MobiledgeX launches enterprise edge computing collective Seamster

Edge computing specialist MobiledgeX has created an organization dedicated to enterprise use case exploration and adoption with some big names already on board.

“Our purpose is to provide a clear, comprehensive understanding of the edge market and to support industry-wide adoption of edge-enabled technologies and innovations,” says the Seamster website. To help it do that, it already has Accedian, Dell EMC, MobiledgeX, Stratacache, Topio Networks, VMware, and Worldwide Technology mucking in to the collective effort.

“When you start with the critical question about who the edge is for, you begin to see this massive opportunity from a very different perspective,” said MobiledgeX CEO Jason Hoffman. “Seamster is bringing together an eclectic array of players to expedite the information, support and resources needed to help enterprises leverage 5G and edge computing to finally solve problems in their digital transformation efforts. We invite all companies interested in pursuing this common goal to join Seamster.”

For all this talk of 5G the founding fathers are thinly represented by the telecoms community. Accedian is all about network assurance but the Dell ecosystem is very much from the enterprise perspective and the networks Topio creates are the human kind. Edge computing is where the IT and telecoms worlds collide and it would be good to see a few members of the latter join the part before long.

Having said that MobiledgeX itself was created by Deutsche Telekom back in 2018, so maybe the whole point of it is to get more enterprise companies involved. Either way it seems like a good idea to help the IT and telecoms sectors understand each other better. If this sort of thing takes off it may remove any doubt that it’s only by working together will the broader ICT world make the most of the edge opportunity.

GSMA takes standardisation to the edge

The GSMA has announced a new working group to develop an Edge Compute architectural framework and reference platform.

With China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, EE, KDDI, Orange, Singtel, SK Telecom, Telefonica and TIM joining forces, the aim will be to develop an interoperable platform to make edge compute capabilities widely and easily available. The edge has long been championed as a means to drive additional revenues and differentiation, though if the telco industry is not sharp enough it will lose the initiative to the internet giants.

“Operators are very well placed to provide capabilities such as low latency through their network assets,” said Alex Sinclair, CTO at GSMA. “It is essential for enterprises to be able to reach all of their customers from the edge of any network. Based on the GSMA Operator Platform Specification, Telco Edge Cloud will provide enterprise developers and aggregators with a consistent way to reach connected customers.”

One of the issues which has been facing progress in this emerging segment is interoperability. Fragmentation is the enemy of the telco world and the GSMA is hoping these specifications will address these challenges.

“Edge Cloud is a promising opportunity to enable the development of services that need low latency connection and to meet various service demands from enterprise customers,” said Yoshiaki Uchida, Executive Director, Technology Sector at KDDI. “The innovation of telecommunication services will be accelerated by the enhancement of service quality and the customer experience in real-time applications such as cloud XR and cloud gaming.”

Edge cloud and computing is an opportunity to deliver new services based on the low-latency advantage which the 5G era can offer. While this is a clear opportunity to add additional value and work with more enterprise customers for mission critical services, the profits are being threatened by the internet giants.

The likes of AWS, Microsoft and Google have been beefing up their cloud services team with new hires and the creation of new services to make good on this promise also. This is a promising new segment for the connectivity world, a chance to offer genuinely new services, though the telcos will have to duke it out with the internet giants.

Huawei pledges $1.5 billion to its new developer program

Huawei has announced that it will invest $1.5 billion in the next five years to boost its developer ecosystem for the Kunpeng and Ascend computing platforms.

SDKs were also released at the same event when its Developer Program 2.0 was unveiled.The announcement was made at the 2019 version of the Chinese vendor’s annual Huawei Connect event in Shanghai. According to Patrick Zhang, CTO of Cloud & AI Products & Services at Huawei, the new program will cover five key areas:

  • Building an open computing industry ecosystem based on Kunpeng + Ascend computing processors
  • Establishing an all-round enablement system
  • Promoting the development of industry standards, specifications, demonstration sites, and technical certification system
  • Building industry-specific application ecosystems and region-specific industry ecosystems
  • Sharing Kunpeng and Ascend computing power, making it available to every developer

The focus areas are related to cloud computing and artificial intelligence. The applications and services the ecosystem aims to support are for server level, either in the centralized cloud or on the edge. To enable the ecosystem development, Huawei also published Kunpeng Developer Kit and ModelArts 2.0 AI development platform.

Despite that x86 architecture is still dominating the server market, ARM has worked to break the monopoly, and Huawei is one of ARM’s leading licensees. Earlier this year Huawei released Kunpeng 920, its CPU based on ARMv8 design. Huawei aims to expand its share in the server market with Kunpeng’s superior computing power claimed by Huawei, most likely starting from the market in China.

