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Meeting Future Data Demand with vRAN Processing Capacity, Energy Efficiency

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Meeting Future Data Demand with vRAN Processing

Capacity, Energy Efficiency


Enterprise and consumer appetites for mobile data and services are growing exponentially across an increasingly diverse array of use cases. That growth is inspiring communications service providers (CoSPs) worldwide to reimagine their radio network architectures. Traditional purpose-built hardware is giving way to software-based, fully virtualized architectures that make radio access networks (RANs) more scalable and flexible.

In this emerging new paradigm, CoSPs can innovate beyond their current service models toward cloud-native services that drive new revenue streams. Achieving the scale, flexibility, and agility to power these next-generation mobile services is an industry challenge, yet one with a distinct solution: network virtualization based on general-purpose processors.


Maximizing vRAN performance and energy efficiency with 4th Generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors

Our 4th Generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors are designed for powering cloud-ready virtualized radio access networks (vRAN). These processors will deliver up to twice the capacity1 without increasing power consumption for vRAN workloads compared to 3rd Gen Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors. This will supercharge CoSP’s vRAN deployments with up to twice the performance-per-watt to address their critical performance, scaling, and energy efficiency challenges.

And it gets even better! In 2023, we will introduce the 4th Gen Intel® Xeon® Scalable processor with Intel® vRAN Boost. Listen to what Ericsson, Microsoft, Verizon, and Vodafone executives say about it in this video.

Intel® vRAN Boost eliminates the need for any external accelerator card by fully integrating vRAN acceleration directly into the Intel® Xeon® SoC. By reducing vRAN component requirements, 4th Gen Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors with Intel® vRAN Boost offer CoSPs a greatly simplified vRAN solution that delivers:

  • Reduced system complexity
  • Lower bill-of-materials costs and board complexity
  • Reduced total cost of ownership
  • Reduced supply chain complexity

By eliminating external vRAN acceleration, 4th Gen Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors with Intel® vRAN Boost will enable service providers to reduce their vRAN compute power consumption by approximately 20 percent.2 That’s above and beyond the performance-per-watt gains of the 4th Gen Intel® Xeon® platform.

In addition, all our 4th Gen Intel® Xeon® processors include powerful features that optimize workload performance for packet and signal processing, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, dynamic power management, and microservices-based orchestration.


Driving flexibility and choice for CoSPs

With the 4th Gen Intel® Xeon® Scalable processor family, Intel continues to drive flexibility and choice. All 4th Gen processors are pin compatible across the family, enabling OEMs to use a single general-purpose design across different workloads. Intel also offers open-source software and drivers that are compliant with the O-RAN Alliance’s Acceleration Abstraction Layer (AAL) API for vRAN acceleration functions.

Complementing its processors, Intel continues to provide optimized and scalable FlexRAN reference software for vRAN. This software includes a comprehensive set of features supporting a wide range of 5G deployments, including sub-6GHz, massive MIMO, mmWave, and private wireless. Additionally, FlexRAN reference software for vRAN is pre-integrated with vRAN accelerator software with the AAL API. The version currently running on 3rd Gen Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors can be reused on 4th Gen Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors for effortless upgrading.


Intel® Xeon® Platform scalability and flexibility

By virtualizing their networks end-to-end based on Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors, CoSPs gain a converged service advantage, allowing them to run all core, edge, and RAN workloads flexibly on a common platform. Similarly, the 4th Gen Intel® Xeon® platform is highly scalable across a broad range of RAN infrastructure deployments—macrocell, microcell, and small cell—in distributed, centralized, and cloud environments.

This scaling significantly improves hardware development return on investment (ROI), as a single design can be reused across the network. Equally important, the software portability enables the same software to run on the Intel® Xeon® Scalable processor family without any changes, resulting in a significant increase in software ROI.

With fully virtualized networks, true hardware-software disaggregation becomes a reality. Operators can buy best-in-class hardware and software components from different vendors, enabling vendor choice at a very granular level, even at different layers of the RAN stack. This results in the most optimal solution, saving network infrastructure costs, conserving power, and unleashing innovation.

