AT&T + HPE = edgy TLC

AT&T has announced a new partnership with HPE to drive the benefits of edge computing in enterprise services.

The duo has agreed a go-to-market strategy to accelerate business adoption of edge connections and edge computing, seen by some as one of the most interesting areas of the up-coming 5G economy.

“AT&T’s software-defined network, including our 5G network, combined with HPE’s intelligent edge infrastructure can give businesses a flexible tool to better analyze data and process low-latency, high-bandwidth applications,” said Mo Katibeh, CMO of AT&T Business. “Bringing compute power closer to our network helps businesses push the boundaries of what is possible and create innovative new solutions.”

“HPE believes that the enterprise of the future will need to be edge-centric, cloud-enabled and data-driven to turn all of its data into action and value,” said Jim Jackson, CMO of HPE. “Our go-to-market alliance with AT&T, using HPE Edgeline Converged Edge Systems, will help deliver AT&T MEC services at scale to help our customers more quickly convert data into actionable intelligence, enabling unique digital experiences and smarter operations.”

There are of course many benefits to edge computing, though one of the areas AT&T will be hoping to address through this tie-up will be the security concerns which will emerge. This looks like it could be one of the key marketing plugs of the AT&T proposition, as its Multi-access Edge Compute (MEC) Services will hope to drive the benefits of mobility to enterprise customers.

From HPE’s perspective, the team will be contributing on the low-latency side of the 5G euphoria. HPE suggests its Edgeline Converged Edge Systems could help create use cases where applications can reside on premises for lower latency processing.

It might not be as ‘sexy’ as plugging ridiculous download speeds, but the greatest benefits of 5G to the telcos would appear to be diversification as opposed to increased squeeze on the wallets of consumers. With more data being created each day, the edge will become increasingly important to activate products, services and business models in a faster and more operationally efficient manner. Enterprise organizations will largely be unaware of how to reap the greatest benefits, a pleasant niche the telcos could certainly profit from.

SK Telecom looks to the edge to monetize 5G

SK Telecom has announced the launch of its ‘5G Mobile Edge Computing Open Platform’ in an effort to marry two of the industry’s hottest topics.

While 5G has dominated industry discussions for years, this years Mobile World Congress saw edge computing steal at least some of the limelight. This may well be evidence of a more pragmatic approach to connectivity ROI, with telcos removing some of the buzz surrounding 5G and creating a more realistic story about how to commercialise the connectivity bonanza; 5G is only one step forward, but the edge is another.

“By opening up the ‘5G Mobile Edge Computing Platform’, SK Telecom will secure the basis for expanding the MEC-related ecosystem and accelerating the release of 5G services,” said Park Jin-hyo, CTO of SK Telecom. “SK Telecom will join hands with diverse companies throughout the globe to boost the adoption of MEC-based services.”

As part of the initiative, SK Telecom will offer enterprise customers the opportunity to improve customers Quality of Experience (QoE) by connecting their service server or data-centre to SK Telecom’s MEC platform. SK Telecom will also provide open Application Programming Interfaces to enable customers to easily develop MEC-based 5G services.

By enabling the edge, ideas such as the smart factory become more of a reality. SK Telecom claims that latency can be reduced by up to 60% by using the edge.

Although the traditional means of generating revenue in the telco space has been through very simplistic and consumer orientated marketing strategies, this cannot be the case for 5G. Such is the expense of deploying a network which meets the connectivity expectations of tomorrow, leaning on traditional business models will likely not work. To realise the promise of 5G, initiatives such as this one, which encourages more creative projects with enterprise customers, are an excellent step forward.

This was perhaps one of the most satisfying outcomes from Mobile World Congress this year, as while some might have viewed the switching on of 5G networks as somewhat of an anti-climax, for us it was a very palatable outcome.

The focus on the edge, and the dampening of 5G hype, set the stage for progress. Yes, the industry has spent a lot of the futureproof networks, and yes, investors are craving the promised profits, but conversations felt much more realistic, pointing towards the work which still needs to be done. Afterall, 5G should be viewed as a catalyst to secure new revenues, not as the silver bullet.

Are you ready to look at 6G?

