Edge computing and 5G promise to unlock new low latency, high bandwidth applications for businesses … [+]
Upheaval in the global environment has many leaders asking the question, what creates a competitive advantage? At the recent Amazon Web Services (AWS) Telco Symposium, Jennifer Didoni, Head of 5G Cloud and Services for Vodafone Business, addressed just this question in her speech titled in the right place at the right time – moving to the Edge.
Didoni said, “Competitive advantage comes from being able to get actionable insight to the right people in the right place at the right time.” This concept mirrors what I wrote about in the book “Right-time experiences: Delivering value with mobile and big data.” Right-time Experiences (RTEs) are products, services and workflows that offer a person the right information and services at the point of need or desire. These experiences provide information and services that consumers, employees, and partners need (or would like to have) when they need it.
Mobile, cloud computing, big data analytics and the Internet of Things provide the foundation for new right-time experiences that are contextual, learning and predictive. However, these technologies still needed to mature for businesses to realize that vision of intelligent, adaptive services. Today, the communications service provider (CSPs) are advancing mobile networks with 5G and moving beyond simple connectivity of IoT to analyzing data. Meanwhile, the big data analytics market evolved to add AI techniques, such as machine learning and deep learning, to analyze this data.
Edge computing: the newest kid on the cloud computing block
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Another significant change taking place in the CSP (also known as telcos, operators, service providers and carriers) market is the move to building edge computing solutions. Edge computing has many definitions. Depending on whom you ask, the edge spans from a smartphone to one of many regional telco data centers. A basic definition of Edge Computing is computing that’s performed at or near the source of the data. For CSPs, it’s bringing the power of the data center closer where the data is generated. Additional CSPs are partnering with leading cloud computing providers to accelerate edge deployments.
Didoni described how Vodafone was working with AWS to create what is known as Multi-Access Edge Computing or MEC for short. It’s where a provider can run cloud computing workloads from the Edge of the network. Jennifer said Vodafone sees the emergence of a multi-cloud world that combines the benefits of public and private clouds. In this world, customers select which cloud is the right cloud “to deliver the right insight, at the right time, at the right place, to the right people.”
Computing: moves beyond one size fits all
Traditionally, enterprises had to choose between the cloud for flexibility, agility and pay-per-use consumption-based model or on-premises/on-device processing. For example, if a company’s applications had issues with latency, IT would turn to on-premise options or add more compute to the device for on-device processing.
Didoni, like many technology vendors, shared how it’s no longer a binary choice between placing data in the cloud or leaving it on-premises. She stated that technology could reside on-premises at the enterprise, on the CSP edge, or in the public cloud. Market-leading enterprises will succeed by taking advantage of options such as programmable networks, machine learning, automation and the ability to orchestrate the network to best serve the application.
Didoni said that Multi-access edge computing, formerly mobile edge computing, brings together the best of these two worlds. It gives enterprises the best attributes of the public cloud while allowing you to process large data volumes, at lower latency with data privacy. Vodafone believes these characteristics will enable new applications and innovation that couldn’t exist without edge data processing.
What is a MEC and why should you care?
MEC is a network concept that enables cloud computing capabilities and an IT service environment at the Edge of the cellular network. Didoni provided an example of how Vodafone Business is collaborating with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to make AWS Wavelength available in Europe. AWS Wavelength provides developers with the ability to build applications that serve end-users with single-digit millisecond latencies over the 5G network. AWS Wavelength embeds AWS compute and storage services at the Edge of telecommunications providers’ 5G networks, enabling developers to serve use cases that require ultra-low latency. Instead of going into the nuts and bolts of how it works, let’s focus on what it means for IT and computing.
MEC moves the computing of traffic and services from a centralized cloud to the Edge of the network and closer to the enterprise and consumer. Instead of sending all data to a cloud for processing, the network edge analyzes, processes, and stores the data. Collecting and analyzing data closer to the end user reduces latency and brings real-time performance to high-bandwidth applications.
MEC helps Vodaphone place cloud computing and 5G closer to the users, which benefits applications that require low latency (sub 50 milliseconds). For example, a 60-millisecond delay in an application that delivers high definition augmented reality or virtual reality could cause motion sickness. If the network can provide performance that’s below 40 milliseconds, you can have applications such as consumer gaming and augmented reality within field service applications. At one millisecond of latency, a new world of applications opens up where you can support next-generation applications like automating logistics with industrial robots moving across the factory floor at 50 miles per hour. Visual inspections with drones and enhanced telehealth applications improve with high-bandwidth and low latency.
As the two companies said at the launch of the partnership in December of 2019, “Responsiveness matters when it comes to artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, video analytics, autonomous vehicles, robotics and drone control. These applications require latencies that are 5-10 times lower to deliver business impact. Vodafone Business and AWS are bringing the AWS cloud closer to the devices that need it by running AWS Wavelength in strategic locations within Vodafone’s 5G network.”
Didoni stated another benefit of the MEC is localized decision making. With the IoT, organizations are collecting and analyzing data from an increasingly large volume of connected devices. It doesn’t make sense to send all of that information back to a centralized location in the cloud. A company may want to understand data within a region, make decisions on the spot, and filter out the data that isn’t necessary to store. There are numerous reasons you’d want to process this data at the edge, including latency, cost and regulatory compliance.
The cloud: Now with even more options
First, we had the public cloud market. The market evolved to add private cloud, hybrid cloud and multi-cloud. Now the market is shifting again to include edge computing. MEC is an expansion of computing options that helps customers leverage compute and analytics in the location that best suits a particular application. New intelligent edges services provide higher bandwidth, lower latency and greater flexibility of where a company runs computing and analytics workloads. AWS and Vodaphone gain the opportunity to expand service revenue with edge computing. It’s a win for everyone.