Adding cloud-native capabilities to vRAN can bring web-scale benefits through secure, containerized microservices. This allows CoSPs to deploy composable applications anywhere and leverage cloud service provider (CSP) infrastructure. It also positions them to save costs and get more from their infrastructure by leveraging the Intel® Xeon® integrated AI acceleration, combined with the ecosystem’s latest AI techniques, to dynamically reconfigure networks, optimize spectrum allocation, steer traffic, and more. Intelligent cloud-native networks based on Intel® Xeon® scalable processors can help CoSPs elevate user experiences, rapidly deliver new services, automate the deployment of services, and maximize power efficiency.


Intel leads in virtualizing every layer of the RAN

vRAN is only beginning to show its full potential, but Intel is hardly new to this field. We’ve been here from the very beginning. I am exceptionally proud that our years of research and development, ecosystem collaboration, commercial deployments, learnings from our successes, and constant and valuable customer feedback have all been funneled into our market-proven vRAN products and FlexRAN™ reference software. That’s why nearly all vRAN deployments today are based on Intel technology.

The 4th Gen Intel® Xeon® Scalable processor with Intel® vRAN Boost is a game changer that will enable CoSPs to create flexible, scalable vRAN network architectures optimized for performance and energy efficiency. We’re excited to bring this product to market in 2023 and to help the industry continue its transformation to fully virtualized networks.


Check out our white paper explaining how Layer 1 RAN virtualization unleashes the full potential of vRAN / OpenRAN. 


  1. Estimated as of 8/30/2022 based on 4th Generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable processor architecture improvements vs. 3rd Generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable processor at similar core count, socket power, and frequency on a test scenario using FlexRAN™ software. Results may vary. Performance varies by use, configuration, and other factors. Learn more at www.Intel.com/PerformanceIndex


  1. Estimated as of 08/30/2022 based on scenario design power (SDP) analysis on pre-production 4th Generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable processor with Intel® vRAN Boost (integrated vRAN acceleration) and pre-production 4th Generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable processor at the same core count and frequency with an external vRAN accelerator card. Performance and power vary by use, configuration, and other factors. Learn more at www.Intel.com/PerformanceIndex
About the Author
Vice President Network & Edge Group General Manager Wireless Access Network Division. Cristina Rodriguez is vice president in the Network & Edge Group, general manager of the group's Wireless Access Network Division (WAND), and general manager of the Austin Design Center at Intel Corporation. She leads Intel’s efforts to provide innovative wireless access solutions in both traditional and cloud native networks, enabling the RAN of the future by bringing together 5G, the build out of the Edge and Artificial Intelligence. Rodriguez has full PnL ownership, responsible for strategy and business plans, technical product marketing, roadmaps, product definition, forecasting, customer relationships, investment decisions and GTM. Rodriguez joined Intel in 2014 with the acquisition of LSI Corp.'s Axxia Networking Business from Avago Technologies Ltd., where she led and carried out software strategy. In her first Intel role, Rodriguez managed the division's worldwide software engineering and product development efforts. She also led the successful integration of the Axxia team into Intel and aligned the team's focus with Intel's networking business. Her team has been recognized multiple times with Intel’s highest honor, the Intel Achievement Award, for their contribution to the company’s 5G leadership efforts. Before her tenure at LSI and Avago, Rodriguez spent seven years holding leadership roles in software development at Agere Systems Inc. and its parent company, Lucent Technologies Inc. Earlier in her career, she worked at Zilog Inc. and at two startup ventures. Rodriguez earned her bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Instituto Superior Politécnico José Antonio Echeverría in Havana, Cuba; her master's degree in computer science from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid in Madrid, Spain; and completed the Stanford Executive Program at Stanford University. Rodriguez is also a member of the Intel Latinx Leadership Council and was recognized as one of HiTEC’s “100 Most Influential Hispanic Leaders in Technology” in 2021 and 2022.