The News: Qualcomm Technologies and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) announced plans to collaborate to deliver the next generation of 5G distributed units, powered by Qualcomm Technologies’ inline accelerator card, the Qualcomm X100 5G RAN. This collaboration aims to address the demands of next-generation networks, simplify deployments and lower total cost of ownership (TCO) by delivering high-performance, O-RAN-compliant, energy-efficient, virtualized, cloud-native 5G solutions. Together, the companies aim to transform how networks are designed and next-generation services are delivered. Read the Qualcomm Press Release here.
MWC 2022: Qualcomm and HPE Prep Virtual Distributed Units for 5G Prime Time
Analyst Take: Qualcomm and HPE are joining forces to advance virtualized and Open RAN technology across the 5G ecosystem. With Mobile World Congress 2022 around the corner, both companies gaining a sales and marketing boost as top-tier mobile operators around the globe continue to expand their strategic commitment and investments to their Open RAN missions.
The duo’s new virtualized Distributed Unit (vDU) solution merges the Qualcomm X100 5G RAN Accelerator Card with the RAN workload optimized HPE ProLiant DL 100 Gen10 Plus Telco Server to shepherd nascent adoption of optimized vDU technology. The system is developed to support up to four high-performance accelerator cards in a compact 1U server form factor, reducing power consumption in accordance with delivering dense 5G mid-band and massive MIMO use case.
Qualcomm and HPE needed to tout their collaboration, since vDU technology performs the entirety of baseband processing across the emerging disaggregated virtualized Radio Access Network (vRAN) architecture. Through virtualization, mobile operators can shift proprietary DU and CU (Centralized Unit) from dedicated hardware to software components and gain more flexible scaling as well as energy and cost savings.
Accordingly, HPE and Qualcomm commissioned a joint study indicating that mobile operators can lower the total cost of ownership (TCO) across 5G builds up to 60 percent by using their vDU solution. This puts competitive pressure on RAN market leaders, Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, and Samsung as well as Open RAN suppliers like Rakuten and Mavenir, to put portfolio development and marketing emphasis on the TCO metrics of their RAN solutions, especially for vRAN/Open RAN environments.
I expect that the Qualcomm 5G DU X100 PCIe inline accelerator card addresses the top operator goal of streamlining their 5G deployments by providing a solution that specifically targets easing O-RAN fronthaul and 5G NR Layer One High (L1 High) processing. The PCIe card supports concurrent Sub-6 GHz and mmWave baseband and is designed to plug into standard Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) servers (i.e., HPE ProLiant) to offload Central Processing Units (CPUs) from compute-intensive and latency-sensitive 5G baseband functions including beamforming, channel coding, demodulation, and Massive MIMO computation.
Key Takeaways on Qualcomm and HPE vDU Collaboration
I anticipate that the Qualcomm/HPE vDU solution can broaden operator confidence in using purpose-built edge computing COTS server technology, such as the HPE ProLiant DL 100 Gen10 Plus Telco Server, to boost their vRAN implementations and Open RAN deployments. From my view, the HPE telco server use of 3rd Generation Intel Xeon Scalable processors provides the dense I/O capabilities, PCIe Gen4 speed, acceleration, and compute power needed to meet stringent 5G edge computing demands. These demands especially apply across emerging 5G SA (Standalone) networks that are critical to unleash the software-powered programmability which can deliver network slicing and Slicing-as-a-service (SlaaS) according to individual use case and unique vertical industry requirements.
Overall, I believe that Qualcomm and HPE have the combined 5G ecosystem business relations and ecosystem influence to provide the TCO incentives for operators to quicken their adoption of vDU technology throughout their open RAN and open 5G network builds. Now both companies are better positioned to assist mobile operators in delivering enhanced and rewarding 5G experiences to customers.
Disclosure: Futurum Research is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.
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Ron is an experienced research expert and analyst, with over 20 years of experience in the digital and IT transformation markets. He is a recognized authority at tracking the evolution of and identifying the key disruptive trends within the service enablement ecosystem, including software and services, infrastructure, 5G/IoT, AI/analytics, security, cloud computing, revenue management, and regulatory issues.