Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Tuesday, December 1, 2020
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AT&T, IBM Extend 5G to the Edge Via OpenShift 

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IBM and AT&T are building on their ongoing 5G wireless partnership by combining AT&T's (NYSE: T) next-generation wireless network with IBM's Cloud Satellite hybrid platform. The move aims to help enterprises leverage 5G for applications running in the cloud, in-house or, increasingly, at the network edge.

The plans, unveiled by IBM (NYSE: IBM) and AT&T on Thursday (Oct. 29), come 15 months after the 5G partnership launched in July 2019. The partnership revolves around IBM's Red Hat OpenShift platform, which is used to manage applications and cloud workloads and extend them to the edge. Built on OpenShift, IBM Cloud Satellite is touted as an easier way to build applications where the data resides, while eliminating platform differences.

The latest 5G collaboration also combines AT&T’s edge computing infrastructure with hybrid cloud computing. Along with low latency, the carrier’s edge computing network takes advantage of emerging 5G capabilities such as the ability to divide increased network bandwidth into private cellular networks—in this case an edge network.

IBM released the beta version of its Cloud Satellite distributed cloud in July. Distributed cloud refers to public cloud services spread across different regions to handle specific applications and workloads. Despite its distributed nature, it is centrally controlled by the customer's chosen public cloud vendor, according to IBM.

The IBM Cloud Satellite standardizes a core set of Kubernetes, data, AI and security services that are centrally managed as a service by IBM Cloud, while maintaining full visibility across all environments in a single portal.

The ability to combine 5G with edge services on a hybrid cloud “marks a significant step forward increasing the possibilities of 5G and edge in the enterprise,” said Howard Boville, IBM’s senior vice president of hybrid cloud.

More Enterprises Using Multiple Clouds, Says IBM

As part of its hybrid cloud push, IBM cites industry estimates that 55% of enterprises currently use multiple clouds. It also notes the majority of business-critical workloads remain on-premises. For banks, healthcare providers and retailers, the reason for the lag in cloud adoption is often due to the locations of their data, while for media and telecommunications carriers, low latency is a priority, according to the company.

With these complications, IBM and AT&T are betting that a hybrid cloud connected to the edge via 5G will convince more enterprises to shift workloads to a distributed cloud like IBM Cloud Satellite.

Along with healthcare providers and retailers, the partners said they are also targeting manufacturers who could use low-latency 5G networks to automate assembly lines while using near real-time visual analytics to boost quality control.

Another use case is supply chain management, where 5G-backed hybrid clouds are promoted as a way to automate inventory control and deliver AI tools to streamline procurement.

The expanded 5G partnership is among the first cloud initiatives since IBM announced in early October that it was spinning off its managed infrastructure unit to focus on the booming hybrid cloud market. That strategy is built around Red Hat OpenShift, which IBM said has attracted more than 300 partners.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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