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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution Licensewhich permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Future mobile networks MNs are required to be flexible with minimal infrastructure complexity, unlike current ones that rely on proprietary network elements to offer their services.
Moreover, they are expected to make use of renewable energy to decrease their carbon footprint and of virtualization technologies for improved adaptability and flexibility, thus resulting in green and self-organized systems. In this article, we discuss the application of software defined networking SDN and network function virtualization NFV technologies towards softwarization of the mobile network functions, taking into account different architectural proposals. In addition, we elaborate on whether mobile edge computing MECa new architectural concept that uses NFV techniques, can enhance communication in 5G cellular networks, reducing latency due to its proximity deployment.
Besides discussing existing techniques, expounding their pros and cons and comparing state-of-the-art architectural proposals, we examine the role of machine learning and data mining tools, analyzing their use within fully SDN- and NFV-enabled mobile systems. The evolution towards a softwarized evolved packet core EPC is expected to solve current mobile networks MNs challenges and set the way for high data rate and low latency 5G networks.
Such changes should make it possible to effectively cope with the anticipated mobile data traffic explosion that trade on behalf of binary signal bts review be mostly generated by smartphones, portable devices, and new traffic types, such as machine-to-machine M2M applications.
Traditionally, as new services are introduced into the mobile space, operators upgrade the network infrastructure for a better management, while at the same time still guaranteeing a target quality of service QoS to their users.
This introduces network complexity, as new specific hardware is usually deployed into the network for these purposes. The possibility of running network functions NFs in software, instead of hardware devices, is seen as a promising solution towards network complexity reduction. This technique will permit dynamically scaling the network resources for a more efficient network management. Current research focusing on virtualizing the EPC functions is surveyed in this article.
Here, we review existing EPC architectural proposals, paying attention to the different strategies involved in virtualizing the EPC functions, the adopted virtualization technology, open issues, and related challenges.
Also, we discuss the current technological trends, their advantages, and drawbacks and, when possible, analyze their differences. Softwarization and virtualization of resources and services are undoubtedly among the main drivers of 5G and beyond 5G networks, as they will provide flexibility and adaptability and will facilitate network maintenance and the update of all network functions. However, to reap the full benefits of a virtualized architecture, this technology must be combined with intelligent mechanisms for handling network resources.
For this reason, in this paper we also address several optimization means, including machine learning and data mining tools, and discuss how these can be employed within a virtualized mobile network. Vendors and researchers are targeting different approaches to use virtualization within EPC architectures, such as grouping the NFsrunning the virtualized functions on cloudspartitioning the NFs into trade on behalf of binary signal bts reviewand redesigning the network to only use network function virtualization NFV technology.
All these techniques are here discussed, emphasizing the offered advantages, the existing similarities among them, and the road ahead. In addition, we elaborate on using energy harvesting EH hardware to make future 5G networks as much as possible energy neutral and discuss how EH technology can be integrated into future softwarized mobile systems.
Software defined networking SDN is an emerging virtualization technology, which supports programmable interfaces to provide flexibility and agility on the network control management [ 1 — 3 ]. It basically consists of a number of network nodes such as switches, virtual switches, routers, and firewalls, which are automated, controlled, and reprogrammed through software commands. Open source software such as Open Flow [ 4 ] can be used to dynamically reconfigure network elements, through an SDN controller which can handle multiple network switches at a time.
An SDN-based architecture allows dynamic and flexible network operations by decoupling the network control plane trade on behalf of binary signal bts review the data planeleveraging standard protocols which enable remote management and operation. The SDN controller can run on a commodity hardware and gives logically centralized control towards multiple switches. This enables accurate monitoring and control of traffic load within the network and is also expected to minimize operational cost, while improving load balancing and data traffic handling at the edge, through the use of generic hardware [ 5 ].
Another virtualization technology is NFV, which has recently emerged to virtualize the EPC network functions and move them from proprietary to commodity hardware platforms, as the use of specialized hardware devices has been one of the limiting factors towards mobile evolution and the fast deployment of new services within the mobile space [ 6 ].