But Huawei’s ambitions go way beyond moving more boxes. Its cloud service has been promoted for its strong AI capability, supported by the Ascend AI chips. The Ascend 910, the latest version, was released in August, which the company claimed is the world’s most powerful AI processor.

By enriching its ecosystems, Huawei hopes it will be able to deliver a full suite of solutions, including supporting digital transformation undertake by increasing numbers of telecom operators.

This is the second iteration of Huawei’s Developer Program. The Developer Program 1.0 was launched in 2015.

Should operators try to own the edge?

At the Edge Computing Congress 2019 in London, the keynotes and panel discussions focused on the unique opportunity for operators to own the edge if they want to.

Edge computing refers to distributed datacenters that place reduce the physical distance between the cloud and the edge of the network – i.e. the RAN. The main point of this is to reduce the lag from interacting with the cloud in real time and to allow the kind of low-latency communication services that promise to be the most novel new feature of 5G. Edge computing is also expected to help with things like bandwidth flexibility for IoT, cloud security and data localisation.

The presentations were opened by Julian Bright of analyst firm Ovum, who warned that 5G probably needs the edge more than the edge needs 5G and set the tone for the rest of the morning by asking who will own it. Bright also raised the issue of interoperability and noted that the definition of a common framework for edge computing is some way from being determined.

As is often the way, most of the talking points came from a panel (pictured) that aimed to explore definitions of edge computing, what the point of it is, and the business cases for investing in it. It was agreed that the edge is not a discrete, standalone thing, but rather an extension of the cloud. That said, by definition it requires its own separate physical infrastructure, which has to be built and owned by someone.

This is presents a unique opportunity for operators, for whom distributed infrastructure is a core competence. They also own, or at least have access to, a lot of remote locations, so they have a head start over cloud specialists and IT companies. Edge computing was said to be the perfect example of the convergence of networks and IT, which raises the question of which of those worlds will define and own it.

A key issue for edge computing concerns interoperability. As an extension of the public cloud it needs to be usable by all stakeholders. One way to ensure this is standardisation, something the telecoms world is very familiar with. Standardisation typically takes a long time, however, and the panel warned that operators are likely to lose their advantages in this space if they allow themselves to be bogged down by it.

There are also cultural dynamics involved. The IT world typically moves faster and is less risk-averse than the networking world. While telcos are used to significant infrastructure capex, this is typically in areas where there is proven demand and ROI. Heavy investment in edge computing will require more of a ‘build it and they will come’ strategic philosophy.

This observation led to a discussion of the chicken-and-egg dilemma that comes with the prospect of investing in a new technological platform without a mature business case to go with it. As we saw with historical attempts to break the duopoly in smartphone operating systems, it’s hard to get customers for your platform without a strong app ecosystem, but developers are reluctant to embrace any platform that doesn’t have a large and enduring user base.

There was unanimity among the panel that ownership of the edge is there for operators to take if they want it, but they need to move fast. If they do they will need to accept risk in the form of capex without the guaranteed ROI they’re used to and they will also need to seed the app ecosystem in ways they have historically avoided. For operators the edge is about new revenue opportunities rather than efficiencies and their approach to it needs to reflect that.

After the panel there was a keynote from Mahadev Satyanarayanan, Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, who further explored the value propositions of edge computing. He stressed that the deeper the use of the edge, the more of a premium can be charged for the resulting service. A real-world example of such a service can be seen in the video below of a project Satyanarayanan oversaw, using vehicle cameras to enable crowdsourced traffic information without the driver needing to be actively involved.

75% of enterprise data expected to be processed on the edge by 2020

Industry experts participating in the Edge Computing Congress shared their views on how and when enterprises can benefit from edge computing.

Vodafone believes the market is quickly evolving from a centralised cloud to distributed cloud, expecting 75% of enterprise generated data will be processed outside of a centralised data centre by 2020.

This year’s Edge Computing Congress is being held in west London, where stakeholders on the value-chain are bouncing ideas off each other on how edge computing will impact the industry and how to capture opportunities brought about by the evolution of computing from the centre to the edge.

In a recent Telecoms.com Intelligence report, we predicted that 5G will help push edge computing from a small group of early adopters to be embraced by a much larger number of companies. This prediction is largely confirmed on Day 1 of the conference.

According to Vodafone’s data, shared by Simon Withers (pictured), the company’s Head of Digital Solutions Design, 27% of businesses are already implementing edge, and a further 18% plan to do so in the next year. The operator also predicted that, as a result of the trend towards edge cloud, 90% of customer deployments will be critically dependant on latency and bandwidth, the key technology properties 5G will offer.

