Dell SVP discusses 5G as driver of AI, network disaggregation
LAS VEGAS–Digital transformation, driven by the intersection of distributed multi-cloud computing, internet of things devices generating data and powerful 5G connectivity, is key to the long-term viability of Dell Technologies’ global customer base–that’s a prominent message from company leaders during Dell Technologies World.
In an interview with RCR Wireless News, Dell EMC SVP and GM of Networking, Service Provider and Enterprise Infrastructure Tom Burns said these technology investments are “really about the…explosion of data that’s occurring. Data is one of the greatest assets of any company.”
But to unlock the value of that data, it has to come from somewhere. In the context of digital transformation efforts, that’s data produced by mobile and other connected internet of things-type devices. As those devices proliferate and computing is pushed out to the network edge, the throughput and latency benefits of 5G will become increasingly apparent and valuable.
“I think 5G, the use cases still need to be proven out,” Burns said, noting that LTE and 5G will co-exist for an extended period of time. “I think AI/ML is just one use case of 5G,” he said, calling out immersive video, connected office, new B2B telco service opportunities and even hosted big data services.
Update on the edge
Operators have a clear understanding of the importance of investments in edge computing as a way to create differentiated 5G services. But what’s not entirely clear is how exactly an edge build out will unfold–will operators opt to own the infrastructure, follow a neutral host tower-type model and lease what they need, or a combination of the above. Regardless of how it plays out, any scenario will require general-purpose cloud compute infrastructure at a variety of new and existing sites.
“[Operators] haven’t come to conclusions but they have a path in mind,” Burns said. “That’s where I think we have a tremendous opportunity,” as those decisions are made over the next 12 to 18 months. In building out multi-cloud infrastructure, “I can tell you there’s a line of coopetition. I think there’s an opportunity for service providers, particularly a telco, to provide some differentiation of services that sit on that multi-cloud.”
5G as an IT-centric network
Similar to the move to distributed cloud computing, telcos are more broadly moving to trade out single-function hardware for general-purpose equipment capable of dynamically running virtualized network functions. Beyond the core there’s an even a push from operators to open up the radio access network in an effort to offset the cost requirements of dense 5G while building a more flexible, cloud-native network.
“Most of the RFPs and the conversations with the telecommunication providers are around disaggregation between hardware and software and moving to a more white box hardware platform,” Burns said, which brings about potential issues around design and support. “That’s the value prop of Dell EMC: We can support disaggregation and ensure the white box they’re designing meets their requirements.”
He also noted that organizationally he sees telcos going through internal realignments “merging their traditional IT departments and their…network groups.”
As operators continue to spend on virtualization and the edge compute investment cycle kicks in, “The hardware is still really important,” Burns said, noting that as a primary advantage of Dell Technologies. Another is “the global support, a secure supply chain and a single point of contact.” That’s also “one of the reasons we think we can extract a bit of premium,” Burns said.