The escalation to a new caliber of wireless network is expected to push more organizations to advance their digital transformation strategies as IBM and other technology providers work to drive the surge. During the recent IBM Think Digital online conference, details emerged of solutions and ecosystems in development intended to boost the deployment of AI, internet of things, and analytics workloads at the edge.
Rob High, vice president and CTO for IBM Edge Computing, says IBM is focusing on the core 5G network and backbone, including telcos, orchestrating virtual network functions, and network modernization. The other side of the coin, he says, is around enterprise compute being applied in edge computing scenarios that is accelerated by 5G. “That is the edge-side of 5G, with respect to how enterprises get value by lowering latencies and getting better control of bandwidth growth,” he says.
IBM announced new edge resources and edge-enabled apps as well as the IBM Edge Ecosystem, where independent software vendors can offer services to enterprises, and the IBM Telco Network Cloud Ecosystem, which brings together varied providers to drive the deployment of network cloud platforms. Companies within those ecosystems include Cisco, Dell Technologies, Intel, Juniper Networks, NVIDIA, and Samsung.
High says 5G’s promises include lower latencies, improved bandwidth density, and network slicing. That could mean a 50% improvement in latency over 4G technology, he says, though the separation between a device and the cloud also needs to be accounted for. “The only way you can overcome the laws of physics in the distance between the device and the cloud is by moving the work closer to the endpoint,” High says.
Accomplishing that means telcos need to consider how they deploy the 5G network as well as enterprise compute capacity in the network facilities, he says, so the workloads can be performed much closer physically to the devices. “That whole movement towards the network edge is an important feature of 5G deployment,” High says.
Advancing to a new network tier could still be stymied by the way the system functions. In the backhaul there could be bottlenecks in the network, he says, which eventually prevent the full potential of the bandwidth being exercised. This may occur in the distance between cloud data centers. “You want to leapfrog over those bottlenecks and get the compute facilities closer to where those devices are,” High says. “The network edge is an essential element to 5G achieving its purpose.” He says 5G can extend the cloud out to the network facility and reduce that distance.
Some organizations and uses cases are cloud agnostic, High says, and the focus is on lower latency, edge, and edge computing. Many automobiles, for example, are being rearchitected to enable for more open compute capabilities, he says. This allows applications to be loaded into the vehicle for new use cases such as analytics that monitor vehicle performance and can predict when service will be necessary or detect the presence of an object in the path of the vehicle and apply the brakes. “That stuff needs to work even when you’re not connected to the network,” High says. The car might be in the countryside, away from wireless towers, and will still need to perform such analytics. “You need that processing occurring on the vehicle,” he says.
The edge includes deploying workloads out to devices such as vehicles, industrial robots, conveyor belts, and assembly machines. It can also include remote on-premise, locations such as factories, retail stores, or bank branches that have compute hosted onsite.
The mechanics and dynamics of 5G could provide a substantial push for commercial applications. “5G is likely to disproportionally benefit business use cases much more so than 4G or LTE,” High says, where the consumer saw the greater gains for their personal wireless needs.
There is potential for 5G to unlock options that were once difficult or thought impossible, High says, such as wireless communications in factories. The spectrum some other wireless protocols use, he says, operate at a frequency that has the potential for disrupting factory operations and equipment. The protocols 5G employs are safer in such settings, High says, for use among the devices and systems in factories. “Now you can wirelessly connect a lot of the intelligent equipment in the factory,” he says.
For more on the affect 5G may have on enterprise, follow up with these stories:
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth has spent his career immersed in business and technology journalism first covering local industries in New Jersey, later as the New York editor for Xconomy delving into the city’s tech startup community, and then as a freelancer for such outlets as … View Full Bio