We can hear the groans already, but we’re going to do it anyway. Let’s have a look at what 6G could possibly contribute to the connected economy.

Such is our desire for progress, we haven’t even launched 5G but the best and brightest around are already considering what 6G will bring to the world. It does kind of make sense though, to avoid the dreaded staggering of download speeds and the horrific appearance of buffering symbols, the industry has to look far beyond the horizon.

If you consider the uphill struggle it has been to get 5G to this point, and we haven’t even launched glorious ‘G’ properly, how long will it take before we get to 6G? Or perhaps a better question is how long before we actually need it?

“5G will not be able to handle the number of ‘things’ which are connected to the network in a couple of years’ time,” said Scott Petty, CTO of Vodafone UK. “We need to start thinking about 6G now and we have people who are participating in the standards groups already.”

This is perhaps the issue which we are facing in the future; the sheer volume of ‘things’ which will be connected to the internet. As Petty points out, 5G is about being bigger, badder and leaner. Download speeds will be faster, reliability will be better, and latency will be almost none existent, but the weight of ‘things’ will almost certainly have an impact. Today’s networks haven’t been built with this in mind.

Trying to find consensus on the growth of IOT is somewhat of a difficult task, such is the variety of predictions. Everyone predicts the same thing, the number of devices will grow in an extra-ordinary fashion, but the figures vary by billions.

Using Ericsson’s latest mobility report, the team is estimating cellular IoT connections will reach 4.1 billion in 2024, of which 2.7 billion will be in North East Asia. This is a huge number and growth will only accelerate year-on-year. But here is thing, we’re basing these judgments on what we know today; the number of IOT devices will be more dependent on new products, services and business models which will appear when the right people have the 5G tools to play around with. Who knows what the growth could actually be?

IOT Growth

Another aspect to consider is the emergence of new devices. As it stands, current IOT devices deliver such a minor slice of the total cellular traffic around the world its not much of a consideration, however with new usecases and products for areas such as traffic safety, automated vehicles, drones and industrial automation, the status quo will change. As IOT becomes more commonplace and complicated, data demands might well increase, adding to network strain.

Petty suggests this will be the massive gamechanger for the communications industry over the next few years and will define the case for 6G. But, who knows what the killer usecase will be for 5G, or what needs will actually push the case for the next evolution of networks. That said, more efficient use of the spectrum is almost certainly going to be one of the parameters. According to Petty, this will help with the tsunami of things but there is a lot of new science which will have to be considered.

Then again, 6G might not be measured under the same requirements as today…

Sooner or later the industry will have to stop selling itself under the ‘bigger, badder, faster’ mantra, as speeds will become irrelevant. If you have a strong and stable 4G connection today, there isn’t much you can’t do. Few applications or videos that are available to the consumer require 5G to function properly, something which telco marketers will have to adapt to in the coming years as they try to convince customers to upgrade to 5G contracts.

4G and arguably todays vision of 5G has always been about making the pipe bigger and faster, because those were the demands of the telcos trying to meet the demands of the consumer. 6G might be measured under different KPIs, for example, energy efficiency.

According to Alan Carlton, Managing Director of InterDigital’s European business, the drive towards more speed and more data is mainly self-imposed. The next ‘G’ can be defined as what the industry wants it to be. The telcos would have to think of other ways to sell connectivity services to the consumer, but they will have to do that sooner or later.

The great thing about 5G is that we are barely scratching the surface of what is capable. “We’re not even at 5.0G yet,” said Carlton. “And this is part of the confusion.”

What 5G is nowadays is essentially LTE-A Pro. We’re talking about 256-QAM and Massive MIMO but that is not really a different conversation. With Release 16 on the horizon and future standards groups working on topics such virtualisation, MMwave and total cost of ownership, future phases of 5G will promise so much more.

The next step for Carlton is not necessarily making everything faster, or more reliable or lower latency, but the next ‘G’ could be all about ditching the wires. Fibre is an inflexible commodity, and while it might be fantastic, why do we need it? Why shouldn’t the next vision of connectivity be one where we don’t have any wires at all?

Carlton’s approach to the future of connectivity is somewhat different to the norm. This is an industry which is fascinated by the pipes themselves and delivering services faster, but these working groups and standards bodies are driving change for the benefit of the industry. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about making something faster, so you can charge more, just a change to the status quo which benefits the industry.

