IEEE Transactions on Network and Service Management Publication, March 2021
Network slicing is considered to be the enabler for a coexistence of a multitude of services with heterogeneous requirements on a multi-tenant 5G infrastructure. In the core network, it has shown its potential in customizing and extending service-specific functionality beyond a mere configuration. In the radio access network (RAN) however, service customization and functionality extension remain a challenge due to the rigid and complex nature of the RAN and the fact that all services have to be mapped onto the scarce radio resources. In this article, we present the RAN service engine that allows services to customize and extend RAN functionality using containerized micro-services. This is achieved through micro-SDKs that abstract key RAN control endpoints, and which can then be used by the services to flexibly customize and extend the RAN in order to steer control plane behavior. Through these micro-SDKs, the engine can enforce isolation between services while multiplexing them efficiently onto the infrastructure. We also present a concrete implementation of the engine with its key micro-SDKs, and
demonstrate the feasibility through a prototype for the MAC scheduling control endpoint, showing the versatility of the RAN engine.
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