Converged Edge Solutions Accelerate 5G Deployment and Time to Market

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Converged edge solutions can help alleviate challenges while accelerating deployment, services, and connectivity in support of specific industry verticals.

Digital transformation initiatives across all sectors of the economy are leading to an unprecedented uptick in data — both from a creation and consumption standpoint. This data proliferation is leading to a massive strain on service provider networks, which must be rearchitected to handle a new wave of customer demand. A converged edge solution might solve the problem.

One of the promises of 5G is its ability to deliver a more agile network that meets this demand while expanding innovation potential for enterprises looking to harness data closer to where it’s being produced — often referred to as the edge of the network.

While edge computing represents a $17 billion market opportunity for service providers, according to global research firm Analysys Mason, just 6% of enterprise IT decision-makers consider service providers experts in the edge space. Further, more than half of that market resides within user-facing applications and service platforms.

To position for the future, service providers need to effectively use their networks to tap into the value at the edge today while positioning for tomorrow’s agile service platforms. They can quickly bring new edge-enabled applications to market by:

  • Understanding which industries are most amenable to leveraging edge to better deliver value internally and externally;
  • Identifying key use cases in those industries and the related applications most likely to gain market traction; and
  • Deploying these vertical-specific solutions at scale to drive new revenue streams.

Integration Challenges

While the opportunities for both service providers and enterprises are lucrative, 5G services need to be ready to deliver edge-enabled solutions via disaggregated and virtualized platforms – a move that can be taxing for service providers that have grown accustomed to proprietary, vertically-integrated platforms approach.

This new type of integration has its challenges:

  • It requires carriers to make informed decisions about various hardware, networking, and infrastructure solutions.
  • It challenges network operators to be more of a software company than a network that runs systems.
  • It breaks apart service providers’ abilities to have a single point of contact when it comes to troubleshooting and fixes.

Converged edge solutions can help alleviate these challenges while accelerating deployment, services, and connectivity in support of specific industry verticals.

Converged Edge: 5G in a Box

Converged edge solutions can be seen as a multipurpose platform in a single box — a containerized approach that makes it simpler to deploy:

  • A platform to deliver edge-enabled applications for enterprise industry verticals;
  • Enterprise connectivity via Private LTE; and
  • An NFVI platform to deliver virtualized services to the enterprise.

Service providers have long used large cloud data centers that aggregate central and regional core sites to deploy network services. In a 5G world, they’ll have to leverage edge network sites to deliver the low latency required to support next-gen applications such as self-driving cars, augmented reality, and more.

Converged infrastructure can help service providers centralize resource management, consolidate systems, lower costs and increase resource-utilization rates, consistency, and availability by grouping multiple IT components — servers, storage, networking infrastructure, infrastructure management software, automation, and orchestration — into one optimized package, making 5G easier to deploy and consume.

Accelerating 5G Deployments

While edge solutions are inherently complex, service providers and their end customers need fully integrated hardware and software solutions that are interoperable and scalable in the new world of 5G. Integration support is critical because successful deployment of the Converged Edge Platform depends on the ability to quickly validate multi-vendor architectures and deploy them at scale.

While service providers require certain levels of customization to meet their needs and deliver business outcomes, network blueprints can jump-start service providers’ deployment strategies. Experienced systems integrators can provide validated architectures that could normally take service providers upward of a year to design and test on their own. These blueprints can be good starting points for developing unique solutions for getting to market faster.

The Case for Private LTE

With converged infrastructure in place, service providers can bring a multitude of enterprise offerings to market. Private LTE networks will be a key enabler for service providers to deliver enterprise customer services and for businesses to develop differentiated models that accelerate digital transformation.

In the U.S., the FCC established the shared commercial use of the Citizen Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum. CBRS can be utilized by enterprises for stand-alone campus networks or by mobile operators to offer Private LTE-as a service to enterprises.

With Private LTE, organizations can deploy a wholly owned and operated cellular network that is fast, efficient, reliable, and secure. CBRS can further lower the barrier of entry for digital leaders in industry verticals to deploy Private LTE networks, increasing in-building capacity, providing a better experience over Wi-Fi, and opening doors to edge-enabled applications that will be demanded by enterprise customers.

Example applications include:

  • Factory-floor robotics
  • Pick-and-pack machines found in logistics warehouses
  • Monitoring and management of critical infrastructure, including electric grids and power plants
  • Closed emergency user groups used by public safety agencies
  • Dedicated, highly available networks used by government and military agencies
  • Public venue services at airports, hospitals, and stadiums

Benefits of Virtualized Services on NFV Infrastructure Platforms

As we head into the next generation of connectivity, software-defined virtual networks can simplify architectures and help transform service providers’ business models. Effectively deploying virtual network functions on top of NFV infrastructure (NFVI) will help service providers keep up with the pace of change in today’s competitive industrial landscape.

However, behind the agility of NFV is complex technology requiring interoperability expertise in infrastructure, orchestration, applications, virtualization, and automation. In addition to blueprints and integration services, some system integrators can help with NFV testing and validation services.

Realizing 5G Value Through the Converged Edge

The Converged Edge Platform can deliver connectivity via Private LTE, mobile edge computing, and virtualized network services, helping service providers realize the value of the edge in the short term while enabling a more long-term, agile service platform that allows for new revenue-generating software services.  

To succeed, edge architectures must be consistent and easy to consume — for both service providers and their end customers. However, successfully deploying integrated solutions like the Converged Edge Node requires an ability to quickly validate multi-vendor architectures and deploy them at scale. Partners can help service providers in the foundational phases of testing and validating reduce next-gen network deployment time from several years to a few months and accelerate their time revenue.

Obinna Egonu

About Obinna Egonu

Obinna Egonu is practice manager, GSP solutions engineering, for World Wide Technology, a $12-billion technology solution provider providing digital strategy, innovative technology, and supply chain solutions to large public and private organizations around the globe. There, Egonu oversees strategy and go-to-market efforts involving 4G/5G, Telco Cloud, NFV, and MEC architectural solutions for global service providers.

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