Taking 5G innovation to the edge
5G, edge computing and hybrid clouds are some of the most exciting technologies in the business world. But their true potential only becomes apparent when they’re viewed together, each technology encouraging uptake of the others, their combined power driving a revolution in the way businesses manage their networks and deliver services.
With 5G’s capabilities, enterprises can push compute power closer to the network edge, closer to where it is needed, to help eliminate latency and congestion issues for real-time applications, even when massive volumes of data are being generated and processed. In turn, this should encourage the adoption of everything from predictive maintenance for machinery to autonomous vehicles and smart city services.
Red Hat, the world’s leading provider of enterprise open source software solutions, understands these connections only too well. It builds everything in open source communities, many of which are deeply involved with the development of 5G and edge computing.
“In terms of lines of code, Red Hat is the top or top-two contributor to many core projects,” says Darrell Jordan-Smith, global vice president of vertical industries and accounts. “This gives us strong insights into where the community wants to go and it enables us to educate the community on use-cases that we believe are very relevant in those spaces, particularly in terms of the far edge of 5G networks and what it will potentially mean to different industries.”
Making a platform that is ubiquitous from the core all the way to the far edge, and making it flexible and agile, enables the largest possible group of developers to create applications and services for it
In the telecommunications industry, 5G and the desire to handle workloads at the edge is driving the adoption of virtualisation and containerised apps, reducing the need for expensive proprietary hardware, and speeding the development and deployment of new services. By helping to build this agile, software-driven network infrastructure, Red Hat is supporting the wave of enterprise innovation that will follow.
“Open source software brings the innovation which allows the community to build different mechanisms for deploying that network in a building, a stadium or rural area,” Jordan-Smith explains. “Telcos can deploy a very flexible, non-traditional network, and that is exactly what they need to do to move things forward and evolve in the 5G era.”
In fact, every Global Fortune 500 telco or service provider relies on Red Hat.* The company is also working closely with the graphics chip manufacturer NVIDIA to build a cloud-native, highly scalable GPU (graphics processing unit) computing infrastructure for the 5G world, and accelerate enterprise adoption of artificial intelligence (AI), machine-learning and data-analytics workloads.
These technologies are key elements for connected vehicles, which will be at the centre of a new ecosystem of software and data-driven services, like “datacentres on wheels” as some experts have called them.
Red Hat is helping leading automobile manafacturers to develop and test these advanced connected services, ensuring they all work together in harmony. “In the automobile industry, there’s a lot of talk about autonomous driving and vehicles essentially talking to other vehicles as they drive along the motorway,” says Jordan-Smith. “To be able to do that, you need a very fast network with very low latency, which is what 5G and edge computing provide. You need the ability to run AI and map that onto satellite navigation systems and other telemetry data from your vehicle.”
5G and edge computing should also allow energy companies to collect machine telemetry and carry out predictive maintenance of their equipment or even control it remotely. Furthermore, manufacturers that adopt predictive-maintenance technologies will no longer have to shut down their production lines to carry out emergency repairs. And the ability to rapidly collect, process and act upon data from internet of things (IoT) devices will enable them to improve radically their logistics processes or automate certain business functions.
In addition, new opportunities are opening up in the connected health space, particularly in terms of biometrics. “For instance, if you’re diabetic, 5G will enable you to collect data on your phone and then send it to your GP,” says Jordan-Smith. “Some of this can be done over 3G or 4G, but moving forward we’ll see devices that can measure your blood sugar levels, your heartbeat, your temperature in real time and use machine-learning at the edge to handle any known conditions.”
This will enable patients to have different kinds of interactions with their doctors. “You, as an individual, will be able to take more control over your medical needs and be more pre-emptive in terms of your personal care, perhaps without having to visit a hospital or doctor,” adds Jordan-Smith.
5G technology is also a key component of smart cities, where data from sensors, cameras and other connected devices needs to be processed in real time to provide insights and assistance with traffic congestion, crime prevention and property maintenance, for example. “A lot of the interactions with the 5G edge network won’t come from individuals,” says Jordan-Smith, “they’ll come from devices and machines interacting with the edge network.”
Red Hat believes that offering hybrid cloud at the network edge will enable its customers to deliver any application or service on any infrastructure. For instance, these hybrid cloud environments, in conjunction with IBM’s Multicloud Manager – Red Hat was acquired by IBM for $34 million in 2019 – and Red Hat OpenShift, will allow enterprises to shift the workload for their applications and services from their datacentres to cloud service providers such as Amazon, Google or Microsoft Azure.
This open source, cloud-centric approach will help to unlock innovation in the 5G era, says Jordan-Smith, drawing a parallel between the ubiquity of the Java platform 15 or 20 years ago and what’s happening with containers and open source platforms in the enterprise network now.
“Making a platform that is ubiquitous from the core all the way to the far edge, and making it flexible and agile, enables the largest possible group of developers to create applications and services for it. It creates an ecosystem where innovation naturally occurs,” he says. “There are millions of developers out there who we interact with and we believe much of the innovation around 5G is going to come from them.”
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