A High Performance Packet Core for Next Generation Cellular Networks.

TitleA High Performance Packet Core for Next Generation Cellular Networks.
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsQazi, Z. Ayyub, Walls M., Panda A., Sekar V., Ratnasamy S., & Shenker S. J.
Published inProceedings of the Conference of the ACM Special Interest Group on Data Communication SIGNCOMM '17

Cellular traffic continues to grow rapidly making the scalability of the cellular infrastructure a critical issue. However, there is mounting evidence that the current Evolved Packet Core (EPC) is ill-suited to meet these scaling demands: EPC solutions based on specialized appliances are expensive to scale and recent software EPCs perform poorly, particularly with increasing numbers of devices or signaling traffic.

In this paper, we design and evaluate a new system architecture for a software EPC that achieves high and scalable performance. We postulate that the poor scaling of existing EPC systems stems from the manner in which the system is decomposed which leads to device state being duplicated across multiple components which in turn results in frequent interactions between the different components. We propose an alternate approach in which state for a single device is consolidated in one location and EPC functions are (re)organized for efficient access to this consolidated state. In effect, our design "slices" the EPC by user.

We prototype and evaluate PEPC, a software EPC that implements the key components of our design. We show that PEPC achieves 3-7x higher throughput than comparable software EPCs that have been implemented in industry and over 10x higher throughput than a popular open-source implementation (OpenAirInterface). Compared to the industrial EPC implementations, PEPC sustains high data throughput for 10-100x more users devices per core, and a 10x higher ratio of signaling-to-data traffic. In addition to high performance, PEPC's by-user organization enables efficient state migration and customization of processing pipelines. We implement user migration in PEPC and show that state can be migrated with little disruption, e.g., migration adds only up to 4μs of latency to median per packet latencies.


We thank our shepherd Suman Banerjee and the anonymous SIGCOMM reviewers for their helpful feedback. We thank Alec Zadikian for his help with the S1AP protocol implementation. We also thank Ashok Sunder Rajan and Christian Maciocco for their technical help and feedback. This research was supported in part by NSF, award number 1553747, and in part by the financial support from Intel Research.

ICSI Research Group

Networking and Security