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SoftCell: scalable and flexible cellular core network architecture

Author(s): Jin, Xin; Li, Li E; Vanbever, Laurent; Rexford, Jennifer

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Abstract: Cellular core networks suffer from inflexible and expensive equipment, as well as from complex control-plane protocols. To address these challenges, we present SoftCell, a scalable architecture that supports fine-grained policies for mobile devices in cellular core networks, using commodity switches and servers. SoftCell enables operators to realize high-level service policies that direct traffic through sequences of middleboxes based on subscriber attributes and applications. To minimize the size of the forwarding tables, SoftCell aggregates traffic along multiple dimensions---the service policy, the base station, and the mobile device---at different switches in the network. Since most traffic originates from mobile devices, SoftCell performs fine-grained packet classification at the access switches, next to the base stations, where software switches can easily handle the state and bandwidth requirements. SoftCell guarantees that packets belonging to the same connection traverse the same sequence of middleboxes in both directions, even in the presence of mobility. We demonstrate that SoftCell improves the scalability and flexibility of cellular core networks by analyzing real LTE workloads, performing micro-benchmarks on our prototype controller as well as large-scale simulations.
Publication Date: 2013
Citation: Jin, Xin, Li Erran Li, Laurent Vanbever, and Jennifer Rexford. "Softcell: Scalable and flexible cellular core network architecture." In Proceedings of the ninth ACM conference on Emerging networking experiments and technologies (2013): pp. 163-174. doi:10.1145/2535372.2535377
DOI: 10.1145/2535372.2535377
Pages: 163 - 174
Type of Material: Conference Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Proceedings of the ninth ACM conference on Emerging networking experiments and technologies
Version: Author's manuscript

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