Press Releases

Napatech collaborates with Advantech to showcase 5G UPF offload solution at network X

October 18, 2022

Posted by: Shriya Raban

COPENHAGEN, Denmark. 12 October 2022 Napatech, the provider of programmable Smart Network Interface Cards (SmartNICs) used for Data Processing Unit (DPU) and Infrastructure Processing Unit (IPU) services in telecom, cloud, enterprise, cybersecurity and financial applications worldwide, will collaborate with Advantech to showcase its SmartNIC-based offload solution for 5G User Plane Function (UPF) at Network X in Amsterdam from October 18th through 20th, in Advantech’s booth.

Unlike in most 4G networks based on purpose-built appliances, the 5G packet core is implemented as virtualised or cloud-native software running on servers located within edge and core data centres. As Communications Service Providers (CSPs) and enterprises scale up the deployments of their 5G networks, they face strong financial pressure to maximise the number of users that can be supported on each server, whether individual subscribers or IoT devices, thereby minimising the net cost-per-user.

Within 5G packet core software, the subsystem that represents the highest compute workload is the User Plane Function (UPF), which performs critical packet inspection, routing and forwarding functions. Since general-purpose server CPUs are not well suited to the performance and latency requirements of real-time packet processing, network operators and 5G core software vendors increasingly adopt solutions for offloading the UPF to accelerator cards which are optimised for executing such workloads.

Napatech addresses the key business challenges around packet core deployments through its new, integrated hardware/software solution that comprises a fully-offloaded UPF fast path implemented within Napatech’s Link-Inline software stack, running on an FPGA-based programmable SmartNIC. The UPF data path is implemented as a port-to-port inline or “hairpinned” architecture, which ensures that following initial setup all flows are processed on the SmartNIC with no need to pass traffic to and from the server CPU, maximising the overall performance of the system.

Using a single 200Gbps SmartNIC to sustain 100Gbps of full duplex traffic, the Napatech UPF Offload solution processes up to 140 million concurrent flows, with a flow learning rate greater than 1.5 million flows per second, achieving a total throughput of up to 85 million packets per second on stateful connections and ensuring full wire speed operation for typical packet sizes. In a representative use case analysed by the company, the Napatech UPF offload solution enables network operators to support 75x more users per server than with a software-based UPF and 7x more users per server than with a competing ASIC-based SmartNIC.

Napatech’s UPF offload solution is ideally suited to deployments in telco edge data centers and on-premise enterprise locations, both of which face the challenges of supporting large numbers of subscribers and/or devices within small-footprint servers that maximise energy efficiency. At Network X, Napatech will showcase its NT200 SmartNIC installed in an Advantech SKY-8260S server, which is a 2U single-socket server optimised for edge infrastructure.

“Napatech is thrilled to be working with partners like Advantech as we bring our UPF offload solution to market”, says Napatech senior director of business development Charlie Ashton. “Our strategy is to ensure that end-users such as telecom operators and enterprise IT organisations can access our technology through the server suppliers, software vendors and system integrators that they select, so a robust ecosystem facilitates and accelerates their deployments.”

“The Advantech SKY-8260S carrier-grade server powered by the AMD EPYC 7003 Series processor is specifically designed to address the challenges of telco edge and enterprise on-premise infrastructure, delivering high density, optimised performance, advanced reliability and robust environmental features,” says Ben Shen, director, cloud-IoT group at Advantech. “We are pleased to be partnering with Napatech to enable the deployment of high-performance packet core infrastructure in a small-footprint platform optimised for the network edge.”

For more information on Napatech’s SmartNIC solutions, visit here.

Comment on this article below or via Twitter @IoTGN