To serve the fast-moving market, Vodafone is pursuing a multi-cloud strategy and is offering enterprise customers with two different solutions: dedicated and distributed. Withers also shared a few use cases the operators is working on with its partners, including supporting connected factory with dedicated edge, next generation retail with augmented reality on the edge, and worker insights through augmented operation.

Edge computing does not have to wait for 5G to happen. One of the most broadly adopted edge computing cases is private LTE for campus, for enterprise, etc. Yet this is an area that has become controversial to telecom operators. A representative from another big European operator believed private LTE, and in the future private 5G, may prove a new business opportunity for mobile operators if it is a network slice bought from the generic mobile network.

It would be a challenger if it was operated independently—for example the discussion in Germany that 5G frequencies could be awarded locally to private networks. However what worries the operator the most, according to the representative, is the webscale companies (AWS, Google, Microsoft) getting frequencies and offering services on the edge. This is already happening. Amazon has filed to FCC to expand its test on 3.5GHz band and, as Light Reading reports, this could be related to Amazon’s plan to “offer cloud-native, private mobile networks in the CBRS band to developers, telecom operators, public sector operators, enterprises and others.”

Another sign that there still lacks consensus on edge computing presented itself when a straw poll was conducted on the conference participants by the speaker from STL Partners, a consulting firm. When asked to choose the leading benefit of edge computing, two came on top, both at 25%, which are “enabling low-latency applications” and “data localisation, security and sovereignty”. Reducing connection cost to the central cloud, which the presenter expected to be high on the list, and we highlighted in our recent report, came joint last, selected by only 5% of the conference attendees.

AT&T joins the retail robot revolution

AT&T Business has unveiled a new partnership to target the retail segment, a vertical which might look completely different in a few years’ time.

Working alongside Badger Technologies, the aim here is to improve capabilities which are already in place as opposed to create a human-less shopping experience. With its new 5G capabilities, improvements for indoor coverage and expansion of MEC, the duo are targeting operational efficiencies throughout the super market.

“In-building cellular solutions, including 5G and edge computing, are critical drivers of digital transformation for retailers,” said Mo Katibeh, CMO of AT&T Business.

“These technologies will eventually equip robots with both the compute power and lower latency needed to increase revenue, improve the in-store experience, and elevate employees to better assist customers. Badger Technologies’ robots can help retailers make sure they have products in stock and in the right place, increasing customer satisfaction. That leads to increased revenue. That’s the power of data.”

Robots in supermarkets are not exactly a new idea. In some of the larger retailers in the US, small robots roll through the aisles hoping to identify out-of-stock, mispriced or misplaced inventory as well as store hazards, informing human colleagues of up-coming tasks which need to be completed. However, running these systems over wifi can be inefficient and even impossible when it comes to transmission and processing of data.

Although this is a very simple application focused on improving efficiency as opposed to revolutionising the retail experience, it is an incremental step towards automation in the industry. In a few years’ time, there might not be any need to have humans working in the supermarket whatsoever; MEC and improved connectivity will be critical components.

Firstly, you have to look at the home delivery segment. Not all consumers will buy into this concept, however with improved connectivity, this could be a completely autonomous process. Amazon fulfilment centres already incorporate robotic processes to reduce the need for humans, whereas progress is being made on autonomous vehicles and small robots to make the delivery over the ‘last mile’. In theory, this does not have to have a single human in the process.

One other area which seems to attract headlines every couple of weeks are the cashier-less stores. The concept is not new, self-check out machines are becoming increasingly common, though this idea could be taken up another level. Amazon is once again making progress here, potentially removing the need for self-scan tills completely, though improvements in indoor connectivity and MEC could help this idea progress even further.

Finally, you only have to look at companies like Boston Dynamics to see the advancements which are being made with humanoid robots. Cashiers are heading towards the door and it might not be too long before shelf-stackers might follow them. Robotics is a field which is advancing ridiculously fast (see video at the bottom of article), and while the economics will not make sense for the moment, that is only a matter of time.

The warehouse could be robotic, payments could be managed through sensors and apps, on-shelf-stock and hazards could be monitored by simplistic robotics and cameras, restocking and hazards cleared by advanced robotics and deliveries could be performed by drones or autonomous vehicles. With MEC decreasing latency, cloud-based AI constantly improving all the processes and indoor connectivity ensuring everything runs smoothly, soon enough there might not be any need to have a human involved in the supermarket.

This might seem like an unrealistic idea right now, but always remember this Bill Gates quote; most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten.

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.