Network functions may be firewalls, domain name servers DNSnetwork address translation NAT services, intrusion detection systems, caching services, and so forth. These functions, which are of prime importance for the accurate operation of any network, are migrated into software and ran on top of general purpose servers. SDN tries to achieve a centralized control approach on switching and routing elements, thus allowing programmability of the network, while NFV moves NFs out of dedicated hardware into software that is imported into general purpose hardware.
While these technologies do not possess any intrinsic cognition, they will give rise to more flexible networks, where resources could be controlled and combined in a flexible manner. This trade on behalf of binary signal bts review expected to facilitate network management and to make it more efficient, trade on behalf of binary signal bts review the intelligence that is required to manage network resources, such as load balancing, intrusion detection algorithms, and firewalls into NFs.
As dictated by mobile edge computing MECan emerging architectural paradigm for the design and implementation of communication networks through NFV, the virtualized network functions VNFs can then be deployed at the BSthat is, at a MEC platform colocated with the BS, or at an aggregation point a central point that manages a set of BSs located close to each other.
MEC effectively moves the network intelligence towards the network edge: As a last consideration, 5G technology is currently adopting a so-called network densification approach, which involves the deployment of a large number of base stations BSsto increase the network coverage and provide higher throughput to the users. This however results in higher energy consumption, which is expected to considerably contribute to carbon emissions into the atmosphere [ 89 ].
In order to minimize the carbon footprint of 5G MNs, we advocate for the integration of energy harvesting EH into future base stations especially small cells.
Besides helping to minimize the operational expenses OPEXin terms of annual electricity bills, the use of renewable energy will help extend network coverage to areas where there is insufficient electricity, or to assist during the case of a natural disaster scenario, where the conventional electricity grid may become unavailable.
At the same time, the deployment of EH technology batteries, solar cells, etc. Nevertheless, current trends in battery and solar module costs are promising and suggest that in the future this equipment will be cheap enough.
Further discussion and results on these aspects can be found in [ 10 ]. We stress that energy efficiency is a key consideration in future networks and can be addressed as follows. First, the network procedures have to be streamlined and carefully orchestrated, and here is where virtualization technology also entailing new architectural designs will play a crucial role.
This will allow for a more energy efficient network operation. Second, a modern and flexible management can be combined with EH technology to reduce the carbon footprint of communication networks.
In this paper, current softwarization technologies, architectures, and trends are reviewed with a special trade on behalf of binary signal bts review on energy efficiency.
The rest trade on behalf of binary signal bts review the paper is structured as follows. In Section 2 we discuss the existing EPC architectural proposals, analyzing the following virtualization techniques: A grouping EPC functional entities Section 2. In Section 3we discuss the use of machine learning, data mining, and context-awareness within softwarized 5G networks. In Section 4we outline some challenges and open issues related to the EPC and MEC proposals in the state of the art and, lastly, in Section 5 we provide some final considerations.
The EPC network consists of a number of NFs, all interconnected through an Internet protocol IP infrastructure to provide packet data services to the access networks. This includes the packet data network gateway PGWwhich is responsible for IP address allocation for the UEs, as well as for QoS enforcement and flow-based charging, according to rules from the policy control and charging rules function PCRF.
It is also responsible for the filtering of downlink user IP packets into different QoS-based bearers. It also retains the information about the bearers when the UE is in the idle state known as EPS connection management and temporarily buffers downlink data while the mobility management entity MME initiates paging of the UE to reestablish the bearers.
The non-access stratum NAS signaling trade on behalf of binary signal bts review at the MME, which is also responsible for the generation and allocation of temporary identities to the UEs. The PCRF is responsible for policy control decision making, as well as for controlling the flow-based charging functionalities in trade on behalf of binary signal bts review policy control enforcement function PCEFwhich resides in the PGW.
Trade on behalf of binary signal bts review EPC networks are complex and rather inflexible, use proprietary costly equipment, and incur high signaling overhead.
To overcome these limitations, an architectural evolution that will permit dynamically scaling the EPC network functions while adapting to real trade on behalf of binary signal bts review needs is in order.
