Powder is a remotely accessible "living laboratory" to enable mobile and wireless research. Powder is deployed in a "real world" environment/configuration with radio equipment, fiber infrastructure, edge-compute and datacenter/cloud resources deployed in a "city-scale" platform.
In concert with broad industry trends towards network "softwarization", and to provide the greatest flexibility in terms of the research that can be enabled, Powder is an end-to-end software-defined-infrastructure. Specifically, Powder uses off-the-shelf hardware (software-defined-radios (SDRs), general purpose compute, state-of-the-art networking etc), and pairs that with a variety of software stacks to enable specific functionality of interest to platform users.
The Powder SDR infrastructure, combined with low level SDR specific and generic radio software form the basis for wireless communication research (e.g., dynamic/shared spectrum use, novel radio frequency waveforms to improve spectral efficiency, spectrum monitoring, signal classification etc.)
The Powder SDR, edge-compute and datacenter/cloud infrastructure, combined with 4G and 5G software stacks enable end-to-end mobile networking research (e.g., radio access network (RAN) and core network (CN) protocol analysis, enhancement and evolution, cross-layer approaches to enhance performance, tradeoffs related to different RAN fronthaul splits, mobile network management and operations research etc.)
The Powder SDR, edge-compute and datacenter/cloud infrastructure, combined with network service platform, policy driven orchestration, edge compute, or RAN ecosystem software stacks enable edge compute, RAN virtualization, network-function-virtualization (NFV) and orchestration research, (e.g., scalability/performance/management of virtualized network platforms, use cases/applications/service abstractions enabled by network softwarization, edge compute abstractions, uses cases and scalability etc.)
In addition to the above end-to-end software-defined infrastructure, Powder also has purpose built infrastructure to enable massive MIMO (mMIMO) related research. Specifically, Powder contains mMIMO base-stations and endpoints from Skylark Wirelss and mMIMO specific software from our RENEW partners. The equipment enables a broad range of mMIMO research, including beamforming, scheduling, interference management etc. More details on the mMIMO equipment and software is available on the RENEW website.
Note that Powder provides example profiles for many of the scenarios described above. (Powder profiles are "recipes" that describe the hardware and software needed to enable specific scenarios and can be programmatically "instantiated" into experiments that can be used as a starting point for research.)
Finally, Powder also enables "bring-your-own-device" related research. Specifically, the Powder platform is designed and built to allow third-party equipment to be deployed anywhere in the overall Powder architecture, and be integrated with the rest of the platform and its experimental workflow.
Powder is deployed and operational on the campus of the University of Utah. A map of our current deployment is here. (A schedule outlining our further deployment plans is available from the Powder portal.)
More detailed information on the equipment and configuration of the current deployment is described in the hardware chapter.
Using Powder is free for NSF funded academics. Short term use of the platform by other users (non-NSF funded academic use, industry or government use etc.), for the purpose of evaluating the platform, is also free. Use of the platform beyond such short-term evaluation will require payment. We expect to have rates, payment mechanisms etc., in place in the near future.
The Powder platform is a sophisticated instrument and it is often confusing for new users to understand what it is and how it can be used. Below is a suggested "roadmap" for exploring Powder.
If you are new to Powder, the getting started exercise is a good place to start. This activity will walk you through the basic Powder experimental workflow (creating a user account and joining an existing project, instantiating an experiment, interacting with your instantiated experiment, terminating your experiment etc.) You should only need a Web browser (Chrome seems to work well) for this activity.
Access to radio resources in Powder is enabled on a per project basis. Also, over-the-air (OTA) operation in Powder requires radio resources to be reserved ahead of time. The over-the-air operation exercise provides a step-by-step walkthrough of the Powder over-the-air experimental workflow.
Using a browser to interact with the resources in your experiment is convenient for trying things out, but for most Powder users setting up ssh access to the platform and enabling X11 will be necessary.
The basic srsLTE tutorial chapter provides another step-by-step activity for instantiating srsLTE in a simulated configuration.
The OpenStack tutorial chapter provides a step-by-step exercise to instantiate an OpenStack cloud platform.
Once you have completed your account setup and the above step-by-step workflow activities, you might want to explore Powder concepts and mechanisms in more detail (i.e., basic platform concepts, the profile mechanism, resource reservations, using python and geni-lib in your profiles, etc. In order to use Powder it will also be useful to understand details about the platform hardware and configuration.
The chapter on Powder profiles provides a description of a number of different "starter" profiles that might be useful for bootstrapping your use of the platform.