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.

The private power of the edge

One of conundrums which has been quietly emerging over the last couple of months concerns how to maintain privacy when attempting to improve customer experience, but the power of the edge might save the day.

If telcos want to be able to improve customer experience, data needs to be collected and analysed. This might sound like a very obvious statement to make, but the growing privacy movement across the world, and the potential of new regulatory restraints, might make this more difficult.

This is where the edge could play a more significant role. One of the more prominent discussions from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year was the role of the edge, and it does appear this conversation has continued through to Light Reading’s Big 5G Event in Denver.

Some might say artificial intelligence and data analytics are solutions looking for a problem, but in this instance, there is a very real issue to address. Improving customer experience though analytics will only be successful if implemented quickly, some might suggest in real-time, therefore the models used to improve performance should be hosted on the edge. This is an example of where the latency business model can directly impact operations.

It also addresses another few issues, firstly, the cost of sending data back to a central data centre. As it was pointed out today, telcos cannot afford to send all customer data back to be analysed today, it is simply an unreasonable quantity, therefore the more insight which can be actioned on the edge, with only the genuinely important insight being sent back to train models, the more palatable customer experience management becomes.

Secondly, the privacy issue is partly addressed. The more which is actioned on the edge, as close to the customer as possible, the lesser the concerns of the privacy advocates. Yes, data is still being collected, analysed and (potentially) actioned upon, but as soon as the insight is realised the sooner it can be deleted.

There are still sceptics when it comes to the edge, the latency business case, artificial intelligence and data analytics, but slowly more cases are starting to emerge to add credibility.

Qualcomm moves to the edge with Cloud AI 100 chip

Mobile chip-maker Qualcomm reckons all the stuff it has learned about processing AI in smartphones will come in handy in datacentres too.

The Qualcomm Cloud AI 100 Accelerator is a special chip designed to process artificial intelligence in the cloud. Specifically Qualcomm seems to think it has an advantage when it comes to ‘AI inference’ processing – i.e. using algorithms that have been trained with loads of data. This stands to reason as it has its chips in millions of smart devices, all of which will have been asked to do some inference processing of their own from time to time.

“Today, Qualcomm Snapdragon mobile platforms bring leading AI acceleration to over a billion client devices,” said Qualcomm Product Management SVP Keith Kressin. “Our all new Qualcomm Cloud AI 100 accelerator will significantly raise the bar for the AI inference processing relative to any combination of CPUs, GPUs, and/or FPGAs used in today’s datacentres. Furthermore, Qualcomm Technologies is now well positioned to support complete cloud-to-edge AI solutions all connected with high-speed and low-latency 5G connectivity.”

The datacentre chips in question will largely be provided by Intel, although Nvidia has done a great job of converting its struggling mobile chip efforts into a successful AI processing operation. Qualcomm claims a 10x performance per watt advantage over incumbent AI inference chips and, while it didn’t call out any competitors in its press release, the predominance of their names in the headlines of other stories covering this launch makes it likely that has been the angle behind the scenes.

Edge takes centre stage at MWC 2019

For all the hype and buzz which was generated ahead of Mobile World Congress 2019, the edge stole some of the attention away from 5G.

Perhaps this is more of a realisation that 5G is not all its cracked up to, at least for the moment anyway. After handing out the accolades for ‘5G first’, this now seems to be the time to settle down and take a mature look at what we have in front of us.

Numerous telcos have not crossed the finish line to offer 5G to those who feel they need it, but with the incredibly limited nature of the coverage and a lack of devices to make use of the bonanza, you have to ask what is the point? For all the promise of greatness, this year’s gathering had a much more pragmatic feel.

Yes, 5G is exciting, but its only the beginning. Yes, there is a chance to make more money, but the usecases have to be figured out. Yes, there are some interesting ideas out there, but Release 16 is where the magic will happen. And yes, today’s 5G will bring certain benefits, but there is of course a lot of work to be done.

It might seem like a bit of a negative thing to say but keep the champagne on ice because nothing has been achieved yet. And this seemed to be the mood throughout the halls of the Fira. The industry has been building up this promise of a connected society, built on superfast 5G networks, for years, but the hype seems to have been dissipated by reality.

There was of course a lot of talk around 5G, perhaps most notably because of the devices the manufacturers were showing off, but it would certainly be fair to say the edge stole at least a bit of the limelight.

Although there are some telcos out there who believe they can build a 5G business on the concept of speed, many are building towards the latency angle. This is where the edge will play a critical role, and the rational businesses throughout the world are building partnerships and investing in technology to make these services a reality.

