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Five Steps Telcos Can Take to Become an Enterprise Edge Expert

Because the true value of the edge lies in the applications that run on top of edge infrastructure, it’s critical to identify and understand the use cases most likely to gain market traction before moving down a path of implementation and adoption.

October 26, 2020 8 minute read

Service providers are spending aggressively to deploy 5G, and they are looking to monetize that investment by delivering next-generation enterprise services at the edge of the network. 

Why? Edge computing will drive a wave of new applications and services that leverage the low latency and high bandwidth promised under 5G. Some of those applications and services will appeal to consumers, but many will geared toward the enterprise, where the bigger 5G monetization opportunity exists.

Service providers, therefore, are justifiably rushing to identify, develop and validate edge-enabled use cases that they can bring to market in industries ready to implement such solutions (manufacturing, retail, entertainment, etc.). 

But challenges exist: 

  • The edge environment is complex and costly, and it takes considerable momentum to enable the first use case. 
  • Edge computing is not a single technology, but a complex ecosystem of technologies, vendors, use cases and solutions that can make it difficult for any organization to adopt and utilize it.
  • According to new research, just 6 percent of enterprise IT decision makers would select operators for help with their edge implementations.
  • Perhaps most alarming: Despite pre-conceived notions, enterprise customers are already further along in their evaluation and adoption of edge technology and use cases than many give them credit for. They’re actively having conversations about edge, its benefits and how they can best leverage it, and are working toward finding the right partner set to turn their vision into reality. 

Given this context, service providers must move quickly to establish themselves in the edge ecosystem or risk losing out on the market altogether. 

Dan Graham, World Wide Technology's global edge product lead, recently participated in a Light Reading webinar to discuss just that — how service providers can Develop a Strategy to Become an Enterprise Edge Expert. Watch the 60-minute video below or continue reading to find five steps operators can take to capitalize on the edge opportunity. 

Use your network to your advantage

As Dan outlines during the webinar, there is little evidence that 5G will bring about a huge increase in revenue per user with individual customers. But given new 5G standards and edge availability, there is net new opportunity, particularly around edge services, in the enterprise space. 

Broadly speaking, service providers should position themselves in one of three ways in the edge ecosystem:  

  1. Location owner: Deliver connectivity as an edge location owner.
  2. Connector: Effectively integrate edge with the enterprise’s current infrastructure, with specific focus on cybersecurity capabilities as an edge connector.
  3. Enabler: Focus on the end user and make deployment of new edge use cases and associated applications easy, enabling ongoing innovation as an edge application enabler.

Our research shows the revenue opportunity increases as we work down the list, moving from offering connectivity — the traditional role of the service provider — to offering edge infrastructure and application platforms. 

Service providers need to react accordingly and begin building converged infrastructure at their edge locations to align with the long-term goals of their end customers.  

In a 5G sense, a converged edge solution can relieve carriers of the burden of being a software company by providing an integrated approach that makes 5G infrastructure easier to roll out and simpler to consume for enterprise customers.  

WWT’s Converged Edge Platform, a joint solution with VMware, presents a pre-validated reference architecture with hardware and software optimizations to create deployment-specific builds.

Five steps to enterprise edge success

Because the true value of the edge lies in the applications that run on top of this infrastructure, it’s critical to first identify and understand the use cases most likely to gain market traction before moving down a path of implementation and adoption.

To support this process, we've created the Edge Innovation Studio, an environment to validate next-generation edge applications as they were intended in native environments. 

The Innovation Studio incorporates five steps to success: 

1. Identify use cases and industries

Service providers need to effectively use their networks to tap into the value being created at the edge. They can do this by:

  • Understanding which industries are most amenable to leveraging edge to better deliver value internally and externally.
  • Identifying key use cases in those industries and the related applications that are most likely to gain market traction.
  • Deploy these vertical-specific solutions at scale to drive new revenue streams.

WWT research conducted with Analysys Mason provides exclusive insight into drivers, use cases and challenges across key industries

2. Craft an edge strategy tailored to your customers

The primacy of edge means you should take a proactive approach to define your organization’s edge proposition and the role it will play in the edge ecosystem. 

Doing so can be complicated, so it is important to start with some basic questions. 

The 10 questions we ask in this workbook are intended to walk you through the process of capturing your organization’s existing capabilities in edge and mapping them to the needs of your customers.

Some of the questions may seem simple, but providing full and accurate answers will give you a solid basis for a successful long-term edge strategy. In addition to the questions, the workbook contains useful examples and templates to help you map out your approach. 

3. Align organizational stakeholders

Like any new development project, clearly articulating a set of goals and outcomes is critical to defining a roadmap for successful solution implementation. Establish a clear path for what is needed to bring edge use cases to market and leave with a vision of what successful edge adoption looks like.

Through a workshop, we can collaborate with key organizational stakeholders to refine the vision of the edge compute solution into testable hypotheses, discover the solutions user base, and determine how to validate business goals and objectives in order to: 

  • Clearly define the problem and challenge.
  • Identify personas that will consume the edge application.
  • Establish a solution roadmap.
  • Define measurable business outcomes.
  • Design various aspects of the application at a high level and determine the technology needed to create a prototype.

If you're interested in understanding more about what is needed to bring edge uses cases to market, please contact us and we can together create a vision of what a successful edge implementation looks like for your organization.

4. Leverage a team of teams approach

Transformational projects require not just the right people, but the right mix of people.

We’ve seen active edge inquiries from some of the largest brands in the automotive, pharmaceutical, oil and gas, retail, global financial, and entertainment industries. Things like:  

  • Building a more robust in-car experience through driverless capabilities, sensors, connected devices and embedded systems.  
  • Smart factories or factories of the future.
  • Platforms to build edge-enabled oil refinement applications on.
  • Moving workloads and applications completely from a data center footprint to an edge footprint.  

One key narrative spans each of these initiatives: This isn't as easy as a simple edge solution. 

Many of these engagements will require a team of teams approach — expertise in not just edge, but big data and analytics, multicloud strategy, security, artificial intelligence and machine learning, networking, automation, and an all-encompassing digital strategy that will create an exceptional experience for the end user.   

Alignment, too, becomes critical. These projects run on trust, and any approach should seek to build and maintain trust to de-risk and expedite transformation.

5. Test, validate and deploy prototypes

No matter the application, integrated edge solutions should not be treated as a Swiss Army Knife that can easily support a broad range of use cases. Unique combinations of hardware and software need to be aligned with specific use cases to optimize performance.  

To help target these vertical-specific use cases, we've created a set of total stack edge infrastructure configurations optimized and designed to create new 5G revenue streams for service providers by delivering industry vertical applications to customers via their mobile edge computing platform. 

WWT's edge enablement program also utilizes our Next-Generation Factory Model which helps service providers accelerate time to revenue by validating complex, multi-vendor solutions with speed in our Advanced Technology Center, integrating them at scale in one of our global integration facilities.  

Conclusion

Mobile edge computing (MEC) is widely considered to be a key component of service providers’ strategy to monetize costly 5G infrastructure

Service providers are well positioned to win this game thanks a massive portfolio of cell sites that exist much closer to end users than most cloud providers’ data centers. But they must effectively use their networks to be able to tap into the value being created at the edge.

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