03 July 2014

An Operating System from the Terminals to the Network to the Cloud

5G will be the future ubiquitous, ultra-high bandwidth infrastructure: a truly converged “fabric” of IT and Networks resources, where wired and wireless communications will be almost undistinguishable. 5G is expected to become a sort of “nervous system” of the Digital Society and the Digital Economy, capable of bringing an ICT breakthrough to ensure a sustainable economy, to improve quality of life also with new ICT services and to create new jobs.

In order to pursue this, what is needed – in my opinion – is the concrete development and deployment of a distributed Operating Systems (OS) for 5G infrastructures. And it should be based on Open Source. As known, an OS is a “software” managing (for example, in a computer) hardware resources and providing services and abstractions for applications.

Practically Operating Systems acts as an intermediary between applications and the hardware and it is present on almost any device that contains processing and storage, e.g. from cellular phones, to computers, to servers...

Interestingly, there are already activities for developing examples of OS for Software Defined Networks: ONOS in one. ONOS aims at capturing the up-to-date state of the network and maintain a network map; providing an interface for the network control and management applications to update the network map; and programming the forwarding elements, by installing forwarding rules, in response to the changes to the network map by the control and management applications. A similar OS is still missing (at least in part) for the radio infrastructure, where “softwarization” could bring to disruptive scenarios, such as C-RAN, where all functions (e.g., L2-L7) could be moved to Data Centres (e.g., BS pool) interconnected to the RRU via optical backhauling. A then an integration, into a single OS, would complete the breakthrough.

So, the grand technical challenge will be getting this truly distributed “5G Operating System“ capable of spanning from the Terminals to the Network to the Cloud. And a key requirement will be keeping the “latency” in the order of 1 ms, as this will enable a tremendous number of new ICT ecosystems (e.g., imagine providing Cloud APIs for Anything as a Service, including machines, smart things, drones, robots...).