Home5GHPE arms carriers with edge compute and networking bundle to attack Industry 4.0

HPE arms carriers with edge compute and networking bundle to attack Industry 4.0

Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s (HPE) has introduced an ‘edge orchestrator’ to enable telecoms carriers to bundle-up and resell edge-based compute, connectivity, and apps to verticals on a subscription basis, and to attack the Industry 4.0 space.

The offer is presented by HPE as a means for carriers to make edge-based enterprise services as functionally intuitive as cloud based products. It “gives power back” to mobile operators, it declared, and positions them go head-to-head with so-called hyper-scaler cloud providers.

Phil Mottram, vice president and general manager of Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s communications and media division, said: “The 5G business case for operators is not in the consumer space; it is firmly rooted in the enterprise space. Consumers won’t pay any more for services, just to get a faster video download. All of the revenue and upside opportunity for carriers will come with new enterprise services.”

The new product, called HPE Edge Orchestrator, enables telcos to deploy and configure localised services, as virtual machines or containers, via IT infrastructure at the edge of their public mobile networks, or within edge-based private networking infrastructure. The components – industrial networking, compute, and applications – can be resold by carriers to enterprises as part of their Industry 4.0 offers.

“The value is to take these three building blocks, package them together, put a wrapping around, and enable telecoms providers to offer them as a one-stop-shop to enterprises,” said Rolf Eberhardt, head of orchestration solutions in Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s communications and media division.

HPE is offering hardware and software for each of the components, in the form of its Edgeline series of servers, its Aruba portfolio of Wi-Fi and SD-WAN connectivity solutions, plus various data analytics applications. The orchestrator product is offered as an open system, compatible with third-party hardware and software. The offer complements its release of its 5G core networking portfolio a couple of months back, also available on subscription.

The company is focusing initially on “far-edge” multi-access edge computing (MEC) in central offices, radio towers, and other points-of-presence, but will integrate “near-edge” applications in due course, and will likely leverage the public cloud into the bargain for enterprises as well. It is already bundling top-up compute power on a pay-as-you-go basis via its GreenLake proposition.

Management of Industry 4.0 connectivity is generally geared around local Wi-Fi and private LTE, as it stands, noted HPE. But its orchestrator product is primed for 5G network functions, it said, ready for when industrial networking taps into the higher-grade performance and reliability delivered by standalone 5G, in slices of public networks and in vertical spectrum.

HPE noted the greater appetite for edge-based networking and services, linked to the appetite for private LTE and 5G networking, is from the industrial market.

Mottram remarked: “When you start to think about edge technologies, and breaking data out locally, versus going back into the network, you are really going down the Industry 4.0 route. This whole private-g context [is about] how organisations in manufacturing in particular will use private 5G to reinvent and automate how they do things.

“That is a very big market. All of the huge manufacturing facilities around the world will, at some point in the next five-or-so years, go through a process of industrialisation and automation. That is where the opportunity is for edge functions and edge orchestration.”

Mottram cited work with one carrier customer, selling the HPE Edge Orchestrator into a manufacturing business. “It was pretty simple, to be honest. It had data requests that were very specific to the facility which had been going all the way across the corporate network into the data centre and back,” he said..

“With MEC, we were able to break then down, keep then local, and somewhat partition that part of the network. And it will be simple things like that, actually, which start it [the move towards edge networking and analytics], and further down the line you will get the killer low-latency stuff.”

The new orchestrator product, available from the end of July, is only available to operators – and to enterprises via operators. The company said it is seeking to arm the operator community against large so-called ‘hyper-scaler’ cloud providers like Microsoft and Amazon.

Mottram said: “Each hyper-scaler has a different approach to the edge, and whether or not the telco customer retains or loses the customer at the edge. What we are doing here is non-threatening to the carrier. We are enabling the them to have a direct relationship with the enterprise customer and to grasp a revenue opportunity, versus the approach of some hyper-scalers, which is to drive the opportunity themselves.”

Eberhardt said: “For the carrier, it is about strengthening customer intimacy, and moving out of connectivity [provision] space and into digital transformation, which will lead to new revenue streams… and new verticals, which is significant. For enterprises, it is about handling seamless operations without making a major investment in the edge space, which is itself a fairly comprehensive and complex environment.”

At the same time, the firm said it will evaluate alternative channels in due course, including selling directly to enterprises. “We have had some interest from enterprise customers as well, and been involved in a few deals. But it hasn’t been a forceful push from us. We are evaluating whether or not to push in that direction. But no decision has been made yet,” added Mottram.

“We are approaching things more from a communications-up perspective, whereas other parts of the market might go from an IT-down perspective, or an application-type perspective. You could see a situation down the line where some of those might be interested, but we are focused for now on telecoms operators.”

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