Clever data platforms are helping CSPs at the edge
The data platforms needed at the edge to drive the evolving needs of telcos and other communications service providers (CSPs) are appearing. Business technology journalist, Antony Savvas visited some key providers in the Silicon Valley and Denver areas last week.
On the IT Press Tour of Silicon Valley and Colorado, we came across a number of data storage vendors who were homing in on the opportunities being created for them in the edge telecoms space, as the IoT (Internet of Things) and 5G services markets continue to expand.
Weka provides a cloud data platform that supports the large-volume, artificial intelligence (AI) data processing needs of corporations, using clever algorithms and optimisation techniques. It has attracted strategic investment from a number of key technology companies, including Qualcomm, Cisco, HPE and Nvidia.
Its go-to-market (GTM) is through hybrid cloud service providers, who are increasingly striking relationships with telcos to more quickly and efficiently manage data at the edge instead of processing it at distant cloud data centres, and through leading server and storage vendors that serve edge/on-premise markets.
The company is expected to take the wraps off a new version of its hardware-agnostic software later this week, accompanied by some new strategic partnerships in the cloud and at the edge, that will help it build on its 200 existing enterprise customers.
When it comes to data processing at the edge, the firm wants to become an Arm-type vendor that supports every company working in that space and sees telcos key to its growth.
Weka president, Jonathan Martin says, “Edge data not only has to be managed, it has to be monetised, and that, of course, is no different for 5G data. Our data platform is a very strong telco 5G story.”
Another company that sees CSP opportunities at the edge is Lightbits, which has attracted investment from the likes of Dell, Cisco and Intel.
Its high-performance cloud and edge software-defined storage technology has just attracted another funding round. Full details of this raise are expected to be publicly released later this month, along with the alliances that will go around it.
The Lightbits Cloud Data Platform comes with its patented Intelligent Flash Management, that promises to help large organisations quickly scale up their cloud and edge data workloads with low latency, while also reducing their storage costs. The offering is also tightly integrated with VMware, Kubernetes and OpenStack management and monitoring.
Lightbits is expected to make big noises in the hybrid cloud and edge space. Gary McCulley, director for the data platform group for storage at Intel, told us his company, as a partner, had 50 people dedicated to the opportunities that Lightbits’ technology was expected to generate in the chip, storage and networking spaces.
Indeed, we learned that Intel had recently sold Lightbits’ system into the operations of BT, which is looking to use it to optimise the data management needs of its own operations and, ultimately, its customers and partners.
McCulley says, “We are working with Lightbits to enable high-capacity storage platforms at low-cost, while delivering a hyperscale service for all.”
The IT Press Tour also visited edge storage software specialist Liqid, which is deploying its data optimisation solution at a number of telcos, some of whom are also now selling it to their own business customers.
The company says servers and other infrastructure hardware capacity at organisations is often under-used, sometimes by as little as 30%, as firms over-deploy to make sure they can handle their rising data processing needs. Under-utilisation of such systems is often built-in, but offering too much head-room at high-cost.
Liqid says that as corporate electricity costs go up, and as concerns around rising power and water use at data centres among the public rises, its software is being adopted to maximise the actual use of data infrastructure, while addressing the low latency and fast data processing needs of companies.
Customers include CenturyLink, Verizon, Intel, Alibaba, Siemens, Sony, the US Department of Defense and Orange. Orange liked the Liqid Matrix Software offering so much for its own data processing operations, that it has decided to sell it to others as-a-service through its Orange Business Services unit.
Robert Brumfield, Liqid director of corporate communications, says: “We are educating the market about what can be done in data optimisation and utilisation beyond big data analytics and the cloud, we are looking at 5G mobile and the edge.
“That is where the data is going, ultimately, all data will be generated and autonomously handled there.”
Other companies visited on the Tour also saw telcos as prime drivers of more efficient and cost-effective data processing, which was obviously good to hear.
The 6G marketing curve is starting to rise in earnest, with Nokia striking an alliance with Japanese operator NTT Docomo, its parent company NTT, along with Fujitsu and NEC, to conduct experimental 6G trials in both Germany and Japan.
Peter Vetter, president for Bell Labs Core Research at Nokia, says: “We envision that 6G will unify the human experience across the digital and physical worlds.
“Docomo and NTT are always among the first to bring new generations to the market. We look forward to working together and validating key concepts and technologies to realise the 6G vision.”
The partners say they expect 6G commercial services to be launched by 2030. Many businesses will no doubt have been convinced by then that they need something called 6G.
Let’s hope enough consumers take advantage of 5G-driven products and services to help pay for it.
The author is Antony Savvas, a global freelance business technology journalist.