How does edge computing fit into a broader telco cloud strategy?
The telco cloud conversation has been ongoing for some time as communications service providers look to build networks that provide the agility and dynamic service delivery generally associated with web scale players. But, as 5G is quickly becoming available around the world, the importance of “cloudifying” increasingly IT-centric networks is poised to be a major differentiator in the marketplace.
In a conversation with RCR Wireless News, VMware Vice President of Solutions for Telco NFV Gabriele Di Piazza shared his perspective on the current state of telco cloud maturity and looked ahead to how the combination of 5G and latency-sensitive applications will prompt further investment in virtualized, distributed cloud infrastructure.
He said VMware has about 70 communication service provider customers in production, serving up a variety of use cases for approximately 600 million subscribers. The process started with adoption of network functions virtualization and is evolving more broadly into pervasive telco cloud.
“We actually embrace a cloud concept across the network,” Di Piazza said. “I think the journey has been accelerating over the course of the last couple of years. We’ve seen it ramp up across the different regions. The trend is, that if I look at network expansion, capacity expansion, new network functions deployed, typically this has been in a virtualized cloud infrastructure. There are, of course, different levels of maturity based on the customer journey.”
Early commercial 5G deployments in the U.S., South Korea, the Middle East and Europe are focused on delivering an enhanced mobile broadband experience to consumers. However, as 5G networks scale and mature, operators will look to create new service revenues based on massive support for the internet of things and ultra reliable low latency communications. The latter–applications like mobile virtual reality or precision industrial control, will require a distribution of the compute power generally associated with a centralized data center out to the network edge, closer to the user or device.
As it relates to virtualized edge cloud infrastructure, “I would say exploratory conversations were happening late last year, the beginning of this year and we’re working at architecting and trial implementations,” Di Piazza said. “5G architecture requires a different type of latency, which requires separation of the control and user plane. 5G, especially the 5G core, is what’s being planned for today. But there are many other cases. We have examples where MEC, or multi-access edge computing, requires distributed data centers or distributed compute nodes. I’d say it’s passed beyond exploratory.”
He observed, based on VMware’s customer engagements, that the cloudification of communications networks is prompting organizational shifts within operators “bringing together the IT aspect, the network aspect, the B2B aspect, the business services aspect, in a way that we’ve never seen before.”
Di Piazza continued: “It’s like the cloud technology is influencing the operational transformation in carriers. There’s a dynamic where of course there is cloudification happening and moving to the edge for 5G, but there’s also a transformation in B2B services from wide area network services to software-defined WAN. There’s also an aspect of how to manage IT and data center across private and public cloud.”
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