in virtualization are challenging traditional telecommunications equipment vendors, and pushing them towards the data center. Nokia has just opened a dedicated R&D facility for data center technology development. Ericsson recently revealed Hyperscale Datacenter System 8000 - its own foray into cloud hardware for telecoms, based on Intel’s Rack Scale Architecture.

Alcatel-Lucent, which is about to be acquired by Nokia, is developing vRAN - an architecture similar to Nokia’s Radio Cloud which replaces specialized hardware with servers.