Telefonica is an excellent example, as while it announced a partnership with Microsoft to smarten up its Aura product ahead of taking on the likes of Amazon and Google in the personal assistant space, this tie up will help it drive towards the edge, creating a wealth of new services for a variety of customers. During the press conference, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella pointed towards the edge as one of the most powerful developments over the next couple of years, and he certainly wasn’t the only one.

On the final day of MWC, Ian Fogg of OpenSignal spoke of how importance low latency will be to enhance the gaming experience for users around, while two halves of the same bad played a set in opposite ends of the hall, one in Vodafone’s stand and the other in Ericsson. While we’re not convinced this is a block-buster usecase, it does demonstrate what can be done.

While the edge plays an important role in content caching and distribution, a more intelligent can help change the industry in numerous other ways due to the idea of ‘dumb devices’. The more processing power, intelligence and storage components which can be moved off these devices, the cheaper they become to manufacture. This could potentially have a scaling effect on certain aspects of the already blossoming IOT segment.

Of course, what is worth taking into account is that there are numerous devices and services which are becoming increasingly complex. Only a segment of the IOT world will become ‘dumb’, and irrelevant of how small it is, it will open the door, encourage growth and adoption, as well as broadening the number of usecases which might be considered commercially unviable currently.

The same argument could be said for smartphones. With more ‘intelligence’, storage and processing power moving off devices, there could be more freedom to evolve the smartphone. Power demands and the necessity of having some components on the devices could be removed. There could be a lot more opportunity to create new concepts.

An interesting counterpoint to this latency usecase for 5G was raised by Bengt Nordstrom, CEO at Northstream, during our MWC podcast. Nordstrom points to the reduction in latency over the last few years, and whether this has encouraged any new (or growth) revenues in the industry. If it is simply improving experience as opposed to adding to the bottom line, is there any reason to believe this wouldn’t be the case moving forward, and does it build a business case for 5G investments?

Looking at the usecases for low latency, there are many, some of which are arguably more important than others. Video chat is one which is mentioned often, especially when one of the parties in a remote location, such as international reporters. Esports is a significant one, and this is a growing industry. Betting and bidding could be another, and while many will think of sports betting first and foremost, the financial sector would certainly benefit as fractions of a seconds could means thousands in trading, especially with automation playing a role. Smart factories, transport systems, air-traffic control, security threat detection, network automation are more. There are numerous examples.

For us, the emphasis on edge computing represents a shift in mentality from the industry. 5G discussions are all about laying the groundwork for the future digital community, but in giving more airtime to topics like the edge, the industry is seemingly more focused on the commercial realities of futuristic connectivity. 5G won’t make the future, it will just enable it.

5G was supposed to steal the show in Barcelona this year, and it certainly was the protagonist, but the edge certainly commanded more than its 15 minutes.

The iStore is a perfect example of how we can make money – Vodafone

Many around the world will use Apple as a benchmark of how to successfully engage the digitally native consumer, though it’s the development of the iStore ecosystem which can be used as a model for the telcos.

Speaking at Light Reading’s Software Defined Operations and the Autonomous Network event in London, Atul Purohit from Vodafone Group pointed towards the slow-burning and long-term investments made in creating the app store as the way to make money in the digital economy. This is ultimately one question which will frustrate a lot of telcos, how will the vast expenses on 5G be recaptured over the next decade?

With 5G, MEC and IoT trends starting to make more concrete impacts on the real world, Purohit suggested a platform model should be built these technologies, with the telcos forming the centre of the ecosystem. This is not the blockbuster cash generator, a silver bullet to recoup lost billions, which some investors might want, but it is a sensible, sustainable business model. In fact, you can already see the benefits today.

Apple’s iStore and Google’s Play Store are excellent examples of careful development of an ecosystem and the rewards which can be realised when a segment matures, but the smart home is another. Most would have presumed the telco would be an excellent focal point for the smart home ecosystem, primarily because the router is already an accepted fixture in the living room, though the likes of Amazon and Google has imposed the smart speaker in its place.

This is an example of inaction than anything else, as the proactive internet giants wrestled the focus of the smart home away from the router and the cumbersome telcos, and onto the speaker. Services and products are being built around the smart speaker, and the financial rewards will be claimed by Amazon and Google. With personalised experienced and IoT trends of tomorrow, the telco still has an opportunity to stake its claim to be the focal point of these ecosystems.

