Big telecoms want to make sure that when 5G is rolled out wholesale, data centers are ready to handle new edge-based use cases that arise as a result. They're developing software designed to get the job done and are releasing it as open source.
A month ago, the Linux Foundation announced it was releasing seed code for its Akraino Edge Stack that's designed for scaling edge cloud services. The project takes advantage of code donated by AT&T for developing carrier-grade applications intended to run in virtual machines or containers.
Last week we heard from Deutsche Telekom and Santa Clara-based design and engineering company Aricent about a low-latency edge platform for quickly developing and launching 5G mobile applications and services. The two partners are planning to release the platform under an open source license. The platform, built for software-defined data centers, will be delivered as a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and includes cloud-native multi-access edge computing (MEC) technologies.
A statement released by the two companies at last week's Edge Computing Congress in Berlin pointed out that the global edge computing market is projected to exceed $3 billion by 2025, adding, "By adopting open source strategies and virtualized networking technology at the edge, operators can deliver new services faster and at much greater operational efficiency to monetize 5G from the onset."
If anyone's wondering why telecoms are pushing 5G-focused free software platforms, the key might be in the phrase "to monetize 5G from the onset."
5G won't just be an incremental improvement over 4G, but something of a quantum leap akin to going from dial-up to gigabyte broadband overnight. Not only will it mean that telecoms will be able to offer much faster speeds with lower latency, the technology also promises to greatly multiply their capacity, making room for all sorts of wireless IoT devices.
But the telecoms are worried, because rolling out 5G is going to be expensive. Nobody's sure exactly what the cost will be by the time the dust settles, but most estimates put converting the entire US to 5G at about $300 billion, and about the same for Europe. The telecoms, of course, would like to see a little return on such an investment, and are reluctant to put all of their eggs in the "build it and they will come" basket, so they're hedging by placing bets on the wireless edge's IoT potential by trying to make it easy for enterprises to take advantage of the technology they'll be bringing to the table.
"We believe that edge computing will be a critical success factor to achieve the full benefits of 5G for our customers," Tomasz Gerszberg, Deutsche Telekom's senior VP of edge computing said in a statement, "and we believe in joining forces with our ecosystem partners to accelerate innovation and the adoption of new technology."
This echoes a statement from Mazin Gilbert, AT&T Labs' VP of advanced technology, issued when Akraino was donated to the Linux Foundation: "Akraino ... will help to accelerate progress toward development of next-generation, network-based edge services, fueling a new ecosystem of applications for 5G and IoT."
According to last week's announcement from Deutsche Telekom and Aricent, the two companies have already been giving the platform a test run through hubraum, Deutsche Telekom's Germany-based incubator. They also said that over the next three years they'll be working together on several projects to strengthen the partnership, and that Deutsche Telekom plans to utilize Aricent's consultancy, design, engineering, and R&D service offerings.
"Edge computing will provide value as it will deliver engaging and worthwhile subscriber experiences and operators need the capabilities to bring that to fruition," Walid Negm, Aricent's CTO. said in a statement. "We are very excited to be partnering with Deutsche Telekom on this open source initiative. Our innovative solution enables forward looking operators to leverage their network and collaborate with application developers to leapfrog the competition and gain a competitive edge - at the edge."