Coming back to the energy efficiency idea, this is certainly something which has been suggested elsewhere. IEEE has been running a series of conferences in California addressing this very issue, as delivering 1000X more data is naturally going to consume more energy to start with. It probably won’t be 1000X more expensive, but it is incredibly difficult to predict what future energy consumption needs will be. Small cells do not consume as much energy as traditional sites, but there will need to be a lot more of them to meet demand. There are a lot of different elements to consider here (for example environment or spectrum frequency), but again, this is a bit of an unknown.

Perhaps this is an area where governments will start to wade in? Especially in the European and North American markets which are more sensitive to environmental impacts (excluding the seemingly blind Trump).

Echoing Petty’s point from earlier, we don’t necessarily know the specifics of how the telco industry is going to be stressed and strained in six- or seven-years’ time. These changes will form the catalyst for change, evolving from 5G to 6G, and it might well be a desire for more energy efficient solutions or it might well be a world free of wires.

Moving across the North Sea, 6G has already captured the attention of those in the Nordics.

Back in April 2018, the Academy of Finland announced the launch of ‘6Genesis’, an eight-year research programme to drive the industry towards 6G. Here, the study groups will start to explore technologies and services which are impossible to deliver in today’s world, and much of this will revolve around artificial intelligence.

Just across the border in Sweden, these new technologies are capturing the attention of Ericsson. According to Magnus Frodigh, Head of Ericsson Research, areas like Quantum computing, artificial intelligence and edge computing are all making huge leaps forward, something which will only be increased with improved connectivity. These are the areas which will define the next generation, and what can be achieved in the long-run.

“One of the new things to think about is the combination of unlimited connectivity as a resource, combined with low latency, more powerful computing,” said Frodigh. “No-one really knows how this is going to play out, but this might help define the next generation of mobile.”

Of course, predicting 6G might be pretty simple. In a couple of years’ time, perhaps we will all be walking around with augmented reality glasses on while holographic pods replace our TVs. If such usecases exist, perhaps the old ‘bigger, badder, faster’ mantra of the telco industry will be called upon once again. One group which is counting on this is EU-funded Terranova, which is currently working on solutions to allow network connection in the terahertz range, providing speeds of up to 400 Gbps.

Another area to consider is the idea of edge computing and the pervasiveness of artificial intelligence. According to Carlton (InterDigital), AI will be every in the future with intelligence embedded in almost every device. This is the vision of the intelligent economy, but for AI to work as promised, latency will have to be so much lower than we can even consider delivering today. This is another demand of future connectivity, but without it the intelligent economy will be nothing more than a shade of what has been promised.

And of course, the more intelligence you put on or in devices, the greater the strain on the components. Eventually more processing power will be moved off the devices and into the cloud, building the case for distributed computing and self-learning algorithms hosted on the edge. It is another aspect which will have to be considered, and arguably 5G could satisfy some of these demands, but who knows how quickly and broadly this field will accelerate.

Artificial intelligence and the intelligent economy have the potential to become a catalyst for change, forcing us to completely rethink how networks are designed, built and upgraded. We don’t know for sure yet, but most would assume the AI demands of the next couple of years will strain the network in the same way video has stressed 4G.

Who knows what 6G has in store for us, but here’s to hoping 5G isn’t an over-hyped dud.

Huawei launches Kunpeng 920 chip to bag big data and edge computing

Huawei has unveiled a new ARM-based CPU called Kunpeng 920, designed to capitalise on the growing euphoria building around big data, artificial intelligence and edge-computing.

The CPU was independently designed by Huawei based on ARMv8 architecture license, with the team claiming it improves processor performance by optimizing branch prediction algorithms, increasing the number of OP units, and improving the memory subsystem architecture. Another bold claim is the CPU scores over 930 in the SPECint Benchmarks test, 25% higher than the industry benchmark.

“Huawei has continuously innovated in the computing domain in order to create customer value,” said William Xu, Chief Strategy Marketing Officer of Huawei.