This is a business model which will mature over time, requiring long-term investment and patience above all else, though it is a model proven successful time after time.

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.

The benefits of edge computing, IoT for mobile operators in the smart city space

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 explores the role of edge computing in enabling the smart city.

Mobility has paved the way for the rapid adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) and connected devices worldwide. At the core of IoT and edge computing technologies is mobile networking, which has given rise to Big data, analytics, and cloud computing taking over what was once on-premise and dumb enterprise systems and networks, ranging from security solutions to customer assistance platforms.

As 5G networking looms on the horizon, telecommunications firms are poised to take advantage of what IoT and edge computing can offer. Data demands and the thirst for spectrum have forced a rapid re-think in how telecoms firms manage their resources, prompting a shift towards cloud-driven architectures. Any technology which can lessen the burden of data consumption is worthy of note, and edge computing has the potential to drastically reduce the transfer and management costs of data.

Edge and Fog computing both bring data analysis and collection closer to the source, giving companies the option to reduce the bandwidth required to manage information, as well as reduce latency. Mobile operators can choose to store content which demands high bandwidth at network peripheral nodes, rather than force transfers to core systems at the heart of a network. In turn, this can reduce the workload of mobile networks.

Fog computing is poised to become a necessary element of future mobile networks, which will not only be faced with the challenge of catering for data-hungry consumers but will also need to support the ever-growing array of IoT devices and deployments in our cities through networks such as mobile LPWA, NB-IoT, and LTE-M. Local data storage and analysis provided by edge computing has a vast array of applications in the smart city arena, in which telecoms and mobile operators can benefit from.

Cities worldwide are expected to house an additional 2.5 billion new residents by 2050 and as populations grow, smarter solutions are required for sustainable urban living. Research suggests that the smart city market will be worth $2.4 trillion in 2025 but the core of this growth is dependent upon telecoms firms providing the support required for smart city IoT deployments through the adoption of fog and edge computing. Smart city use cases: Transport: Intelligent transport systems, ranging from smarter traffic lights to autonomous vehicles, have a place in smart cities.

Not only can IoT provide a way to improve traffic flows, but intelligent systems can improve road safety and reduce pollution levels. Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, IoT sensors, GPS platforms, and RFID technologies all produce data and require rapid analysis to be fed back to connected devices in real-time. Fog computing and IoT, supported by mobile networks, provides the backbone to manage this information while reducing the risk of bottlenecks. In turn, telcos have the opportunity to secure fresh revenue streams in the automotive industry, an area of business once completely separate.

Smart energy grids: In order to replace aging water, gas, and electricity meters with more intelligent alternatives, smart cities require networks able to cater to low-power sensors spread over a vast area. Fog computing can act as a bridge between smart grids and cloud platforms for the purpose of collecting, computing and storing smart meter data before transmitting them to the cloud, improving the privacy and security of such sensitive data across a range of geographical locations. LoRa networks, which are able to support massive IoT deployments, are currently being rolled out to support smart energy grids and platforms by a number of telecommunications providers and ISPs.

Resident services: The concept of the smart city also includes ways to improve the lives of residents. These can include sensors for monitoring the environment, local services applications, and  intelligent services for caring for the elderly or those with medical conditions.

As fog computing is able to cater for data processing across a variety of nodes in different areas in a secure fashion, this kind of architecture should be a top choice to support resident services, specially when sensitive data is involved. Many of these services focus on mobile devices as a point of entry,  which, in turn, can be harnessed by telcos to create fresh revenue streams.

As our thirst for bandwidth deepens and our cities become smarter, mobile operators must have the capacity and infrastructure in place to support us. When our roads become managed through IoT and AI, bottlenecks can have a severe impact on safety & emergency services, and critical utilities cannot be interrupted, lest cities face the economic consequences.

As a result, telecoms firms will be held to a high standard in terms of speed and reliability. However, the smart city will also provide a wealth of opportunities for mobile operators to turn a profit.

 

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.

Ericsson upgrades Radio System, partners with Juniper on backhaul and buys CENX

Ahead of MWC Americas Ericsson has embarked on a frenzy of announcements around its core product offering.

The headline news is a significant upgrade to the Ericsson Radio System, its signature RAN product suite that has been a major part of its apparent recovery. Specifically Ericsson is launching something called the RAN Compute portfolio, which consists of a couple of baseband processors and a couple of radio processing units designed to be positioned wherever in the network you want your processing to be done. In other words this is a mobile edge computing play.

