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Micro and Macro Network Slicing: an experimental assessment of the impact of increasing numbers of slices

Meneses, F. ; Silva, R. ; Corujo, D. ; Aguiar, R.

Wireless Personal Communications Vol. 106, Nº 1, pp. 119 - 134, March, 2019.

ISSN (print): 1572-834X
ISSN (online): 0929-6212

Journal Impact Factor: 0,653 (in 2014)

Digital Object Identifier: 10.1007/s11277-019-06267-4

The Fifth Generation (5G) telecommunications network aims not only to enhance traffic performance and allow efficient management, but also to enable it to dynamically and flexibly adapt to the traffic demands of different vertical scenarios. In order to support that enablement, the underlying network procedures (i.e., network functions) are being virtualized and deployed in cloud-based environments, allowing for a more optimized usage of the infra-structure resources. In addition, such resources can be sliced, allowing isolated provisioning to specific network functions allocated to disparate vertical deployments. As network slices are envisaged by network operators to fulfill a small number of slices, able to cater towards essential 5G scenario demands (i.e., enhanced mobile broadband, massive machine-type communications and ultra reliable low-latency communications), the total amount of slices existing in a system is currently dictated by the underlying operational overhead placed over the cloud infra-structure. This paper explores the challenges associated to a vision where the network slicing concept is applied with a much greater level of granularity, ultimately allowing it to become a core mechanism of the network's operation, with large numbers of co-existing slices. In that respect, this paper proposes an architecture framework for instantiation of network slices among network providers, which in turn are able to instantiate sub-slices tailored to use cases and vertical tenants. The evaluation of this concept is done following a two-pronged approach: firstly, different slice dimensions (i.e., from micro to macro) are proposed and discussed, pointing out the benefits and challenges of each proposed slice; secondly, we deployed a mobile network provider (MNO), using OpenAirInterface and FlexRAN frameworks, and experimentally evaluated the its slicing mechanisms. The objective is to provide insight on the challenges and impact associated with the deployment of an increasing amount of slices, using the same available infra-structural resources.