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5G Factor: New Cloud Formations Driving 5G Innovation

5G Factor: New Cloud Formations Driving 5G Innovation

In this episode of The 5G Factor, our series that focuses on all things 5G, the IoT, and the ecosystem as a whole, I’m joined by my colleague and fellow analyst, Steven Dickens, for a look at the top 5G developments and what’s going on that caught our eye.

Our conversation focused on:

VMware Rolls Out VMware Private Mobile Network. VMware launched VMware Private Mobile Network as a key component of its VMware Edge Cloud Orchestrator (VECO) solution. VECO, formerly VMware SASE Orchestrator, is designed to provide unified management for VMware SASE and the VMware Edge Compute Stack, and targets bridging the gap between edge networking and edge compute. VMware selected Betacom, Boingo Wireless, and Federated Wireless as its initial beta wireless service provider partners for the new offering. We assess the implications of VMware’s move on the global private wireless market.

Azure for Operators and ISVs Strengthen Collaboration. Azure Multi-Edge Access Compute (MEC) solutions enable customers to deploy applications and services closer to the end user, improving performance and reducing latency. Over the last year, we have observed several operators and enterprises beginning to use the power of both public and private MEC, enabling a host of new use cases across numerous industries. Independent Software Vendors, or ISVs, play a critical role in helping to develop modern connected applications across varied industries that are tailored to the specific requirements of multi-edge access compute. We examine the crucial role ISVs perform by bringing key expertise from various domains, and by developing innovative solutions that leverage the capabilities of edge computing.

Red Hat Open 5G Summit on Horizon. Red Hat is hosting its Open 5G Summit on November 15, 2023. On the agenda are exploring Open RAN monetization opportunities and deployment approaches, solving the challenges of private wireless and enterprise edge deployments, as well as balancing on-premise and public cloud deployments throughout hybrid cloud environments. We discuss our expectations for the event including how service providers can optimize serving up new use cases for enterprise customers and how a common platform with orchestration and automation can help drive ecosystem-wide Open 5G adoption.

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Disclosure: The Futurum Group is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.

Transcript:

Ron Westfall: Hello and welcome everyone to The 5G Factor. I’m Ron Westfall, research director here at The Futurum Group, and I’m joined here today by my distinguished colleague Steven Dickens, our VP and lead for the Hybrid Cloud, Infrastructure, and Operations practice. I think I got that right.

Steven Dickens: It’s a mouthful, but you did, Ron.

Ron Westfall: Well, thanks. I appreciate that endorsement so that now I can turn to what we’re going to do on today’s show. It’s called The 5G Factor, and basically it covers all things related to the 5G ecosystem as well as the IoT ecosystem and really the major developments that caught our eye over the last week or so. And so, Steven, welcome back to The Futurum 5G Factor and thanks for joining us today. And so, how’ve you been bearing up between episodes? What have you done with yourself?

Steven Dickens: I know. Well, anybody who follows me on social media knows that the rolling stone doesn’t gather any moss. The team keeps me busy here. But it’s also a pleasure to be on your show, Ron. I think what you’re doing with The 5G Factor’s really starting to resonate in the market, and the regular cadence of the show is really helping people stay informed. So always happy to be back.

Ron Westfall: Well, thumbs up. Yeah, we talked about that, and yeah, I agree. And so, yeah, let’s do our part and spread our perspective and some good news, I believe, in today’s episode. Back in August, just about a month ago, VMware Explore 2023 was conducted. And at the show I think what was a key takeaway is that VMware launched VMware Private Mobile Network. That is a key component of its overall VMware Edge Cloud Orchestrator solution, also known as VECO. And VECO is not to be confused with Velvet Underground’s Nico. It’s something that is very much-

Steven Dickens: Got to make sure we get that distinction right there.

