OpenInfra Live is a new, weekly hour-long interactive show streaming to the OpenInfra YouTube channel every Thursday at 14:00 UTC (9:00 AM CT). Episodes feature more OpenInfra release updates, user stories, community meetings, and more open infrastructure stories.
The GSMA expects there will be over 24 billion edge connections by 2025, 20% of them on 5G. The intelligent edge is the analysis of data and development of solutions at the site where the data is generated. A recent survey, conducted by Wind River and supported by the OpenInfra Foundation, highlights some key trends around the intelligent edge and how open source plays a critical role. Join Ildiko Vancsa, senior manager of community and ecosystem at the OpenInfra Foundation, as she hosts Mark Collier, COO of the OpenInfra Foundation, and Paul Miller, CTO of Wind River, to learn about the results of the survey and insight into how upstream communities are making progress for this emerging use case.
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Vancsa kicked off the episode by dropping a stat and how this has created the intelligent edge use case: 24 billion connected edge devices by 2025 according to GSMA, so thinking about how these connections can be made in an automated way is critical.
“You can imagine how much demand this puts on the underlying infrastructure and how much work that is to ensure those connections remain live, managed, and can be operated in an automated fashion,” Vancsa said. “So how do we get to these 24 billion edge connections? This is where the Intelligent Edge enters the picture.”
Intelligent Edge – What Is It?
Before jumping into the numbers, Vancsa turned to Miller to ask what the intelligent edge is, why it’s in the spotlight, and why the survey conducted by Wind River and the OpenInfra Foundation was helpful in exploring this use case.
Those 24 billion edge connections are connections at the edge, coming from new use cases being enabled like autonomous drone delivery and vehicles. Within that domain, there are use cases—two autonomous cars avoiding an accident or in telemedicine, running remote operating robots controlled by a surgeon on the other side of the world—that are running ML/AI at the edge requiring an ultra low latency connection.
“Out of those 24 billion edge devices, 20% of those will be connected by 5G in the same timeframe,” Miller said. “This paradigm change – where a lot of the applications we want to have is driving compute to the edge of the network and out to the device and driving intelligence with respect to ML/AI, augmented reality and compute processing of functions to the edge of the network to build these applications. That is fundamentally what the intelligent edge is.”
The edge use case is traditionally discussed in the mindset of telecoms and how they are building their networks, but Miller said that the survey intentionally broadened the use cases to include things like automotive, energy production, industrial manufacturing, medical and general manufacturing. They wanted to look at all of the different industries to really know what’s happening with these applications at the edge.
“Looking at the data from the survey, at least 40% of EU and US respondents indicated that some investments would be increased by over 50%,” said Miller.
You can watch this previous webinar hosted by Wind River to see what these areas are including remote operations and maintenance and artificial intelligence and machine learning.
What’s the real world impact? This whole space of industrial use cases and applications is really starting to become the hottest area around open source adoption. Collier said we are seeing a lot of reuse of technologies that were proven and built in the centralized data center era, which is fundamentally compute, storage, and networking.
“Now we are talking about thousands of sites, billions of connections and that really changes the difficulty and a lot of work has to be done,” he said. “The next decade of open infrastructure is an incredible ground for innovation and collaboration across the world, so it’s an exciting next phase when we think about where we are going as a community.”
Miller agreed, saying this explains the genesis and reason for StarlingX at the OpenInfra Foundation. He said we are coming out of a lot of years of activity around OpenStack and Kuberentes, however those technologies were built together in a monolithic environment. As you look at the new problem of a highly distributed system, the strategy must change.
“You have thousands of sites you have to manage as one distributed environment and that fundamental new set of requirements drove the existence of StarlingX,” said Miller. “New innovative ideas happened in that open source activity around distributed control planes and self healing networks that fully embraced the challenges of a distributed edge cloud.” =
“StarlingX is the next generation that still has its foundation in OpenStack and Kubernetes, but is taking a fresh look at distributed systems,” Miller continued.
What are the Benefits of Using the Intelligent Edge?
