By Nermin Mohamed, Head of Telecommunications Solutions, Wind River
In part 1 of this blog series, we looked at how 5G and private networks can help transform the commercial industry of today to the connected industry of the future. In this blog post, we’ll look at using the intelligent edge and distributed cloud to connect industry.
5G for connected industry
Offering faster speeds and stronger connectivity, 5G is a key enabler for connected industry. Almost any industry can benefit from adopting 5G technology: healthcare, manufacturing, automotive, robotics, education, and the list goes on. Low latency, high-security, and scalability are 5G features that industries can leverage to work smarter and faster, becoming more competitive as they become more connected.
There is, then, a very real near-term economic incentive to upgrade to 5G, as well as the rare opportunity to revolutionize how industry works, both locally and on a global scale. The key component to success in building and maintaining those new 5G networks will be in harnessing the power of distributed cloud computing.
Cloud computing at the edge
Cloud computing at the edge delivers cost-effective 5G networks that can handle dynamic landscapes and multiple remote nodes. According to Gartner, 50% of enterprise-generated data will be processed at the edge by 2022. Right now, only 38% of operators view the edge cloud as critical to their 5G strategy, with an additional 47% saying it is important, so there is indeed a technological revolution in the making.
The size and scope of a private 5G network built for industry creates unprecedented complexities and technological challenges. 5G is complex, no doubt about it, because there are so many moving parts. Solid, scalable design and construction is critical for long-term success. Getting the network model right provides a firm foundation for distributed cloud computing and the flexibility to adapt to new situations and new technologies over time.
Changing the network model
For decades, networks have been designed and built using bespoke equipment from one equipment manufacturer. There have been advantages to this approach; the equipment works well as a package and single-sourcing simplifies overhead and maintenance. But there are also downsides to this approach. A bespoke network is not flexible; parts cannot be swapped out as technology changes. A bespoke network is also not cost-effective, especially when deployed across tens of thousands of sites. Equipment upgrades and software improvements are massive challenges when trying to maintain many sites across countries and continents.
The disaggregated model for building 5G networks provides a foundation for both distributed computing and interoperability while answering concerns about flexibility and cost. The model starts by identifying the functions of network and then breaks those functions down into discrete components. Each component—hardware, software infrastructure, and applications—can then be sourced from different suppliers. Service providers can choose best-of-breed components, which drives both competitive innovation and pricing from vendors. The result is the best technology at the best price, without being locked into a single supplier. And since the whole system is designed for interoperability, the service provider can swap out or upgrade components as needed rather than having to replace the entire system.
Wind River: a partner for the future distributed cloud
The cloud platform technology within Wind River Studio is a production-grade distributed Kubernetes platform for managing your edge cloud infrastructure. Based on the OpenStack StarlingX project that we developed with Intel, this cloud platform uses best-in-class open source technology to deliver the features needed to effectively deploy and manage distributed networks.
Single pane of glass monitoring and zero-touch automated management of thousands of nodes? Wind River Studio does that. Fully automated upgrades and deployments across a geo-distributed cloud? Wind River Studio does that, too. And its cloud network analytics converts relevant data into meaningful insights so that organizations can effectively manage and optimize their cloud network.
Wind River has also been focusing on the economics of distributed edge cloud by optimizing a hyper-converged node for the far edge. What does that mean for businesses? They can use a single server to run an entire virtual distributed unit at the far edge site, reducing cost and energy. Both Verizon and T-Systems (part of Deutsche Telekom) are using StarlingX-based technology to run high-performance, real-time edge compute applications in a single geo-distributed infrastructure.
Interested in having a conversation?
Many companies are already implementing new technologies that leverage the power and potential of 5G and edge cloud computing to revolutionize their industry. Now is the time to start building the connected industry and Wind River can be your experienced, knowledgeable partner in that journey. Learn more here.
In part 3 of this blog series, we’ll dive into the challenges that service operators are facing as they move in the direction of connected industry.
 Gartner. Top 10 Trends Impacting Infrastructure and Operations for 2020. December 2019.
 Heavy Reading. 5G Edge Cloud Infrastructure: For vRAN, Industrial, and Automotive Applications. March 2020.