Ron Westfall: Right on. So I think we’re doing our part eliminating any confusion. And VECO, I think it’s important to note, well, it used to be VMware SASE Orchestrator, and it’s designed to provide unified management for VMware SASE and the VMware Edge Compute Stack. Fundamentally, it targets bridging that gap between edge networking and edge compute, and we’ll drill down more on what that really entails. And so as additional foregrounding, integral to VMware Private Mobile Network is its collaboration with a select set of wireless managed service providers at its beta stage. The reason for this is that VMware and its partners are aiming to basically reduce and ultimately outright remove the complexity that’s quite simply been associated with private mobile networks and thus enable, really, enterprises to sharpen their focus on improving their business outcomes, that is get out of the nuts and bolts of setting up a private wireless network, maintaining it, managing it, et cetera. You get the whole idea.

Now, because it’s built on VMware Edge Compute Stack, VMware Private Mobile Network offers the service providers that are already using VMware technology capabilities that are integrated into their existing IT management platforms. I think this is very important because the last thing any private wireless solution needs is an adoption issue that is too much to overcome. Quite simply, it has to fit into what’s already in place. I know this is something that sounds like it’s common sense, but it hasn’t actually been the case across the board, and that’s why we’ve seen some choppiness in the adoption of private wireless technologies, private wireless 5G in particular. And so with that in mind, I anticipate that through the offering, VMware can make a difference, that is quite simply broaden the adoption of private wireless technology as well as potentially accelerate it. And that, again, is by easing the management and orchestration processes, especially across its extensive enterprise footprint.

So, VMware has a built-in advantage here. We all know that when it comes to virtual machines, VMware, as their brand name indicates, is very much joined at the hip there, but also they have that vast enterprise customer footprint. And so I anticipate this will make a difference encouraging just quite simply that enterprise adoption to speed up more. It’s already out there, but we expect that it’ll be quite significant over the next few years as long as some of these key pieces are in place.

And so with that in mind, VMware selected Betacom, Boingo Wireless and Federated Wireless as its initial beta wireless service provider partners. And for me that’s a vote of confidence for those three players. It simply, I believe, provides a significant sales and marketing boost for these specialists, especially for raising industry awareness of their managed wireless service offering. With that in mind, Steven, what impressed you most about the recent VMware announcements? What basically wowed you in terms of what they are coming out with here?

Steven Dickens: Yeah. I think you nailed it. I think the customer adoption, the three that you mentioned, Betacom, Boingo and Federated Wireless coming out of the gate, being so vocal in their adoption is always a good thing to see. I think you also hit on it for me and the key thing here is as enterprises and some of these carriers look to adopt this technology, it’s always going to be easier for them from an adoption point of view if it’s a consistent stack that they’re used to that they’re using on the enterprise side of the house. And I think VMware’s got hundreds and hundreds of thousands of customers. Pretty much every large enterprise in the world has got a VMware deployment of some description. So I think using that same common technology is a really good step here. So I think for me, those were the two big takeaways.

I think when you look at this against where Broadcom is, from getting this acquisition rolling through the approval process and how Broadcom’s involved in that ecosystem as well, it’s going to be really interesting to draw the edge to back office and IT deployment landscape in the newly merged and acquired companies. So I think that’s going to be interesting. I think there’s some really good capabilities that Broadcom will bring to this over time. So I think for me, what’s going to be interesting, you mentioned there’s a lot of word salad of naming and various product transitions going here. It’s going to be really interesting.

Broadcom’s being really vocal about the $2 billion it’s investing, or plans to invest, in the VMware portfolio. I think the edge has got to be one of those areas it’s got to invest in. I think the portfolio’s pretty solid. I think they’re in a pretty good place, but I think there’s more work to do for them to fully capture the opportunity here. So I expect this to be a space that you and I are going to be watching at various VMware Explores in the next two or three years and expecting this to be an area Broadcom further invests in as that acquisition closes out in relatively short order now.

Ron Westfall: Yeah. No. Bravo for naturally mentioning Broadcom. We can’t talk about VMware without obviously talking about their suitor, which is pretty much at this juncture locked in. But we still have to wait for all the Ts to be crossed and Is dotted before they can really provide an even more unified perspective on how to address emerging opportunities such as the private wireless niche within the overall edge computing environment. I think it’s a well-timed move by VMware because I already touched on the fact that, yes, the private wireless market is real, but it has had some choppiness in terms of its growth, in terms of the overall expectations. That’s not to say there have been some important developments and inroads that have been accomplished by providers such as Nokia that comes to mind. Arguably, they are the market leader when it comes to private wireless today.