The other big thing in new, improved ERS is some new software called Ericsson Spectrum Sharing. This is designed to help with dynamic support of both 4G and 5G on the same spectrum, so long as you’re using ERS shipped since 2015, and can be installed remotely. While some of 5G will take place on higher frequencies, the stuff currently being used by 4G has the best propagation characteristics and will therefore remain valuable. This is the kind of 5G software upgrade Ericsson has been promoting as a key feature of ERS from the start.

“The hardware and software that we are launching today continues to address the flexibility needed for the next-generation networks,” said Ericsson EVP of Networks Fredrik Jejdling. “They offer our customers an expanded and adaptable 5G platform, making it easier for them to deploy 5G.”

We had a chat with Nishant Batra, Head of Product Area Networks at Ericsson, ahead of the announcement and he stressed this is all about ramping ERS’s 5G capability. Initially the propaganda was all about it being 5G upgradable, then about being ready for the 5G launch. Now the narrative revolves around this kit being positioned for the mass deployment of 5G.

Ericsson wants the world to see a picture of growing positive momentum and trying to be the perceived leader in 5G kit is a key part of that. “The momentum has never been better and we want to keep accelerating,” said Batra.

All this RAN shininess isn’t much good without some top-notch backhaul, however, and nobody is claiming that as an Ericsson strength. 5G is set to massively increase the volume of data passing across networks so, which being sure to big-up its own Router 6000 backhaul product and microwave tech, Ericsson has announced the extension of its partnership with Juniper to augment its transport efforts, as well as a new partnership with ECI on the optical side. So much for the big Ericsson Cisco partnership eh?

“Our radio expertise and knowledge in network architecture, end-user applications and standardization work put us in an excellent position to understand the requirements 5G places on transport,” said Jejdling. “By combining our leading transport portfolio with best-in-class partners, we will boost our transport offering and create the critical building blocks of next-generation transport networks that benefit our customers.”

“Commercial 5G is expected to represent close to a quarter of all global network traffic in the next five years,” said Manoj Leelanivas, Chief Product Officer at Juniper Networks. “With both companies bringing together industry-leading network technology, Juniper and Ericsson will be able to more effectively capitalize on the immense global market opportunity in front of us and help our customers simplify their journey to fully operational 5G networks.”

In other Ericsson news it has indulged in a rare bit of M&A via the acquisition of US service assurance vendor CENX. This move is designed to augment Ericsson’s OSS and managed services offerings and CENX is all about cloud-native automation, so its technology and 185 staff should be especially helpful in the area of virtualization. They haven’t said what it cost.

“Dynamic orchestration is crucial in 5G-ready virtualized networks,” said Mats Karlsson, Head of Solution Area OSS at Ericsson. “By bringing CENX into Ericsson, we can continue to build upon the strong competitive advantage we have started as partners. I look forward to meeting and welcoming our new colleagues into Ericsson.”

“Ericsson has been a great partner and for us to take the step to fully join Ericsson gives us the best possible worldwide platform to realize CENX’s ultimate goal – autonomous networking for all,” said Ed Kennedy CEO of CENX. “Our closed-loop service assurance automation capability complements Ericsson’s existing portfolio very well.”

Lastly Ericsson has announced a new partnership with US operator Sprint to build a new virtualized core and operating system dedicated just to IoT. Network slicing will be a major feature of the 5G era and IoT has network requirements quite distinct from other usage models, so it makes sense to not just apportion a piece of the network to it, but customise all the other tech too.

“We are combining our IoT strategy with Ericsson’s expertise to build a platform primed for the most demanding applications like artificial intelligence, edge computing, robotics, autonomous vehicles and more with ultra-low-latency, the highest availability and an unmatched level of security at the chip level,” said Ivo Rook, SVP of IoT for Sprint. “This is a network built for software and it’s ready for 5G. Our IoT platform is for those companies, large and small, that are creating the immediate economy.”

“Sprint will be one of the first to market with a distributed core network and operating system built especially for IoT and powered by Ericsson’s IoT Accelerator platform,” said Asa Tamsons, Head of Business Area Technology & Emerging Business at Ericsson. “Our goal is to make it easy for Sprint and their customers to access and use connected intelligence, enabling instant and actionable insights for a better customer experience and maximum value.”

That Ericsson is making so many announcements ahead of MWC Americas would appear to be a major endorsement of the event and of the GSMA’s regional expansion of the MWC brand. The timing might also have been influenced by the staging of Huawei’s Operations Transformation Forum event and even IFA, and it’s clear there is room in the telecoms calendar for big Autumn trade fests.