Resilient Baseband Processing in Virtualized RANs with Slingshot

MSR-TR-2023-11 |

Published by Microsoft

In cellular networks, there is a growing adoption of virtualized radio access networks (vRANs), where operators are replacing the traditional specialized hardware for RAN processing with software running on commodity servers. Today’s vRAN deployments lack resilience, since there is no support for vRAN failover or upgrades without long service interruptions. Enabling these features for vRANs is challenging because of their strict real-time latency requirements and black-box nature. Slingshot is a new system that transparently provides resilience for the vRAN’s most performance-critical layer: the physical layer (PHY). We design new techniques for realtime workload migration with fast RAN protocol middleboxes, and realtime RAN failure detection. A key insight in our design is to view the transient disruptions from resilience events to RAN computation state and I/O similarly to regular wireless signal impairments, and leverage the inherent resilience of cellular networks to these events. Experiments with a state-of-the-art 5G vRAN testbed show that Slingshot handles PHY failover with no disruption to video conferencing, and under 110 ms of disruption to a TCP connection, and it also enables zero-downtime upgrades.