“We believe that, with the advent of the intelligent society, the computing market will see continuous growth in the future. Currently, the diversity of applications and data is driving heterogeneous computing requirements. Huawei has long partnered with Intel to make great achievements. Together we have contributed to the development of the ICT industry. Huawei and Intel will continue our long-term strategic partnerships and continue to innovate together.”

The launch itself is firmly focused on the developing intelligence economy. With 5G on the horizon and a host of new connected services promised, the tsunami of data and focus on edge-computing technologies is certain to increase. These are segments which are increasingly featuring on the industry’s radar and Huawei might have stolen a couple of yards on the buzzword chasers ahead of the annual get-together in Barcelona.

“With Kirin 980, Huawei has taken smartphones to a new level of intelligence,” said Xu. “With products and services (e.g. Huawei Cloud) designed based on Ascend 310, Huawei enables inclusive AI for industries. Today, with Kunpeng 920, we are entering an era of diversified computing embodied by multiple cores and heterogeneity. Huawei has invested patiently and intensively in computing innovation to continuously make breakthroughs.”

Another interesting angle to this launch is the slight shuffle further away from the US. With every new product which Huawei launches, more of its own technology will feature. In years gone, should Huawei have wanted to launch any new servers or edge computing products it would have had to look externally for CPUs. Considering Intel and AMD have a strong position in these segments, supply may have come from the US.

For any other company, this would not be a problem. However, considering the escalating trade war between the US and China, and the fact Huawei’s CFO is currently awaiting trial for violating US trade sanctions with Iran, this is a precarious position to be in.

Cast you mind back to April. ZTE had just been caught red-handed violating US trade sanctions with Iran and was subsequently banned from using any US components or IP within its supply chain. Should the courts find Huawei guilty of the same offence, it is perfectly logical to assume it would also face the same punishment.

This is the suspect position Huawei finds itself in and is currently trying to correct. Just before Christmas, Huawei’s Rotating CEO Ken Hu promised it’s supply chain was in a better position than ZTE’s and the firm wouldn’t go down the same route, while in the company’s New Year’s message, Rotating Chairman Guo Ping said the focus of 2019 would be creating a more resilient business. These messages are back up by efforts in the R&D team, such as building an alternative to the Android operating system which would power its smartphones should it be banned from using US products.

Perhaps the Kunpeng 920 could be seen as another sign Huawei is distancing itself from the US, while also capitalising on a growing which is about to blossom.

The edge will make us cash, but we need to be quick – DT

With telcos searching for elusive return on investment in a 5G world, edge computing could offer some relief.

Speaking at Total Telecom Congress in London, Arash Ashouriha, SVP of Technology Architecture & Innovation at Deutsche Telekom pointed towards the edge as a way to recapture the lost fortunes of yesteryear, but better move quickly or those crafty OTTs will swoop in again.

“With 5G, of course the consumer will benefit, but the challenges are mainly with enterprises; how you build specific solutions on one network, using network slicing,” said Ashouriha.

“What is the real opportunity for operators in avoiding becoming a dumb pipe? It’s going to be the edge. Whatever happens, only the operator can provide the next POP on the mobile phone, never forget that. Are we able to monetize this? If you want to achieve low latency, you have to process the traffic where it is being generated, not 100km away. From an operator perspective, this gives a huge opportunity to leverage the network.”

The theory here is simple. For those usecases which require near real-time transactions, autonomous driving or robotic surgery for example, low latency is critical. Unfortunately, the speed at which data can be moved has a limit, that is just physics, in order to guarantee low latency processing power has to be moved closer to the event. This is an excellent opportunity for the telcos to make money.

However, there is only a small window of opportunity, Ashouriha thinks it might only be two or three years. If the telcos do not take advantage and create a business to capitalise on the edge, the OTTs will swoop in and reap the rewards. All the likes of Google or AWS need to build such a business model is a partnership with one MNO in a market, then the cloud players can leverage the power of their cloud assets to build the case for low latency.

This is the challenge for the telcos; the opportunity is there and very apparent, but are they swift enough to capitalise on it? It certainly wasn’t the case for value added services and it seems the battle for control of the smart home has been lost, with Google and Amazon successfully positioning the smart speaker (not the router) as the centre of the ecosystem. The telcos need to react quickly, as you can guarantee the cloud players are eyeing up the opportunity.

