Recent research by IHS Markit indicates that telco operators are extending their network functions virtualization (NFV) environments outside the usual data centers and central offices (COs) to customer sites on customer-provided equipment (CPE) or on universal CPE (uCPE).
This is translated into expectations that the uCPE market will surge from only $7.7 million in 2017 to a much larger $1.02 billion market in 2022.
According to IHS, uCPE is used to replace several network appliances and devices by executing software functions such as firewalls, SD-WAN, WAN optimization control, virtual private networks (VPNs), routers, and more.
uCPEs provide many benefits to service provider and customer alike. New virtualized appliances can be offered and deployed days after their release rather than waiting months, quarters or years for new hardware. The very flexible nature of software running on standard computers allows multiple VNFs to run on a single uCPE.
The main benefit of NFV for carrier service providers is its ability to adapt faster and deploy more quickly, enabling providers to address customer needs in a much shorter time, while keeping services at carrier grade.
Carriers should take into consideration, however, that as uCPE device resources on the edge are limited, networking and security performance becomes an important aspect of the operation.
Improving performance, on top of SW acceleration (DPDK/SRIOV), may be reached by HW acceleration (FPGA, NPU, embedded SoC accelerator).
Among the important benefits that can be gained from Arm-based SoCs are embedded HW accelerators for forwarding plane and security operations. This enables the building of smart, high performance and cost-effective NFV infrastructure, which can serve both uCPE host operating system (OS) and virtual machine (VM), which incorporate proper drivers to support it.