Cost-effective scale and 5G readiness with Control and User Plane Separation (CUPS)
The Cisco® Control Plane and User Plane Separation (CUPS) solution for the Evolved Packet Core (EPC) delivers the ability to scale the user plane and control plane independent of one another, promoting a more cost-effective approach to core mobile architecture and future-proofing the network for 5G.
As mobility becomes a more and more ubiquitous part of our daily lives, the behavior of the network and its associated resource demands are changing rapidly. Whereas earlier demands involved a relatively predictable level of control and user-plane resource requirements, the mobile network today is seeing an increased variation in resource demands across the control and user planes. Some devices are high control-plane resources (signaling), while other devices may require very little signaling resources but substantial user plane and data resources. The introduction of EPC as part of 3GPP Release 8 in 2008 addressed this challenge with a degree of user plane and control plane separation. But as the mobile network has continued to evolve, the need for a further degree of control-plane and user-plane separation has become apparent.
Network factors such as increased use of mobile video; increasing average per user; and a growing amount of devices on the network (including mobile to mobile [M2M] and Internet of Things [IoT]), are clear drivers for further innovation on the separation of control and user planes. In addition, the operators that own and manage these networks are under increasing pressure to: 1) lower CapEx and OpEx costs as traffic demand increases and Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) does not; 2) fend off competitive threats from new and agile players, such as OTT vendors, and; 3) expand into new and different industries such as enterprise. Finally, these operators must begin preparing for the new demands that 5G will bring, such as multi-gigabit-per-second data rates and ultra-low-latency networks.
CUPS offers the ability to truly separate and independently scale the control plane and user plane of the mobile network on an as-needed basis and in real time. Operators will now have the flexibility to specialize the user plane for different applications, without incurring an associated cost of a dedicated control plane for each application. New use cases such as remotely-operated machinery, edge computing, and ultra-high per-user throughput will now be possible. Finally, CUPS enables operators to optimize data center costs by hosting the control plane and the user plane in different geographic locations as well as save on backhaul costs by terminating data at the edge of the network.
The CUPS capability of Cisco’s Ultra Services Platform (USP) involves new network elements for the control plane (SGW-C, PGW-C, SAE-GW-C) and the user plane (SGW-U, PGW-U, SAE-GWU), as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Network elements supported by Cisco CUPS
In addition, Cisco recognizes that all operators are unique in the way they build and operate their networks. No two operators are alike when it comes to what they do, how they do things, and when they evolve. For this reason, Cisco offers a stepped migration in the adoption process of CUPS with three successive variations of the CUPS solution. Those variations are outlined in Table 1.
Table 1. CUPS variations
● First logical separation of control and user plane processing
● VPP-based packet processing
● Feature parity with traditional model
● Traditional serving gateway (SGW) and packet data network gateway (PGW) are now decomposed into the gateway control plane (SGW-C, PGW-C, SAE-GW-C) and user plane (SGW-U, PGW-U, SAE-GWU)
● Control and user plane components are located in the same data center
● Control and user plane are deployed in geographically separate data centers
Features and benefits of the Cisco CUPS solution
Table 2 outlines features and benefits of Cisco Hybrid CUPS
Table 2. Features and benefits
Independent control and user plane scalability
Ability to independently scale control and user planes as the mobile network needs.
Provides the ability to dynamically adjust the network to ever-changing demands.
User plane specialization
CUPS offers the ability to leverage a single control plane for multiple user planes, some of which can be specialized for key applications. Lower equipment costs and operational costs result.
Architectural readiness for 5G provides lower implementation costs in the future.
Lower backhaul costs
Data termination at the edge of the network where appropriate brings substantial savings in backhaul costs.
The architecture allows for some traffic to be directed to regional and metro caches in cases such as OTT video and certain enterprise applications, improving the overall customer experience.
New use-case enablement
Ability to cater to new use cases (e.g. ultra-low-latency applications, multi-gigabit per session, and mobile edge computing) provides opportunities increase revenue.
Multi-level CUPS offerings
Inline, co-located, remote CUPS offers successive levels of CUPS implementation, bringing maximum flexibility to match an operator’s preferred pace of deployment.
Cisco is the market leader in virtualized mobile packet core
Cisco understands the role dynamic resource allocation plays in carriers’ ability to monetize their networks and deliver winning customer experiences. To compete in this rapidly changing environment, mobile operators need a solution that provides the dynamic allocation of network resources in an efficient and timely manner. The Cisco CUPS for USP solution delivers this capability.
Cisco CUPS for mobile provides:
● 5G readiness. Cisco CUPS for USP prepares the mobile data network for 5G core network capabilities in the future. The 5G core network will inherit the CUPS capability as defined in 3GPP Release 14. Also, Cisco’s design of CUPS for USP is designed to be aligned with 5G core network architecture at inception. Cisco CUPS supports SAE-GW-C and SAE-GW-U, which aligns with 5G core network Single-Mode Fiber (SMF) and User-Plane Function (UPF) network functions.
● Gi-LAN integration. The Cisco USP CUPS-based EPC gateways support inline services for different SPI and DPI capabilities. One of advantages of Cisco CUPS for USP is the ability to integrate a USP gateway with Cisco Gi-LAN or Cisco Ultra Services Framework (USF) so that Gi-LAN services can be done externally as well as using either Cisco or third-party applications (firewall, video optimization, DPI, Network Address Translation [NAT], and others). With the Cisco USF, service-chaining is implemented via Software-Defined Networking (SDN) technology to provide interconnectivity between virtualized Service Functions (SFs) in a more scalable, flexible, efficient, and resilient manner.
● Ability to mix different types of user planes. Cisco CUPS for USP supports a mix of different types of user planes. With this flexibility, operators can now implement specialized user planes for specialized applications without having to incur the expense of providing an associated control plane for a specific application.
● CapEx and OpEx savings. Cisco CUPS introduces the capability to independently scale the control plane and user plane in an efficient and dynamic manner. As demands on the mobile network evolve and change, operators can react swiftly without having to incur additional CapEx and OpEx. Further, this rapid network adjustment of resources allows operators to deliver the highest level of customer experiences.
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