If you’ve been paying attention to the major developments in technology, you’ve certainly read a lot about private 5G networks and edge computing. As fascinating as these developments are, the fact is that the majority of the debate has been theoretical rather than realistic. Despite all of the hype, there aren’t many real-world implementations of either, and even fewer that combine the two. That is why this announcement is important.
Verizon and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have a real-world customer, in the form of Corning’s fiber optic cable factory, for their Private 5G Mobile Edge Compute (MEC) service with AWS Outposts. The combination of the two technologies brings the security, reliability, and speed of a private 5G network together with the increased performance and reduced latency that edge computing applications enable.
Corning is using the technology to control autonomous robots that can track real-time production, material movement, and other processes to enhance the accuracy, quality, and performance of their demanding manufacturing methods. The company is collaborating with Gestalt Robotics GmbH to run cloud-native “sensing as a service” applications on AWS Outpost hardware, using all of Amazon Cloud’s standard APIs, software, and services.
It also takes advantage of Verizon Business’s private 5G network’s relatively low latency response times. The speed at which the systems communicate will translate into functional benefits such as lowering the compute, and thus battery, power required on autonomous mobile robots, allowing them to be smaller and less costly. Furthermore, the application’s distributed computing architecture can minimise response times, resulting in more efficient and predictable execution.
It’s an intriguing mix that foreshadows the potential of massively distributed computing…
The contract extends Verizon and AWS’s partnership, which started last year with Amazon’s Wavelength offering, which takes the equivalent of “small” AWS data centres to a broader range of geographical locations through Verizon’s wireless network.
It’s an intriguing mix that foreshadows the potential of a massively distributed computing environment that combines the scope of broadband cellular networks like 5G with the computing capacity and size of large cloud services like AWS. The distinction here is that Wavelength is a public cloud offering, while AWS Outposts are intended for private and mixed cloud deployments.
AWS Wavelength offers a complete AWS operation experience from the comfort of an edge data centre.
Given the wide variety of businesses that continue to see the need to retain some form of their own computing infrastructure, whether for defence, legal, or simply operational preference—as shown by this Corning example—the range of opportunities for this form of private/hybrid cloud service appears to be quite extensive.
Another intriguing feature of the convergence of private 5G and edge computing is that it provides one of the most straightforward avenues for software modernisation and business transformation. What’s the reason? There is no heirloom.
While modern container-based, cloud-native computing is a groundbreaking innovation, only a small percentage of the world’s software falls into this group. It’s easy to forget how much older and more complex to update tech is now running inside the walls of many organisations, and how difficult (and expensive) it is to refactor or overhaul any of that software.
When you consider that many vendors have stated that they think just under 20% of all business workloads are operating in public cloud environments – and keep in mind that even a reasonable percentage of those is merely “lifted and shifted” into the cloud with no modernisation attempts – the reality of those problems becomes more clear. Edge computing and private 5G, on the other hand, have none of the legacy problems that have stymied other tech upgrade attempts. Since these are all brand-new inventions, anything that is deployed on them must be designed from the ground up using current standards.
… I’d venture to say that once private 5G networks become more widely deployed, you’ll be hard pressed to find an example where cloud-based edge computing applications aren’t also being used.
Beyond those features, the fusion of technologies provided by private 5G networks and private cloud computing architectures is game changing. To put it plainly, they are an incredibly potent mix that will most likely act as a model for future networks and IT architectures through a wide variety of sectors and ecosystems.
They work together to make the network smart, which will most likely be one of the distinguishing characteristics of 5G apps in industry for many years to come. In reality, I’d wager that if private 5G networks are commonly deployed, it would be difficult to find a case where cloud-based edge computing technologies aren’t already being used. The two are absolutely ideal for each other. Strategically, the consequences of these two technologies’ ties are likely to be profound for vendors seeking to develop in one region without completely considering (or at least partnering) in the other. Companies would have to bring together services that either pre-integrate them or provide conveniently identified hooks to attach them in order to be competitive in one or the other.
Companies in all sectors are keen to pursue innovations that can use the new technology, but only if they enable them to achieve solutions that are tailored to their individual needs and, preferably, are well matched to the constantly changing future.
Compute-enabled, low-latency, highly stable networks running modernly designed and managed software applications are unquestionably an important aspect of the computing future that many forward-thinking businesses would be excited to pursue. As a result, projects like this Verizon-AWS collaboration that creates these sorts of futuristic and realistic possibilities will inevitably be repeated by a plethora of other innovation vendors and a dizzying number of new collaborations. It’s fun to see them emerge now, and it’ll be interesting to see how these new kinds of offerings develop in the future.
The private 5G edge is obviously here to remain, and it is no longer just the realm of public networks.
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