But in the summer, in addition to VMware, we saw key CSPs such as UScellular, Swisscom, Globe Telecom, Virgin Media, O2 also basically throw their hat into the private wireless ring. And so I think this is just further validation like, “Okay, there’s real opportunity here,” and that you’re seeing a wide spectrum of players, not just equipment providers but also obviously the specialists but managed service providers and the big telcos basically looking at this as a way to diversify their revenue streams. And with that in mind, I think the VECO orchestration automation will again be that difference maker backed by Broadcom silicon prowess. And so this could be like the secret sauce that will really catalyze VMware making, I think, a lot of waves in the space, moving the market needle, if you will.

And so I think we basically covered VMware pretty thoroughly in terms of what their status is at this point, but I think it’s also important to look at some of the other key cloud providers and what they’re up to. With that in mind, Steven, I saw that Azure for Operators and independent software vendors are stepping up their ongoing collaboration to advance the enablement of modern connected apps. As background for this initiative, I think it’s important to understand that Azure Multi-Edge Access Compute, or MEC, enables its customers to deploy applications and services closer to the end user. The goal with that is to improve performance and reduce latency. Over the last year, at least, I have observed that operators and enterprises are beginning to really use the power of both public and private MEC more extensively. As such, this can enable a host of new use cases across many of the industry verticals out there that we’ve been hearing a lot about.

So specifically, Azure MEC solutions run on two tracks, public and private, and I think it’s important to know the details of both of them. Specifically, Azure Public MEC integrates Azure services with the mobile operators’ public 5G network connectivity. And so as the name indicates, Public is again fully aligned and linked to public networks. What this can provide is a secure high bandwidth connectivity for low latency applications, and it can help solve critical business problems at the operator’s edge itself.

Now, in parallel is the Azure Private MEC, and that combines network functions and edge-optimized Azure services that can deliver the high performance and, again, the really low latency solutions over 4G and 5G to address the modern business needs of enterprise customers. It’s important to note why 4G and 5G invoke, because really the good majority of private wireless implementations are still 4G, but the investment and the adoption curve is going toward 5G. So, 5G will steadily gain a greater and greater portion of this overall private wireless pie. And so with that in mind, when you looked at Azure for Operators and their work with independent software vendors, what’s your take, Steven? What impresses you most about what’s going on here?

Steven Dickens: Yeah. For me, these independent software vendors, or these ISVs, play a critical role in helping to develop the modern connected applications across various varied industries that are tailored to specific requirements of the multi-edge access compute landscape. ISVs perform this critical function by bringing key expertise from various domains, and I think that’s why Microsoft’s partnering here, and by developing these innovative solutions that leverage these capabilities across an edge computing platform. You and I were out at Mobile World Congress in February, one of the biggest trade events of the year, and I’m sure our team, if it wasn’t you, Ron, covered Azure for Operators where Microsoft introduced ISP programs for Azure Private and Azure Public Multi-Edge Access Compute.

These programs were designed to help partners develop and test modern connected applications that require the low latency and reliable high bandwidth connectivity of 5G. Azure for Operators’ expanding ecosystem continues to provide customers with the platform and solutions they need to deploy, manage, and operate their own applications at the edge. I think Microsoft’s a key player in the space. I think they understand ecosystems, and I think it’s crucial. And what we’re seeing here is those partners further deliver a diverse range of software solutions tailored for industry verticals. That could be smart cities, it could be industrial IoT, it could be healthcare and retail. So I think it’s prudent of Microsoft to partner here rather than try and do everything itself.

What happens here is this level of diversity can allow enterprises to both find and deploy applications that suit their specific and unique needs. This further helps adoption of MEC in both public and private deployments. By building a diverse ISV ecosystem, Microsoft Azure MEC solutions can ensure compatibility and interoperability with various software solutions. So I think this kind of wrapper layer is good. ISVs provide the support and maintenance services for their applications, helping to ensure that the organizations have the right access when deploying and using those applications. And overall, this effort could help organizations overcome their challenges, maximize the value they derive from edge, and really focusing on how they deliver on some of the business outcomes here.

