Each January, the world looks to CES in Las Vegas to see the next generation of consumer technologies that promise to transform how we live, work and play. One topic that will be a major focus this year is the fast-emerging wireless technology, 5G, and the rollout of 5G-enabled devices.
While consumer applications such as immersive gaming and video streaming will receive the most attention, we believe the transformative impact of 5G will be enterprise-led and driven by its convergence with two other trends happening now in the industry: the rise of edge computing and emergence of the telecommunications network as a hybrid multicloud platform.
This combination of 5G, edge computing and hybrid multicloud represents a new computing model capable of transforming a wide range of industries.
A Faster, More Efficient Data Architecture
Edge computing is the ability to bring processing power to where the data is created – closer to the users, applications and devices themselves and where actions are taken. With its low latency, unmatched bandwidth and network slicing to deliver improved Quality of Service (QoS) for critical applications, 5G can power and amplify edge computing by making it possible to transmit data at high speeds, in large volumes and with low latency to and from multiple clouds and edge locations.
Instead of a centralized computing model where data travels to the cloud for processing and insights are then returned to the end-user, a distributed model is emerging. It requires the flexibility of a hybrid multicloud approach that brings together the edge with IT data centers, private clouds and public clouds from multiple providers. This could enable AI and real-time analytics to deliver insights to real-time processes.
Take the example of a factory. With 5G and edge computing, a manufacturer could more quickly and efficiently enable automated machines and industrial robots to analyze data right on the factory floor. The high-speed, low-latency connections available in 5G would provide the flexibility of wireless connectivity, permitting the interconnection of that machinery and the generation of real-time insights. The cloud would continue to serve as an aggregation point for the most relevant data and back-end functions. The goal is far more dynamic and efficient production capabilities.
A retailer could use AI-infused applications to mitigate profit-sensitive issues like spillage, shrinkage and spoilage or to capture the full value of price adjustments based on traffic patterns, weather or other real-time variables. An automotive company could improve driver experiences through alerts and car-to-car communications. There is no limit on the number of business-critical use cases that can be enhanced or solved as 5G and edge move into widespread production viability.
Seizing on this opportunity and making these use cases a reality, however, will not be easy. It means making important architectural choices now that could have a decisive impact on a business’ ability to capture the enormous value that can be created.
Hybrid Multicloud is Key
As we move into this new era of computing, we fundamentally believe that winners in the 5G and edge era will be those who embrace a hybrid multicloud approach.
The reason is clear: With computing done in so many places—on public and private clouds and now increasingly on the edge–the challenge that businesses have in front of them is to connect all of the different elements into a cohesive platform that enables agility and rapid delivery of new features and services. According to a recent IBM and Morning Consult survey, more than half of IT professionals believe that it will take a hybrid multicloud architecture connecting 5G and non-5G devices in order for businesses to capitalize on the potential of 5G1.
In this new generation of computing, we see businesses adopting common management and software development capabilities so they can globally deploy features, functions and security patches consistently everywhere computing is done. And, they need to apply increased levels of automation to help make it all efficient, scalable and secured. After all, the world is becoming software-defined and both consumers and business customers now expect that the products they use will continuously get better over time. True progress is facilitated through platforms and systems built for continuous improvement.
In this way, open technologies and standards will be a key enabler of competitive advantage. Open technologies and standards position enterprises for many benefits: faster innovation, access to a vast community of developers, more efficient ecosystem linkages greater agility and the ability to deploy apps or services on infrastructures regardless of vendor.
A True Telecommunications Revolution
Clearly, as 5G has arrived, the telecommunications providers are at the forefront of this technology shift. But the transformation that is happening in their business is much broader than just the rollout and activation of 5G spectrum.
As they prepare for the generation of 5G and edge computing, telecommunications providers report they are redesigning their network and IT architectures from the ground up. They are moving away from today’s rigid, highly centralized appliance-based network architectures and leveraging horizontal IT architectures. This enables cloud computing resources to be deployed in distributed data centers that serve as the edge of the network and provide a platform for next-generation applications and services.
We have seen that this has led telecommunications providers on a critical journey to transform their network into a hybrid multicloud based on open standards. The initial focus was on virtualizing key network functions and now they are quickly moving to cloud-native approaches. This will allow the telecommunications providers to leverage the investment being made in advanced container functionality. The result is a hybrid multicloud that is freed of lock-in from network equipment providers, and designed for agility.
With this transformation, the three core domains of the telecommunications network – the core-network, the radio access network and the edge network – can be seamlessly managed and continually optimized. The result is a hybrid multicloud platform designed to predict, sense and respond to real time change.
So, while all eyes are on the consumer technology at CES, we’ll be setting our sights on the enterprises and telecommunications providers. The 5G and edge computing generation is coming quickly, and it is poised to have as much impact on enterprise computing as mobile phones did for consumers.
In fact, IBM and Morning Consult data showed that nearly 7 in 10 IT professionals expect 5G to have a big impact on their business with the majority excited about its potential for faster AI applications, increased speeds for cloud services and more effective communication with edge and IoT devices. Enterprises are poised to lead in the 5G and edge generation, and those companies that take steps now to prepare their hybrid, multicloud strategy will be ready to capitalize on its full potential.
1 Morning Consult and IBM: Survey responses from 801 IT professionals in the US and UK