Accelerating the 5G User Plane Function (UPF) – Keeping up with the Huge Demands Part 3 of 3

By Julie DiBene

Director, Marketing Communications

MoSys recently published a breakthrough white paper on the topic of Accelerating the 5G User Plane Function (UPF) – Keeping up with the Huge Demands. In that document, we focused on how MoSys Stellar Packet Classification Platform Intellectual Property (MoSys Stellar IP), running on FPGA, sets the stage for Accelerated 5G Infrastructure. This solution combines the speed of silicon with the MoSys Graph Memory Engine (GME) IP to help ensure that the UPF can keep up with millions of routing decisions per second at the required latencies.

As depicted in below, software has the capacity to handle millions of rules but not at the speed to feed latency-intolerant applications at the sub-millisecond rate they require. Dedicated NIC/switch hardware meets the latency requirements but is too restricted in the number of rules it can handle.

  • NIC/SmartNIC or Switch/Smart/Switch (in Blue in diagram above)
    • Typically use embedded or external TCAM IC devices
      • But TCAMs are power hungry and expensive
      • TCAMs also have limited capacity of inspection Rules
      • TCAMs cannot be reconfigured to address the future market need of growing number of Rules
  • Software based controllers (in Yellow in diagram above)
    • Easily handle the tremendous increase of future new Rules
    • Software based allows virtual packet inspection processes
    • Latencies are the longest, but rule capacities can be larger
  • FPGA/ASIC based Controllers (in green in diagram above)
    • This is where the MoSys Stellar IP provides great value
    • Programmable and reconfigurable
    • Fast and cost effective
    • Performance and latencies better than Software based solutions

FPGAs excel at acceleration and low-latency processing. With advances from Achronix, Intel and Xilinx, FPGAs have emerged as a new choice to perform the deep header inspection that goes into complex UPF decision making. They can be programmed to handle the ternary content-addressable memory (TCAM)-style rules that MoSys Stellar IP uses for Access Control List (ACL) security decisions and Longest Prefix Match (LPM) routing decisions.

The combination of MoSys Stellar IP plus FPGA is well suited to running UPF in the core and at the edge. It classifies and routes packets at performance levels and latency thresholds demanded by the near real-time and real-time applications that 5G will bring.

The technical advances of 5G include greater bandwidth, lower latency, and the capacity for far more connected devices than previous generations of networks. But the innovation of the UPF has the potential to become a bottleneck in the face of so much more traffic. New types of applications that depend on low latency will suffer wherever bottlenecks squeeze the UPF.

The market opportunity for Accelerated 5G Infrastructure using the MoSys Stellar IP on FPGAs shows tremendous promise.

In such a fast-changing world, it makes sense to:

  • Use Super-flexible, fully programmable silicon
  • Use technology that can be configured for LPM, ACL, DPI, and other packet functions
  •  Use technology that can be changed to accommodate
    • Increasing number and complexity of Rules
    • Reconfigurability to be like a Virtual Packet Inspection function

System requirements will change as the 5G/MEC infrastructure grows. To get more information on just how MoSys addresses these issues, download the complete white paper here: LINK

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