For me, a thriving ISV ecosystem attracts more customers to Microsoft’s platforms. When organizations see a wide range of third-party applications and services available, they’re more likely to adopt. This is the same as phone apps in your App Store. If there’s two or three apps in your App Store, people aren’t going to adopt your phone. If there’s thousands and thousands of apps in your App Store, people are going to adopt your phone. It’s as simple as that for me here, Ron. And in turn, this leads to increased penetration and adoption of Microsoft’s solutions in this place. So I think it’s a virtuous circle for all involved here. And the ecosystems are really the way for Microsoft to be going rather than trying to build these vertical stacks itself.

Ron Westfall: Well, I agree wholeheartedly, and I think kudos for strutting the spotlight on Azure for Operators’ ongoing work with the independent software vendors, or the ISVs, because I think this is something that flies under the radar frequently. And people understand this intuitively. However, it’s essential, and I think this is something that can help Azure for Operators to again expand their ecosystem influence in terms of encouraging both the service providers and the enterprises to more directly explore and evaluate and prioritize both their private MEC and public MEC offerings.

And so this again is demonstrating why the ecosystem aspect is just crucial. This is the only way to make cloud pivotal in terms of how the organizations out there evolve their 5G journeys. And yes, I think we understand that 5G has had a hype issue, but I think a lot of it’s the fact that many of the operators still haven’t actually deployed what is simply deemed a 5G standalone. And until they cut over to the full-fledged capabilities of 5G, that is 5G standalone, emerging away from the 5G non-standalone implementations they had to start out with that is combining 5G radius with 4G core, which is, “Okay, we got a foot in the door. This is the way to put our feet into the ocean,” but now they have to really take it to the next level and start using 5G standalone. And that’s where Microsoft’s Azure for Operators can really make a more profound difference because of all the capabilities that 5G standalone uniquely brings to the operator proposition, let alone the ability of the enterprises to fully benefit from 5G capabilities.

Speaking of the future and looking ahead, Steven, I know that our friends at Red Hat are about to host the Open5G Summit this upcoming November 15th. So that’s over two months from now. But I think it’s important to understand what to expect from this event because I think it does certainly serve as a precursor or harbinger as to what is going on that is important to the overall 5G ecosystem. I think what they’re emphasizing at this event is, first of all, Open RAN.

Now, what is going on? What are the deployment approaches and, for that matter, the monetization opportunities that are working best? And one thing that I think is integral is that the operators are certainly championing Open RAN. And Open RAN, again, I think is the touchstone, if you will, for a broader open 5G ecosystem. So if Open RAN is done right, if Open RAN can be established, then basically the entire 5G ecosystem can operate on a more open basis, getting away from the siloed proprietary implementations, while they’ve worked effectively, still limits the agility of the operators. And the operators clearly want to get away from being trapped in vendor proprietary type situations and so forth.

So this is something that we’ve been hearing a lot about, Open RAN. It’s making some progress. Granted, it’s baby steps at this juncture. But this is something that will have a lot of backing not just from the service providers but also government agencies and so forth because of things like supply chain concerns and so on, and also, once again, our friend the edge of the network. This is a place where Red Hat, because of its hybrid cloud credentials, can make a big difference, I believe. And that is, again, accelerating the private wireless and enterprise edge deployments, because of many of the capabilities that we talked about with VMware also certainly apply to Red Hat and certainly its strong partner IBM. Again, that all links to making the hybrid cloud deployments that can underpin many of the 5G use cases and deployments quite simply more credible and more easy to adopt for the enterprises out there.

Now with that, Steven, what are your expectations for open 5G? What are you looking forward to the most at this point?

Steven Dickens: Well, I think you nailed it with this comment there, Ron, about the parallels between the conversation we had around VMware and Azure for Operators. I think the landscape’s changing in this space. There’s potential for telco cloud and the 5G landscape. It extends beyond merely expediting technological advancements and offers those service providers a cost-efficient means for large-scale deployment. There’s emerging opportunities at the network edge, and you touched on that, Open RAN and private 5G networks and IP multimedia subsystems, and those are managed through advanced orchestration and automation. Obviously, Red Hat’s got Ansible in this space as well as OpenShift. These present an expanded portfolio of avenues for service providers to generate additional revenue.