One of the challenges, as Ashouriha points out, is industry collaboration. It doesn’t matter if you are the biggest, baddest telco around, no-one has 100% geographical coverage. To make this edge orientated service work, the telcos will have to develop some sort of framework where holes in connectivity can be plugged by competitors.

To tackle this challenge, DT has spun-off a business in Silicon Valley called MobiledgeX to create a platform where telcos plug in to create an always-connected experience for an ecosystem to build products and services on top of. It’s an interesting idea, and certainly a step in the right direction to capitalise on the edge opportunity.

With the billions being spent to develop 5G networks there is no single silver bullet to realise the ROI, but building a portfolio of services and business models will certainly get the telcos across the line. They just have to get better at capitalising on the opportunity when it presents itself.

Edge Computing vs Fog Computing

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece freelance Journalist Charlie Osborne explains the differences between edge and fog computing.

The Internet of Things (IoT) and connected devices, which are able to facilitate data collection and storage at the edge of networks, have the potential to transform enterprise systems and the way we manage data irrevocably. As the number of IoT devices in circulation is set to rise to 20.4 billion by 2020 and a 10-fold rise in worldwide data generation by 2025 forecast by IDC, in order to properly harness and manage data, new solutions at the edge are going to become critical.

The next generation of mobile LPWA and 5G technologies, including the rollout of NB-IoT and LTE-M networks, will become key to managing the IoT deployments of the future. Computing at the network perimeter, including edge computing and fog computing, will also play a crucial role in content delivery and workload management. The massive volume of data collected by enterprise players has given rise to edge computing, which is defined as a means to bring data collection and analysis close to the source of collection.

This bypasses the need to transfer data across centralized relays and to central cloud systems, which can be a costly endeavour demanding high bandwidth which can also negatively impact latency. Fog computing builds upon this concept. While edge computing is responsible for connecting edge gateways and connected devices, fog computing provides the intelligence and necessary protocols for such decisions to take place. The architecture brings cloud computing to the edge of networks and provides the support required for systems to decide what information needs to be transferred to core systems, and what data can be managed at the edge of networks. In turn, this can result in faster processing times and lower latency.

Edge and fog computing have found a place in systems ranging from corporate networks to industrial settings. Whenever an organization has the need to manage IoT device deployments — whether this is the factory floor for equipment monitoring, enterprise platforms working with data analytics in real time, or smart city connected devices, connected cars, or home mesh networks, these technologies can lessen the strain on cloud environments and bandwidth requirements.

When it comes to telecoms and 5G network deployment, some experts believe that fog and edge computing will provide the missing link between cloud architectures and end-users. 5G networks, due to roll out in 2020, aim to reach high mobile speeds of up to 1Gbps and reduce latency to the sub-milliseconds.

In order to achieve this, 5G will need to be able to utilize edge and fog computing to support dense networks and eradicate the risk of bottlenecks, caused by high bandwidth demands caused by transferring data to centralized cloud environments. While 5G will be driven by high-frequency radio waves, fog computing is a necessity due to the increase in latency which occurs due to cloud-based application requests from core networks to the cloud.

Without a means to bring processing power and compute close to the edge, 5G networks will still suffer from high latency problems.  Edge and fog computing platforms are likely to be adopted at speed in the coming years as enterprises, telecoms, and industrial players understand the opportunities for growth and efficiency improvements created by utilizing not just core cloud environments, but peripheral networks.

IoT devices, next-generation communications protocols, and networks, coupled with our desire to make everything from the factory floor to our smartphones more intelligent, will all require a stable backbone to perform. Computing at the edge can supply the support we need.

 

Charlie Osborne is a professional journalist based in London, UK. She is a freelance editor, educational material creator and contributes to IoT World News as a feature writer with a focus on consumer technology, innovation, smart technology, mobility, edtech, and security.

 

Edge Computing Congress returns to the German capital. Meet the entire edge ecosystem and discover how cloud computing, 5G and IoT connected services can provide seamless connections at the network edge.

Edge Computing: What industrial enterprises want from service providers

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Charlie Osborne of Edge Computing Congress looks at the role edge computing has to play in Industry 4.0.

