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Digital transformation, and the ability to embrace and capitalize on disruption, occurs when a company starts to behave like a software company. This is the top-line message from Mike Hansen, AVP of open telecommunications strategies at Red Hat, in a webinar, “Intelligent services at the telecommunications network edge.” But what does it mean for a communication service provider (CSP) that built a business delivering network connectivity services to act as a software company that delivers intelligent services? And how can CSPs make that transition?

As Hansen explained, there are several technology trends converging that are creating historic opportunities for CSPs to become digital service providers (DSPs). Hybrid cloud is becoming the preferred compute model, and a hybrid cloud that is inclusive of edge computing is expected to emerge as the model for data-intensive workloads such as artificial intelligence that can help turn insights into actions faster. Already, CSPs have been deploying cloud infrastructure using network functions virtualization (NFV) that can operate at the network edge, as edge clouds. Also, cloud native application development is gaining traction as the method for creating applications that can take full advantage of hybrid cloud’s flexibility and scalability. Then there are billions of connected devices and sensors creating data, and 5G networks that will provide the bandwidth to carry all that data out to the edge, where it can be processed. 

Wireless 5G delivers low latency

Hansen added that there are enormous opportunities for wireless network operators. That’s because edge clouds will be required to support low latency 5G workloads, and 5G wireless technology has a dramatically lower network delay or latency between the device and the edge of the network. That’s good news for applications that require fast data processing and immediate closed loop response times, such as video, connected cars, and delivery drones. Wireless gaming could benefit too.

Five-step transformation to digital services

To capitalize on these opportunities, communication service providers need to continue to evolve into intelligent digital service providers, and to do so, Hansen recommends a five-step transformation process.

  1. Evolve the network infrastructure through NFV. Most providers have already adopted NFV, but newer technologies like Kubernetes continue to gain traction and NFV needs to adapt to them.

  2. Develop internal capabilities to transform with agile, continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD), and cloud-native development environments. This allows providers to more quickly develop applications that take advantage of the cloud infrastructure they’ve already deployed.

  3. Develop a common AI and IoT data management and integration platform. A common, reusable platform removes the need to support multiple, different platforms for data collection, management, security, governance, and distribution.  

  4. Take advantage of the first three steps and transform to an AI autonomous platform network.

  5. Support intelligent services, which the first three steps will enable.

“The opportunity is for service providers to become digital disruption enablement companies,” Hansen said. “The edge offers them the opportunity to create a digital disruption enablement platform, where DSPs are their own anchor tenant using their own NFV operational support systems and analytics. DSPs will support intelligent application execution at their edges, and will launch their own disruptive intelligence services, and DSPs can also help their customers launch intelligence services as well.”

To help CSPs on their journey to become DSPs, Red Hat emphasizes the value of building out infrastructure with open source platforms like Red Hat Enterprise Linux for a cloud infrastructure, OpenShift for a cloud-native execution platform, and middleware that serves as the connector and integrator between the two. 

For access to a vast number of potential edge customers and compatible workloads, tap into Red Hat’s ecosystem, which includes more than 4,000 applications tested and certified to operate on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and more than 1,000 customers using OpenShift.

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