Tuesday , 17 July 2018
Home >> Mobile & Wireless >> IDG Contributor Network: What is the difference between network slicing and Quality of Service?

IDG Contributor Network: What is the difference between network slicing and Quality of Service?

Network slicing is a specific form of virtualization that allows multiple logical networks to run on top of a shared physical network infrastructure. The key benefit of the network slicing concept is that it provides an end-to-end virtual network encompassing not just networking but compute and storage functions too. The objective is to allow a physical mobile network operator to partition its network resources to allow for very different users, so-called tenants, to multiplex over a single physical infrastructure. The most commonly cited example in 5G discussions is sharing of a given physical network to simultaneously run Internet of Things (IoT), Mobile Broadband (MBB), and very low-latency (e.g. vehicular communications) applications. These applications obviously have very different transmission characteristics. For example, IoT will typically have a very large number of devices, but each device may have very low throughput. MBB has nearly the opposite properties since it will have a much smaller number of devices, but each one will be transmitting or receiving very high bandwidth content. The intent of network slicing is to be able to partition the physical network at an end-to-end level to allow optimum grouping of traffic, isolation from other tenants, and configuring of resources at a macro level.

Why can’t QoS and related techniques do the job?

The natural question that often arises during technical discussions about network slicing is why can’t existing internet techniques handle the task? For example, the extensively deployed Quality of Service (QoS) architecture called Differentiated Services (DiffServ) is meant to classify and manage different types of IP traffic (e.g. voice, video, text) flowing over a given network. There are also other well-known techniques like Virtual Private Network (VPN) which separate and isolate traffic across the Internet using techniques like IP tunneling. Also, more recent approaches like Network Function Virtualization (NFV) are meant to virtualize parts of mobile networks. Each of these features obviously has some overlap with the functionality of 5G network slicing. So why do we need to introduce network slicing as another approach? The answer is two-fold. One reason is based on technical issues, and the other, more important, reason is business driven.

Business drivers for network slicing

Network slicing in 5G is expected to open lucrative new business opportunities for mobile operators and other newer entrants. For example, a mobile operator will be able to split its physical network resources into multiple logical slices and lease these slices out to interested parties. An electrical utility may want to take a long-term lease of a network slice for connectivity of its smart grid composed of sensors, meters, and controllers and optimize that slice for IoT devices. Alternatively, a concert promoter may want to take a short-term lease of a network slice for a week-long musical festival and optimize that slice for streaming HD music and VoIP connectivity.

Network slicing will also allow new business models to evolve in the mobile market. For example, existing cloud and data center providers, such as Amazon and Google, may find through network slicing a new way to play in the mobile network space. This would also allow existing mobile operators (e.g. ATT, Orange) to lease network slices and concentrate mainly on their core strengths which include delivering high-quality networking experiences. This is quite different from today, as currently infrastructure cannot be granularly configured and optimized for different MVNOs (tenants). Current MVNOs have purely business and billing relationships with the network owner and run their MVNO service over a vanilla network with branding overlays. Network slicing will allow the network owner to customize the compute, storage and networking functions of the infrastructure for a given Virtual Network Operator’s traffic characteristics.

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