If you look in the course of this, we’ll see and we’ve seen that there’s specific instances where service providers are introducing new novel use cases that are tailored for those enterprise clientele. We talked about some of the specific services in the Azure ecosystem. I think there’s an opportunity here to open things up as well. Additionally, we will analyze the integration of unified platform featuring orchestration and automation capabilities, and that’s essential for establishing novel market channels for these commercial entities and these service providers.

So I think for me, the opening up of the 5G space, the private 5G networks, you touched on it, the edge, it’s a combination of some of the enabling technology, the network and the innovative use cases coming together through some of these ISVs who are focusing on particular applications and use cases. You put that trifecta together, that’s where we’re going to see the growth. I think without any one of those three legs, you wouldn’t see the same sort of flywheel effect, but I think with those three things starting to come together all at once, that’s where we’re seeing the growth happen and starting to see these things feed off each other.

Ron Westfall: Yeah, yeah. I think this is something that can be very attractive to the operators as they advance their 5G journeys using cloud technology. I think we understand that Red Hat, akin to VMware, has a compelling hybrid cloud and private cloud capability built into its portfolio. We know that the telcos will never want their sensitive data exposed out in the open. That would just be basically something that would severely disrupt their business if that were to occur. And it’s not unique to them, but especially for telcos because they have larger customer bases and so forth. And so as a result, I think this is something that we’ll definitely revisit because, again, the event is in mid-November.

Steven Dickens: Always happy to be on your show, Ron. Always happy to be invited back.

Ron Westfall: Right on, Steven. With that high note, thank you, everybody, for joining us. And please, to reviewing audience and our listening audience, thank you for spending time with us and be sure to subscribe to The 5G Factor. We look forward to seeing you next time. Good 5G day, everyone.

Other insights from The Futurum Group:

VMware Orchestrates New Private Mobile Network Service

5G Factor Video Research Note: Azure for Operators: Build 5G Modern Connected Apps at the Edge

5G Factor Video Research Note: Red Hat Becomes the Primary Infrastructure Platform for Nokia’s Core Network Applications

Author Information

Ron is an experienced, customer-focused research expert and analyst, with over 20 years of experience in the digital and IT transformation markets, working with businesses to drive consistent revenue and sales growth.

He is a recognized authority at tracking the evolution of and identifying the key disruptive trends within the service enablement ecosystem, including a wide range of topics across software and services, infrastructure, 5G communications, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), analytics, security, cloud computing, revenue management, and regulatory issues.

Prior to his work with The Futurum Group, Ron worked with GlobalData Technology creating syndicated and custom research across a wide variety of technical fields. His work with Current Analysis focused on the broadband and service provider infrastructure markets.

Ron holds a Master of Arts in Public Policy from University of Nevada — Las Vegas and a Bachelor of Arts in political science/government from William and Mary.

Regarded as a luminary at the intersection of technology and business transformation, Steven Dickens is the Vice President and Practice Leader for Hybrid Cloud, Infrastructure, and Operations at The Futurum Group. With a distinguished track record as a Forbes contributor and a ranking among the Top 10 Analysts by ARInsights, Steven's unique vantage point enables him to chart the nexus between emergent technologies and disruptive innovation, offering unparalleled insights for global enterprises.

Steven's expertise spans a broad spectrum of technologies that drive modern enterprises. Notable among these are open source, hybrid cloud, mission-critical infrastructure, cryptocurrencies, blockchain, and FinTech innovation. His work is foundational in aligning the strategic imperatives of C-suite executives with the practical needs of end users and technology practitioners, serving as a catalyst for optimizing the return on technology investments.

Over the years, Steven has been an integral part of industry behemoths including Broadcom, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), and IBM. His exceptional ability to pioneer multi-hundred-million-dollar products and to lead global sales teams with revenues in the same echelon has consistently demonstrated his capability for high-impact leadership.

Steven serves as a thought leader in various technology consortiums. He was a founding board member and former Chairperson of the Open Mainframe Project, under the aegis of the Linux Foundation. His role as a Board Advisor continues to shape the advocacy for open source implementations of mainframe technologies.

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