This can be achieved through the use of softwarization techniquesand such potential can be observed in the mobile network evolution trends [ 12 ]. These are illustrated in Figure 1where the changes in the access network and EPC are shown. The evolution in the access network involved the change from the use of base transceiver station BTS into Node Bs. In the last subfigure on the right, the data and control planes are decoupled and the control plane interfaces are handled by SDN controllers acting on the data plane, indicated by gray boxes.
In addition, the controllers handle network sliceswhich consist of a logical instantiation of a network, and enforce network management rules. Also, the BS in this last subfigure possesses energy harvesting capabilities, which is expected to trade on behalf of binary signal bts review carbon emissions from mobile networks.
Therefore, it is difficult, if not impossible, to come up with a coherent system design that can act as a benchmark for future EPC designs.
In trade on behalf of binary signal bts review paper, we try to shed some light on the main architectural approaches, emphasizing their differences, pros, and cons. The state-of-the-art EPC architectural proposals for next-generation networks can be categorized into the following strategies towards 5G network evolution: Virtualization in the EPC can be enabled by grouping the EPC network functional entities into trade on behalf of binary signal bts review segments to attain less control, signaling traffic, and less congestion in the data plane [ 1617 ].
It requests the user information from the user-data repository UDR, the central user information database and stores these data temporarily in its cache memory. In this way, authentication and authorization are processed internally, without performing any data transmission through the network. The idea behind this migration is that the PCRF requests user information in order to generate the required policies for each established bearer, and thus information exchange is minimized resulting in low latency for policy function generation.
The two approaches that we describe next [ 1718 ] both group some of the EPC functionalities, although in different ways.
The controller also performs the MME functions, in its traffic management layer. The data bearers assignment, usually performed by the SGW, is implemented by the controller in advance, as soon as the UE moves near a new BS. The network entities are virtualized and deployed in one plane to achieve efficient interworking, and such allows independent networks to be reconfigured in a flexible manner and automatically on the same physical infrastructure.
These two architectures are discussed in greater detail next. The SoftCell architecture [ 18 ] consists of softwarized access switches that perform fine-grained packet classification on traffic trade on behalf of binary signal bts review UEs located at the EPC network edge. In [ 18 ], researchers try to provide flexible policies in the EPC without compromising scalability.
To come up with an efficient EPC design, the factors affecting the EPC scalability were considered and publicly available network statistics were utilized. The EPC design consists of commodity middleboxes e. It computes and installs rules in the switches to direct traffic in both directions of a connection, thus minimizing the use of specialized network devices. The data traffic is then directed through a sequence of middleboxes optimized to the network conditions and UE locations, using the controller.
In the data plane, hierarchical addressing grouped by BS and policy tags identifying paths through middleboxes are used in the EPC switches to forward traffic and the packet classification is pushed to the access switches, which are located at the EPC edge. There, fine-grained rules are specified by the controller and applied to map UE traffic into policy tags and hierarchical addresses.
The SoftCell architecture leverages some properties of the EPC, that is, by considering that traffic begins at the network edge. In this way, each BS has a serving access switch e. The EPC architecture proposed in [ 17 ] uses SDN, splitting the network into three planes; i application plane, ii control plane, and iii forwarding plane.
In the forwarding plane, the EPC coexists with the access network as all the control functions are moved into the control plane. By doing so, the forwarding plane consists of virtualized network devices that perform switching and packet forwarding, according to the SDN paradigm. In addition, data caching strategies are exploited to minimize the traffic that goes through the EPC; that is, NFV techniques are used for caching popular content and store it on the EPC and access network when the network is idle, thus reducing the pressure in the data trade on behalf of binary signal bts review and SDN controllers.
In this way, latency can be minimized as content is cached locally, and better network management can be achieved through the use of virtualized EPC NFs. The proposed architectures [ 1718 ] differ from one another.
However, both of them use an SDN controller for network management and policy enforcement, under different user mobility and traffic load variations. That is, the infrastructures are deployed with simplified and virtualized network devices, whose software is decoupled from the hardware and centralized to the control entity.
Entities such as switches solely take the strategy developed by the controller and forward traffic to access trade on behalf of binary signal bts review.