Change is the one constant in computing and networking environments. It has now driven their evolution to encompass the telecommunications edge.
The centralized cloud in datacenters–today’s dominant paradigm for communications service providers (CSPs)–remains vital to efficiently store and process information. However, as the demand for real-time processing and low-latency connectivity applications and services increases, edge computing is poised to become progressively more important—and, in time, indispensable as part of a hybrid cloud computing model. Service providers can offer an edge cloud platform to deliver services for vertical industry participants, providing more innovation and ultimately serve customers better.
The edge brings service providers closer to the consumer
Not only are data volumes and application performance demands increasing, but the emergent and value added services themselves (e.g., IoT, augmented/virtual reality, robotics, 5G, machine learning, etc.) will cause them to accelerate. These technologies mandate greater throughput and faster response times to ensure quality of experience for consumers and foster widespread adoption.
Edge computing’s inherent promise is in bringing computing services closer to consumers or data sources, and is a corollary implementation to the traditional cloud computing model—which focused on centralizing services into a handful of large datacenters.
The new class of edge applications is creating value beyond what could be delivered with compute facilities based locally or at central datacenters. These edge applications are gaining momentum as the confluence of supporting technologies—disaggregated radio access networks, cloud computing and versatile cloud-native networking—are creating new opportunities not possible before. Service providers can offer an edge cloud platform and partner to deliver services for vertical industry participants, providing more innovation and serving customers better.
Service providers – positioned well and ready to capitalize
Service providers continue to transform their traditional infrastructures and operations. They are uniquely positioned to create and offer local provisioning options suited for edge computing applications, especially as emergent technology shifts like 5G come to more widespread realization.
Their role and in-place deployments (and potential re-purposing of them) leads to a compelling set of opportunities, even as the landscape evolves and its course is not entirely predictable. Service providers have an especially promising position to capitalize on this inevitable shift based on several advantages:
A long history in serving customers from hundreds and thousands of sites that could be repurposed with edge computing clouds, giving them a leg up over new entrants.
A partner ecosystem for network infrastructure and end-user services - offering some directly to consumers with ecosystem partners.
Operations transformed by adopting cloud frameworks to modernize their network and service delivery infrastructures using network functions virtualization in many important use cases.
Workloads and services already moving out of the core network (in datacenters) towards the network’s edge using points of presence and central offices – precisely the ideal locations for edge computing.
Experience with value chain buildout and high level SLA agreements offered to a variety of entities in mutually beneficial relationships, and a natural extension of this win-win mindset to edge computing services.
Focus on the network edge, where a majority of an operator’s capital and operational expenses resides, as network modernization continues and the recognition that new types of services offer significant revenue potential.
By using these advantages, service providers can differentiate in the type and quality of offerings, and can leverage the new capabilities of 5G to provide additional value added products.
Opportunities emerging from industry collaboration and delivery platforms
For service providers, the scope of use cases, sectors and segments that they can choose to serve over edge computing is staggeringly large. The range of sectors can span from media and entertainment to healthcare, while the segments served could be enterprise, public sector, and consumer markets.
Even within manufacturing, many industry segments can have unique use cases, such as automotive vehicle manufacturing, chemicals and pharmaceuticals production, food processing, oil and gas production to name a few. Logically, the mix of applications and the suppliers who provide these services encompass a wide array of organizations. Service providers can offer service delivery edge computing and networking platforms working with an ecosystem that supplies their hardware, software and services as elements of value-added industry solutions.
IDC predicts the worldwide edge computing market will reach $250.6 billion in 2024 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.5% throughout the 2019–2024 forecast period.1
Clearly, the edge computing opportunity is massive and participants in the value chain could benefit immensely. The size of the opportunity will depend in part on how each participant can integrate vertically in the value chain, and horizontally across industry sectors. Service providers stand at the center of this universe of opportunity and its potential to capture revenue and corresponding market share.
These opportunities have not gone unnoticed by others, with the number of companies in edge computing growing and increasingly including a diverse set of competitors. Besides the industry specific participants, the main competitors and potential partners for service providers involve hyperscalers, physical infrastructure providers, alternate communication service providers and software vendors.
Open Source is key to service provider delivered edge ecosystem
Edge computing solutions in each industry sector, and in each end customer case, involve contributions from partners working with the service providers. Correspondingly, a growing partner ecosystem is important to the success of service provider infrastructure investments. A flexible environment built on a standardized operational platform is required to facilitate on-boarding a myriad of partners to seamlessly provide their own value-added services, delivering integrated and profitable end-to-end solutions.
When services and products from multiple vendors need to be integrated, open source components and architectures are especially well suited for the task and emerging as a defacto standard to allow interoperable, flexible solutions today and for the future. Service providers can use an open source foundation to readily support advanced edge computing applications, whether provided by themselves alone, or in collaboration with others. Greater openness allows new and more capable ecosystems to emerge, and new, more efficient business models to develop—responding to, and driving the rapid pace of innovation.
As the world’s leading provider of enterprise open source solutions, Red Hat offers edge computing solutions delivering a consistent standardized environment to manage complex and distributed hybrid cloud computing challenges— from the cloud, to the core, to the edge. Red Hat’s upstream-first development model invests in contributions to multiple open source communities to facilitate and advance edge computing use cases for telecommunications environments along three dimensions:
Architectures - supporting edge computing patterns like remote worker nodes (central orchestration with distributed workload computing), consistent application experience with open hybrid cloud, or reducing footprint with hyper converged platforms.
Features - enabling specialized and differentiated edge use cases, e.g., GPU support for mobile gaming, machine learning, and real-time support for telco network functions.
Operations - allowing building and managing edge computing stacks at scale in a unified, automated and autonomous manner.
Red Hat provides a strong portfolio of leading edge cloud products, already serving customers and partner opportunities in the edge computing market. To learn more, we invite you to explore details and why openness in edge computing makes sense.
About the author
As a Principal Product Marketing Manager, Sidney Kriger develops a content strategy that shows how Red Hat solutions can help telecommunications service providers meet the challenges of digital transformation. He has more than 20 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, having previously worked at Cisco and Nortel Networks.