The adoption of edge computing is going to become key for industrial companies seeking to implement modern cost-saving measures, 5G, and make the transition to Industry 4.0.

The manufacturing sector is no longer centred around isolated equipment and manual maintenance. Instead, businesses have the potential to thrive due to data.

Industrial companies are now operating on a global scale and have IIoT devices, software, and services at their disposal to transform data points into information which can improve both operational efficiency and the bottom line.

Industrial players and companies at large are no longer forced to send their data to one area in-house or to the cloud for analysis, which requires high levels of expenditure and can cause latency and security challenges.

Instead, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, sensors, and cloud services, empowered by edge computing, offer a scalable way to streamline traffic flows and process data in real-time close to the source, increasing the efficiency of data processing, reducing latency, initiating bandwidth savings, and more.

IoT micro data centres used by edge computing will become even more important in the future with the emergence of 5G networks.

Despite predictions that the enterprise will spend over £1 trillion on IoT networks, devices, and management systems by 2020, the industrial sector is yet to realize the full potential of edge computing.

Edge computing has the potential to disrupt the industrial sector more than most. Companies are making the move towards Industry 4.0 but recent research suggests that only a quarter of industrial firms feel they have a sufficient understanding of how digital processes can improve their business.

Only three percent of data points gathered by today’s industrial IoT systems are utilized which leaves 97 percent of otherwise actionable data floating in the wind.

Service providers have a key role to place in the adoption of edge computing. As enterprise players lean towards this next-generation technology in order to improve operational efficiency and to tap into the benefits of Big Data and IoT, service providers cannot afford to be left behind.

The enterprise expects service providers to innovate in order to push intelligence and computing out to the edge, meeting both the technological and data challenges of modern manufacturing, as well as offer ways to future-proof industrial processes.

Whether or not industry players know it yet, edge computing will become a necessity in the coming years to facilitate the transfer and analysis of large volumes of data and to control industrial and operational processes making the shift from legacy systems to Industry 4.0.

Companies offering such services need to establish a strategic plan to take advantage of what edge computing offers. The deployment of edge computing will become a crucial component of future industries, but many companies need to understand where to start.

Service providers must understand what industrial players expect, the challenges ahead, and how edge computing can be implemented as a justifiable investment which benefits the enterprise.

For more information and to learn what is wanted, needed and expected from edge computing service provider download our recent report.

 

Edge Computing Congress is returning to the German capital next month. Register to attend this event for the opportunity to meet the entire edge ecosystem and discover how cloud computing, 5G and IoT connected services can provide seamless connections at the network edge.

Nokia ties the knot with Tencent for 5G R&D

Nokia has entered into a partnership with China’s internet giant Tencent to undertake 5G related R&D for webscale companies.

An MOU was signed in MWC Asia in Shanghai between the two companies to set up a full-fledged 5G lab in Shenzhen, China, where Tencent’s headquarters are. WeChat, the crown jewel of Tencent’s plethora of apps and services, is more a platform at the centre of an ecosystem than a standalone app. It has more than 1 billion monthly active users who make payments, hail car rides, order takeaway foods, among other things, as well as messaging, sharing pictures and videos, and networking that WeChat started out to do.

As Tencent further diversifies itself to other industries, including its recent entry into connected cars and autonomous driving, 5G’s promised capabilities, in particular edge-computing to vast reduce latency will be critical. By entering into a partnership with Nokia, which is strong in R&D, Tencent has a chance to influence how the 5G technologies can be applied to certain use cases. No wonder then the focus of the lab will be on selected verticals that Tencent has special interest in, with transportation, energy, entertainment, etc. being highlighted.

It is also a smart move by Nokia, who desperately needs to find new growth opportunities than selling more network gears to telecom operators, in particular when operators in Europe, Nokia’s traditional markets, are more cautious in rushing into 5G than their counterparts in North America and Asia.

As Nokia told Telecoms.com’s Jamie Davies, interest in 5G in Asia is more on the ways to scalability. This is an ideal case to test scalability. While it is an internet giant in every sense, Tencent is highly concentrated in China. For Nokia this would be a controlled experiment and would be valuable when it knocks on the doors of other local heavyweights like Alibaba, as well the truly global webscale companies like Google and Facebook.

