IBM Think Digital 2020: Helping Telecom Providers to Deploy Edge Computing for 5G

S. Soh

Summary Bullets:

• IBM is extending its cloud capabilities to the edge and it is partnering with telcos to deploy cloud services at 5G-enabled edge nodes and simplify the management.

• IBM and other hyperscalers are developing ecosystems of partners including telecom providers to deliver enhanced networking solutions for enterprises as they accelerate the adoption of cloud services.

IBM has announced new services to help enterprises and telecommunications companies implement edge computing for 5G; leveraging Red Hat OpenStack and OpenShift. Firstly, IBM Edge Application Manager enables customers to manage AI, analytics and IoT workloads at scale – up to 10,000 edge nodes simultaneously by a single administrator. IBM Telco Network Cloud Manager enables automation capabilities to orchestrate virtual and container network functions in minutes. The company has also extended a portfolio of edge-enabled applications and services to the edge to give customers a range of AI and cognitive capabilities. These include IBM Production Optimization, IBM Connected Manufacturing, IBM Asset Optimization, IBM Maximo Worker Insights, and IBM Visual Inspector.

New dedicated IBM Services teams (from existing IBM Services organization with the relevant expertise) for edge computing and telco network cloud will help clients deliver 5G and edge-enabled solutions across all industries. IBM Edge Ecosystem will bring together ISVs and global system integrators to capture edge computing opportunities. IBM Telco Network Cloud Ecosystem on the other hand brings together partners across the telco industry that offer network functionality that helps providers deploy their network cloud platforms.

IBM’s move into edge computing solutions for 5G is not surprising since the company promotes the use of AI to enable data-driven business. By adopting Red Hat open source technology, IBM has built its cloud solutions in Kubernetes to enable portability. The company also announced IBM Cloud Satellite during Think Digital 2020 which allows users to run their IBM Cloud services on-premise, in the cloud or at the edge and managed through a single pane of glass. This is directionally where IBM is heading – to allow enterprise applications to reside in any location with close proximity to data for reducing latency while enhancing data security. Latency and security are two key value propositions for 5G to enable mission-critical solutions at customer sites. Extending its cloud capabilities to the 5G edge enables telcos to accelerate their efforts to develop 5G-enabled solutions across various industries. This move will also enable IBM to counter competitors such as AWS, Microsoft, and Google that have already started working with telcos to deploy cloud edge capabilities.

Moreover, the telecommunications industry has been a key vertical for IBM and the company has deep relationship with major telcos around the world. Vodafone Business that has an existing cloud partnership with IBM is one example. Vodafone is combining its Mobile Private Network, IBM Edge Application Manager, AI, and predictive analytics to improve work safety in oil rigs, factories, warehouses, ports, and mines. In Singapore, IBM has also partnered with M1, Samsung, and the industry regulator (IMDA) to trial 5G use cases for the manufacturing sector. IBM’s edge computing offerings for 5G are part of the trial. The trial will deliver new AI-driven solutions to improve quality, productivity, and safety for manufacturing environments. In India, Bharti Airtel has also chosen IBM and Red Hat to build its new telco network cloud to deliver enhanced network performance, operations automation and scaling the network to the edge. The new network cloud platform will prepare Airtel for 5G and edge computing, and enable its partners to deploy B2B and B2C applications over its network. Unlike other hyperscalers, IBM has a strong services team that can work closely with telcos and enterprises to accelerate the implementation of their edge computing solutions.

Besides extending IBM cloud to the telco edge, IBM is also recognizing the need for the network to be software-defined to deliver the agility, resiliency, and security needed to orchestrate workloads across different clouds. The edge computing for 5G initiative is also an ecosystem play involving several networking and security vendors (e.g., Cisco, Juniper Networks, F5 Networks, ADVA). This ecosystem will be crucial in giving telcos the tools to manage, automate, and orchestrate VNFs and containerized network functions (CNFs) – the cloud-native implementation of network functions. The ability to expand this ecosystem is key – service providers have been trying to develop multi-vendor NFV capabilities with limited success so far. IBM is also not alone in building this ecosystem. Other hyperscalers are also building partnerships with telecom providers, networking vendors and telco OSS/BSS vendors to improve network performance for enterprises as they accelerate the move of their workloads to the cloud.

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