opinion


How meshed clouds unlock the potential of life at the edge

Cloud Computing Technology

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Honoré LaBourdette, vice president, Telco, Media & Entertainment Ecosystem at Red Hat argues we should think beyond traditional architectures to enable edge-to-edge connectivity.

Estimates that the edge computing market could be worth USD 34 billion by 2025 should excite everyone working in telecoms and technology. But what is even more inspiring is the knock-on effect. The economic stimulus created by businesses harnessing edge computing is hard to quantify, but a little imagination is all you need. Recall the commercial impact of the Internet, of cloud computing, and of mobile telephony. The roll out of edge computing at scale can be just as profound.

But we’re not there yet. To unlock the full potential of life at the edge, we need to think beyond traditional centralized network architectures.  We need to enable secure and interoperable edge-to-edge communications across diverse public and private clouds.

This is the idea behind the ‘meshed cloud’, which I believe will be the next big enabler in technology. Think of it as a fabric, similar to the gravitational field that orchestrates the universe. The ‘mesh’ is a reference architecture to enable clouds to communicate, share data and interoperate with each other directly, dynamically and non-hierarchically.

This applies to the orchestration of application services, messaging and data security between edge clouds, as well as the secure edge-to-edge network connectivity. Interoperability between edge devices and data running on different clouds will be optimized through standardized compute, communications and security protocols.

A major benefit here is enabling multiple data sets to be used in real-time to solve key industry (and societal) challenges. For example, a connected car that is part of a mesh network of clouds can talk to other vehicles and access traffic or road information without needing to negotiate with a centralized cloud. Or, emergency services can rapidly collate advice from remote experts and information from different sources to respond dynamically to a developing situation.

This is a giant leap forward from where we are. Today, much of edge computing is powered by clouds with distinct architectures and standards. This limits edge to edge integration and interaction, and as such the use cases and business outcomes. It’s important that we start evolving our thinking; the decisions we make today should be based on the connected edge model we all want to build together, and not the edge cloud silos that limit us.

In broad terms, the meshed cloud comprises four key building blocks or sets of capabilities. Some of these technologies exist today, while others are in the works:

  1. Highly distributed infrastructure (compute, storage, connectivity) that is everywhere, combining the collective footprints of public cloud providers and on-premises environments.
  2. Cloud that is present everywhere and is extendable in a unified and secure way across all different public, private, bare-metal, virtual and other infrastructure, and where deployment, operations and management are all consistent. This calls for an open hybrid cloud platform (like Red Hat OpenShift) that can manage and scale applications in containers, agnostic of the underlying environment.
  3. Ubiquitous connectivity providing interconnectivity free from the limitation of traditional networking constructs.
  4. Autonomous application and service orchestration across the entire distributed infrastructure network and connectivity layers.

Taking this from concept to reality will be a team effort. The telecoms industry already has a good record of collaboration on everything from licensing agreements, technical standards, interoperability testing and patents. And projects like 5G-VINNI and FUDGE-5G show the progress that can be made when technology vendors, governments and research institutions are brought in. However, to achieve this completely new approach to connectivity everywhere, the ecosystem needs to be ‘open’ to a greater extent than ever before, with tight integration, common standards and shared goals.

For service providers, the meshed cloud is not simply an infrastructure opportunity. After all, infrastructure may be their most expensive asset, but their customer base is the most valuable. Service providers must continue to focus on their customer relationships and data, giving careful consideration around commercial agreements that give access to these.

We must also consider ‘who’ we need to develop and run the meshed cloud. Do we need networking experts? Do we need cloud infrastructure professionals? People who know about application architecture and security? Most likely we need diverse expertise and experience coming together as a united enabling force. And perhaps we are looking at an entirely new profession – the Meshed Cloud Executive.

By 2025, there are expected to be 150 billion edge devices — from smart cars to smart homes; wearable tech to factory floor robots; and the AR and VR kits that will usher in the dawn of the metaverse. By then, 5G will be enabled in more places, and powering more data to move faster. Connecting edge clouds directly, dynamically and non-hierarchically to each other is the missing piece of this puzzle. It will organize what threatens to become too fragmented. It will allow secure access to data, wherever it may be, to enable innovation. In short, meshed cloud will unlock the full potential of life at the edge to transform businesses, industries and societies.

 

Honoré LaBourdette is vice president, Telco, Media and Entertainment, at Red Hat, with a focus on industry verticals and edge. In this role, she has global responsibility for helping ensure that service providers, ecosystem partners and key vertical enterprise 5G networks can rapidly deploy cloud-native applications at scale leveraging Red Hat’s open, hybrid cloud technologies, 5G, OSS/BSS, Cloud RAN and more. Prior to Red Hat, Honoré was vice president, Global Market & Business Development for VMware’s Telco and Edge Cloud Business unit. In this role, she was tasked to build and lead VMware’s Telco vertical GTM strategy and execution including the ecosystem of partners that serve this market. Honoré is a seasoned technology executive having held senior positions in sales, business development, marketing, strategy and operations in both software and hardware companies including Cisco/NetSolve, Nortel, N.E.T. and AT&T with a particular focus on transformational vertical industries and initiatives.

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