Smart data – giving operators the edge

Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece John English, Senior Marketing Manager, Service Providers at Netscout, describes some of the benefits offered by edge computing.

Edge computing is set to play an important part in fulfilling the expectations for 5G and unlocking its promised benefits. The connective tissue of IoT applications and services such as smart vehicles, public safety, remote medicine, robotics, and the networks of sensors deployed across smart cities, will all significantly gain from utilising 5G technology to achieve truly ubiquitous, reliable, scalable and cost-effective device-to-device connectivity.

Moving cloud, compute and processing power to the edge of the network makes it possible to support the ultra-low latency requirements of 5G and IoT applications such as connected cars, which require real time information at all times, while significantly improving the efficiency of devices.

As 5G and the IoT become more pervasive, there will be an increasingly urgent requirement to support the new data loads and unpredictable traffic patterns being introduced, along with the growing demand for reduced latency and increased compute efficiency. It’s little surprise, therefore, that service providers are now beginning to move network infrastructure to the edge.

With IoT solutions underpinning a growing number of aspects in our lives and businesses, it’s crucial that operators have assurance that their connectivity remains ubiquitous, consistent and reliable. But as with any burgeoning technology, there will always be a new set of challenges to face, and dealing with these will require complete visibility across the entire IoT lifecycle.

Intelligence and insight

The benefits offered by edge computing have seen it gain a lot of traction recently, with both established operators and new entrants to the market launching a range of new cloud and server technologies designed to effectively move data center functionality to the edge of the network. As organizations virtualize network components and functions for greater agility, speed and cost-savings, so they will leverage this new NFV architecture to deploy C-RAN (cloud-based RAN) solutions to better support the increase in their customer’s data traffic.

Managed correctly, the data generated by virtual solutions such as these will provide operators with much needed intelligence that will enable them to gain actionable meaningful insights and inform their network policy and traffic management systems. Over time, this flow of information, and the intelligence derived from it, will lead to networks becoming automated and self-optimizing. This will then allow operators to allocate capacity to areas where it’s needed most: whether to manage peaks in network demand or, in the case of IoT traffic, to manage the demands of sophisticated smart city deployments, autonomous cars, or ‘smart’ automated factories.

Use cases such as these are largely unknown territory, however, and the level of data traffic they will generate is unprecedented. Visibility is therefore crucial if operators are to effectively manage their networks. This is particularly the case with the IoT, where operators will be required to report on the status of any mission-critical systems. With IoT technologies underpinning a growing number of critical applications, such as disaster monitoring and military situational awareness, the need for assurance around security and service delivery is paramount.

Though it may be frustrating that a problem with the network may result in a user being unable to access a movie from a Netflix server on their mobile device, the stakes are considerably higher when a similar network problem affects the performance of a remote heart monitor in a hospital.  So, while it makes sense for an operator to reconfigure a network to account for the increasing demands of 5G and IoT services, it must be possible to derive some meaningful insight from the data being produced. If not, it will offer no visibility into what’s happening on that network, and this could lead to very serious consequences.

In simple terms, a frustrated Netflix subscriber unable to watch the latest episode of Stranger Things can contact the customer service center. Automated machines on a production line, however, will not be calling into customer service to let anyone know if they’re experiencing issues with connectivity, which could have a knock-on effect throughout a business’s entire supply chain.

The oil that fuels the networks’ engines

As computing moves closer to the edge, smart data will quickly become the oil that fuels the networks’ engines.

Real-time, scalable meta data imbued with user experience derived from network traffic, smart data offers unlimited scale, across all aspects of the network, both physical and virtual. Once an operator is able to access and analyze this data in real-time, they will be able to gain valuable new insights into how the connected IoT devices and machines on their network behave, how they interact with the network, and the type of traffic patterns they produce. Ultimately, with access to smart data, operators will be in a better position to make more informed decisions about how to optimize their networks, where to allocate capacity, and how to boost performance.

Furthermore, the visibility enabled by smart data can also enable operators to identify anomalies within the network; significant changes that could indicate issues such as network congestion, which could potentially affect hundreds or thousands of connected devices. Actionable intelligence of this type is worth its weight