According to the survey, 76% of respondents expect the intelligent edge to increase opportunities for innovation, due to the migration of applications from the central data center to the edge of the network like Miller and Collier discussed earlier in the episode. 72% expect the rate of digital transformation of organizations—sometimes accelerated by outside forces like the COVID-19 pandemic—to be accelerated by the adoption of compute at the edge.
“When you look at all of these technologies working together in the open source community, they are heavily dominated by AI and machine learning and high levels of automation and that drives [operating expenses] down for businesses,” Miller said. “These are a lot of great stats that cement why this is happening at the intelligent edge and what the benefits are.”
This isn’t just a case of solved problems where companies are looking to reimplement existing solutions into open source. This is innovating and generating value for their customers by doing things that have never been done before.
Respondents also said they were increasing their investment 50%. Collier said it’s because organizations are trying to do something that has never been done before.
“[Organizations] are hiring people, they’re looking for solutions in the market, they’re looking to influence those solutions, and the reason people are willing to tackle these challenges is because they’re expecting it to be the cornerstone for how they deliver value to the market,” Collier said.
This level of innovation can’t happen in a silo or be executed by one organization. Collier emphasized that when it’s a big enough problem that affects so many companies, we need to work together on it and an open source community is the way to get it done at scale.
“We are really excited [about] being an active member of the Open Infrastructure Foundation, what we view as a place for crowdsourced innovation – the ability for multiple companies, individuals and developers to come together and contribute in a way that can solve these problems at scale,” Miller said as Wind River just joined the OpenInfra Foundation as a Platinum member.
Intelligent Edge Challenges
Vancsa said it right – deploying applications at the edge is not all rainbows.
Miller said that one set of challenges around building the technology stack itself and getting it to function correctly is operations. He emphasized that you have to embrace automation so that you can scale operations to fully realize the OPEX savings.
Collier discussed how the skills gap was the number one challenge around embracing the intelligent edge, indicated by 34% of the survey respondents. He indicated that this correlates to the effectiveness of choosing open source solutions.
After all, in the survey, people preferred open source over proprietary 2:1.
“There’s a realization that no one company in the world can possibly have all the smartest engineers, but if you can tap into a community and be part of a community where your engineers can talk to engineers from other companies and other countries…we can advance the whole industry in how we make progress if we work across companies,” said Collier. “This is why I think that companies are embracing open source as a strategy.”
Miller agrees, emphasizing that the way you do open source is equally important. He says that Wind River is an upstream first methodology open source company.
“Every bug that we fix, every feature that we write goes into the open source first. That is the right community cultural approach for companies to take,” he said. “The growth and success of your business is from that open source community and crowdsourcing.”
There’s also commercial reasons behind open source, said Miller. Collier agreed saying that open source is simply a better business strategy.
When talking about a company’s open source strategy, Vancsa added on how critical it is to participate by being part of the community, sharing your views, and steering the direction of the project. =
One of the specific projects where Vancsa contributes is StarlingX, an open source cloud infrastructure software stack for the edge.
Wind River was one of the organizations who helped start StarlingX to address the distributed edge use case by leveraging technologies like OpenStack, Kubernetes, and Ceph.
Who is deploying StarlingX in production?
- StarlingX helped power the world’s first 5G fully virtualized call using virtualized RAN technology at the edge of the network.
- Selected StarlingX for their Open RAN deployment
- Using StarlingX for manufacturing and augmented reality
Interested in learning more about StarlingX, contributing upstream or running in production? Learn more and get involved in the community here: https://www.starlingx.io/
Next Episode on #OpenInfraLive
Digital Sovereignty is a key concern for the 21st century, especially for Europe. Open source has a major role to play in enabling digital sovereignty, by allowing everyone to access the necessary technology, but also by providing the governance transparency and interoperability necessary for those solutions to succeed. In today’s episode of OpenInfra Live, Johan Christenson, CEO of CityNetwork, hosts a discussion around the role of open source in digital sovereignty between Pierre Gronlier, CTO of Gaia-X, Kurt Garloff, CTO at Sovereign Cloud Stack, and Linda Siwe, Chief Commercial Officer at Binero.
Tune in on Thursday, July 8 at 1400 UTC (9:00 AM CT) to watch this #OpenInfraLive episode: The Role of Open Source in Digital Sovereignty.
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