5G Drives Collaboration Between Carriers, Cloud Infrastructure Providers

Cloud and network services providers are exploring ways to leverage the newfound performance and capacity benefits that come with 5G to deliver more capabilities to enterprises, particularly to rapidly expanding edge environments.

Dish Wireless is teaming up with Cisco Systems and data center services provider Equinix to help drive its smart 5G network ambitions, which will be powered by cloud networking and automation software from Cisco and digital infrastructure services from Equinix.

For its part, Microsoft is expanding its partnership with AT&T aimed at combining the telecommunication giant’s 5G capabilities with Microsoft’s Azure cloud to help organizations extend their reach to the edge.

“Today, we find ourselves at a pivotal moment that’s impacting many enterprise customers’ digital transformation needs,” Jason Zander, executive vice president of Azure, wrote in a blog post. “In this place where cloud meets the edge, compute meets mobile, and 5G trends continue to drive innovation—customer demand for advanced network capabilities is surging. For customers, the promise of all these converging technologies is still the ability to create and use innovative solutions and experiences to keep pace with a rapidly evolving digital landscape.”

Also read: Chip Designer Arm Aims for Dominance in 5G Networks

Enterprises Look to the Cloud

As enterprises migrate more mission-critical workloads to the cloud, they are looking for help in delivering services and innovation and expanding what they can do in an increasingly decentralized IT environment, Zander wrote. 

“With new use cases and connected devices becoming ubiquitous, those enterprises are requiring new edge application solutions close to the end users to help them build innovative solutions within industries as diverse as gaming, automotive, healthcare, manufacturing, and more,” he wrote.

5G is key to helping to make all of this happen. 5G includes significant improvements over 4G in speed, latency and capacity, which means enabling more devices to run on the same network, an important advantage for the Internet of Things (IoT). However, it’s more than all that, according to Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research.

Until now, cloud computing has been essentially centralized computing, with organizations using one cloud for one workload and running other workloads on other clouds.

The latest move by Microsoft and AT&T expands the collaboration between the two companies, which includes AT&T adopting Microsoft cloud technology for its 5G core network workloads to increase productivity and reduce costs.

“With 5G, the definition of cloud evolves into something that I’ve been calling ‘distributed cloud,’ in which we can use multiple cloud providers, edge computing, private clouds and make them look like a single compute fabric,” Kerravala told Enterprise Networking Planet. “What 5G does is allow you to put your data in more workloads in more places. The cloud expands from just being a centralized compute model to something that’s distributed and a lot of that will be driven by edge computing. I’m not sure you can really do edge computing without 5G. It brings connectivity to places where you could never have it before.”

5G and Cloud-Native

Another key aspect of 5G is that it’s cloud-native, so services are more agile— easier to spin up and down, based on demand— and it handles application traffic better than 4G, the analyst said. It also will enable a company like Dish to better compete within the 5G ecosystem.

“Dish has always been on the outside looking in when it comes to wireless,” he said. “Because 5G is cloud-native in design, you can build it using Equinix as partners. You don’t have to build your own massive data centers and POPs [points of presence] and things like that. It will create more competitiveness. The winners in the 5G world are the ones that can figure out how to drive a lot of consumer and business innovation on top of the 5G network. Speed is part of it but being cloud-native lets you do a lot more with it.”

Also read: Using Wi-Fi 6 and 5G to Build Advanced Wireless Networks

Dish and Cisco Tie Up

Dish launched a 5G pilot program in Las Vegas this month, with plans to expand it to cover 70 percent of the United States by summer of 2023. The agreements with Cisco and Equinix add to a list of partnerships that include IBM and Amazon Web Services (AWS). Dish will get access to Equinix’s interconnection infrastructure through the International Business Exchange (IBX) data centers Equinix runs in the United States. Equinix in September unveiled its 5G and Edge Technology Development Center, which includes a 5G network from Nokia that organizations can use to test and validate 5G services and use cases.

With Cisco, Dish will create an open, cloud-based and highly automated network that will include Cisco’s XRv9K virtualized routers running on AWS, virtual Cell Tower Routers and other technologies, including its IOS-XR operating system for 5G, NCS series routers, Nexus 9000 series switches with Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) switching fabric, and Crosswork Network Controller. There also are DevOps and go-to-market aspects of the partnership.

In a statement, Cisco Chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins said the partnership will help enterprises transition to network-as-a-service, support hybrid work models and expand into such markets as IoT.

Microsoft Expands Partnership with AT&T

The latest move by Microsoft and AT&T expands the collaboration between the two companies, which includes AT&T adopting Microsoft cloud technology for its 5G core network workloads to increase productivity and reduce costs. They also are working together to create Azure Edge Zones on AT&T’s 5G network, improving application performance while reducing costs and complexity.

The Azure Edge Zones bring together AT&T Network Edge (ANE) capabilities and the Azure cloud platform.

“A selected set of Azure services deployed at the edge, directly connected to AT&T’s 5G core, enables latency-sensitive enterprise scenarios through optimized routing from the Azure Edge Zones with AT&T to the AT&T mobility network,” Microsoft’s Zander wrote. “This enables developers to innovate richer applications with lower latency, higher throughput, and greater reach.”

The two companies run a proof-of-concept in Los Angeles and this week announced a private preview for another Azure Edge Zone in Atlanta, with others planned for such metro areas as Dallas.

With 5G, enterprises will see telcos being much more responsive to their needs, ZK’s Kerravala said. Historically, when a carrier considered a new telecom service, they had to build out a new network for that service, an expensive and complex process that forced the telcos to take months or years to decide on a service. 5G will enable more agile networks, which will help not only established carriers like AT&T but also companies like Dish that want to expand their capabilities.

“With 5G, because you’re basically running big clouds right as your backend, you can make changes very quickly,” he said. “You can act like a cloud provider, you can throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks and if people don’t like it you get rid of it and try something else. This allows them to experiment a lot more and that’s not something they’ve historically done. If Dish enters this and they’re willing to be a lot more innovative and forward looking, they can capture a big chunk of shared business services.”

Read next: Going Beyond 5G: What to Expect from a 6G Future

Jeff Burt
Jeffrey Burt has been a journalist for more than three decades, the last 20-plus years covering technology. During more than 16 years with eWEEK, he covered everything from data center infrastructure and collaboration technology to AI, cloud, quantum computing and cybersecurity. A freelance journalist since 2017, his articles have appeared on such sites as eWEEK, The Next Platform, ITPro Today, Channel Futures, Channelnomics, SecurityNow, Data Breach Today, InternetNews and eSecurity Planet.

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