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Aarna Networks 2021 Predictions: How Edge Will Evolve and Continue to Disrupt

vmblog 2021 prediction series 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2021.  Read them in this 13th annual series exclusive.

How Edge Will Evolve and Continue to Disrupt

By Amar Kapadia, Co-founder & CEO, Aarna Networks

At Aarna Networks, we are making five key predictions for 5G+edge computing disruptions in 2021:

  • Private 5G will take off around the middle of the year
  • Public cloud vendors will become vendors of choice for the edge
  • O-RAN products will materialize by mid-to-late in the year
  • We will see version 1.0 of 5G+edge working together
  • The industry will require new skills and techniques

With ultra-reliable low latency, support for low power IoT, network slicing, and greater mobility support, 5G promises to transform entire B2B segments such as Industry 4.0, healthcare, precision agriculture, V2X, smart cities/buildings, and more. While there have only been a handful of Private 5G deployments to date, multiple technologies will converge to change this in 2021. First, numerous vendors are poised to roll out 5G radio products that will work over bands such as CBRS in 1H of 2021. Second, 5G RAN and 5G Core products supporting 3GPP Release 16 will be available by the middle of 2021. While Release 16 is not strictly required, many of the capabilities such as ultra-reliable low-latency communication enhancements make the release well suited for B2B use cases. Third, the availability of 5G user equipment (UE), whether it be phones or ethernet-to-5G gateways, that works over bands such as CBRS will also be available to a greater degree by the middle of the year. Finally, management software to orchestrate and automate the dynamic 5G software environment will also mature by the middle of the year. These trends, when combined, mean that Private 5G adoption will see a boost by the middle of 2021.

Next, we predict that by 2021 more customers will purchase edge compute solutions from public cloud vendors. This trend has already started in 2020 but will accelerate moving forward for three reasons. First, managing cloud infrastructure is difficult and not an enterprise or service provider's core business. Why not outsource the edge to an expert such as Amazon, Google, or Microsoft? Second, the move to cloud native technologies such as Kubernetes provides compatibility across private and public clouds and edge and core environments previously not seen, which in-turn eliminates vendor lock in. Third, working with a public cloud vendor provides a seamless bridge between edge and public clouds that will be required for most applications.

2021 will also be the year O-RAN compliant products roll out. O-RAN has gained tremendous momentum in 2020 with its promise to disaggregate 5G RAN to reduce upfront capital expenditure and enable new capabilities. The standards will allow customers to mix and match RAN products which will lead to increased competition, greater choice, enhanced functionality, and lower costs. While in LTE, the choices for eNodeB were restricted to a few big vendors, it seems like there is an O-RAN vendor coming out of the woodworks every month. 2021 will lead to stabilization of various interfaces, hardening of the various O-RAN components, and the implementation of the more esoteric O-RAN elements such as the Near-Real-Time and Non-Real-Time RIC. The latter two hold the promise of unlocking new capabilities unavailable in previous generations.

5G and edge computing are often uttered in the same breath; however, we are yet to see them working at-scale in real customer environments. As 5G rollout progresses, both on the public and private fronts, edge computing applications will start to get hosted on RAN edge sites. We will see the start of 5G and edge computing working hand-in-hand in 2021 to roll out capabilities and business value not previously seen. However, since applications have to be modified to work on the edge, we will see the promise truly play out beyond 2021. In other words, we will be laying the foundation for the 5G versions of Uber or Venmo in 2021.

Last but not least, we will see an increased appetite for new skills and techniques. Reskilling has been an evolution-with SDN and NFV driving change over the years-but this trend is about to accelerate rather rapidly. The key changes that will impact organizational capabilities are:

  • Limited NFV → a pure software driven world
  • Vendor provided management → extensive orchestration, lifecycle management, automation, optimization, CI/CD to manage 5G networks + edge computing applications
  • No edge computing applications → initial start of edge computing applications
  • Purchasing the entire stack from one vendor → disaggregated world

These trends mean a rapid acquisition of new skills and tools will be required for both enterprises and service providers.


About the Author

Amar Kapadia 

Amar Kapadia is co-founder and CEO at Aarna Networks, an open source software company creating a platform for orchestration, lifecycle management, and automation of 5G network services and edge computing applications.

Prior to Aarna, Amar was the NFV product marketing head at Mirantis. Before Mirantis, he was responsible for defining and launching EVault's public cloud storage service (acquired by Seagate) based on OpenStack Swift and a variety of marketing and engineering leadership positions at Emulex, Philips, and HP. Amar is also the author of the ONAP Demystified book and holds an MS EE degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Published Monday, January 18, 2021 7:30 AM by David Marshall
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