VMware's Chris Wolf predicts edge solutions will come to life in 2020

While a large chunk of last year was spent hyping edge use cases, solutions and definitions, this year will get down to the brass tacks of the deployments, according to VMware's Chris Wolf.

Among 2020 deployment trends, Wolf, VMware’s vice president of the advanced technology group, said enterprises are seeking to deliver new technologies to remote locations entirely in software, which will improve business velocity and agility.

Wolf said that organizations are looking for technology partners to help them solve problems and accelerate their investments at the edge. In order to provision 5G services and applications, such as autonomous vehicles, AR/VR and IoT use cases, enterprises and service providers are looking to the edge of networks to lower latency.

In order to bring edge deployments to life, edge solutions need to decrease or naturalize edge computing costs, and consolidate the amount of infrastructure needed at all of those edge locations.  As an example, Wolf cited a single hardware appliance that provides an SD-WAN service while also running a few other applications in isolation. The end result reduces costs by consolidating the infrastructure while improving network performance. 

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Last year CenturyLink fired up more than 100 initial edge compute locations across the U.S. to provide a range of managed services and hybrid cloud solutions to its customers. The edge compute services blend compute, cloud, storage and networking capabilities into one package in order to enable 5 millisecond transport time from its existing locations to the edge.

Distributed clouds are a key element of enterprises' and service providers' edge compute deployments and services.

“Regarding distributed cloud, I believe that data growth will continue to outpace the growth of network capacity," Wolf said in an email to FierceTelecom. "In some cases today, the costs of transferring large data sets over a network outweigh the benefits. In addition, we are seeing a growing number of local inferencing use cases where decisions have to be made in a matter of milliseconds or less. In those cases, it makes far more sense to process data and draw inferences right at the physical location where the data is generated. 

"Of course, there are use cases for both centralized and decentralized data sets. While some believe that 5G will help with data consolidation, I believe it will have the opposite effect. Network ubiquity can lead to more data in more places, and create new opportunities to process data anywhere."

With increased amounts of data and applications located outside of corporate data centers, enterprises and service providers are deploying their infrastructure and applications across multiple cloud providers and edge locations. 

According to research by Gartner, more than 50% of enterprise-generated data will be created and processed outside of the data center or cloud by 2022. That percentage could rise to 75%, 80% or even 90% by 2025, according to Gartner.

VMware can connect between clouds through its recent acquisition of Avi Networks and with its integrated NSX offering. It can also connect from the edge to the cloud via VeloCloud or across different clouds such as VMware in Amazon Web Services, CloudSimple in Azure and Google Cloud.

On the flip side, cloud providers need the carriers' networks to deliver their services at the edge in order to enable low latency.

"Cloud providers see this trend as well, and have been aggressively working to offer services that run outside of cloud data centers," Wolf said of the trend of more data in more places this year. "Initially, you should look for greater maturity of data services, analytics services and automation services such as those driven by serverless functions to be offered at the edge. Going forward, a broad range of cloud service availability at the edge should be expected.

"VMware is excited about this opportunity and you could consider cloud services to simply be a new generation of application platforms that VMware can virtualize to allow them to run anywhere."

Of course, VMware isn't the only game in town with it comes to distributed cloud and edge computing. In November, Volterra emerged from two years of stealth mode to announce it has raised $50 million in funding, as well as the launch of its distributed cloud platform.

To address the challenges that result from widely distributed applications and diverse infrastructure, Volterra has developed a software-as-a-service (SaaS), cloud-native based distributed cloud platform for integrating multi-cloud and edge environments.

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In an interview with FierceTelecom, Ankur Singla, Volterra's CEO and founder, cited VMware as his company's primary competitor, but there's also IBM-owned Red Hat to contend with.

VMware is able to point to its partnerships with the major cloud providers as one of the reasons it will see success at the edge. In March, VMware and Amazon Web Services announced that customers could buy VMware Cloud on AWS directly through AWS and the cloud provider’s partner network. Prior to that announcement, customers could only buy the hybrid cloud service through VMware and its partners.

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While VMware also has cloud partnerships in place with Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Project, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger has previously said VMware Cloud on AWS has been the preferred cloud offering to date.

"Because we are not a cloud provider, it has been easy for VMware to partner with all of the major clouds in this pursuit," Wolf said. "Those partners are excited to work with VMware because our software already runs practically anywhere and we can accelerate the time to market for any service to run at the edge.”