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The Year of the Edge … and Acceleration

Will this be the Year of the Edge?

AT&T says yes. Emphatically. An AT&T executive recently declared it so, in explaining how the carrier is now prioritizing edge computing and delivery of powerful edge capabilities to business customers.

That includes building 5G and edge technologies together and working with cloud providers to add edge technology into its network centers as they are upgraded for 5G.

“Our entire edge strategy is based around what our customers actually need and solving real problems for them,” said Executive VP Mo Katibeh in a blog post. “We are trying new things. Proving new concepts. Building new capabilities.”

AT&T is hardly alone in its emphasis on the edge. This is where the action is, and it is where we at Ethernity have been focused for some time now. Our white paper on the edge addressed in depth the edge environment, its unique needs, and how SmartNIC data acceleration can ensure that the edge lives up to its potential.

In fact, we would go so far as to say you can’t really have a Year of the Edge without a Year of Acceleration. There are challenges at the edge that simply can’t be overcome without hardware-based network acceleration, ideally in the form of FPGA-based SmartNICs.

When virtual networking applications are run through software programmed on legacy hardware, providers face severe challenges of space and power – particularly at the edge – to reach the growing number of users and devices. There is also the question of performance issues such as latency and jitter.

An FPGA-based SmartNIC solution can overcome these challenges. It offers scalable, deterministic performance with very low latency at a fraction of the space, power, and overall cost. These are critical elements at the network edge. The additional advantage is that a SmartNIC solution is secure, open, and fully programmable, helping to keep costs low going forward.

In fact, Analysys Mason in a recent technical white paper went so far as to say that the transformation of operators’ networks into software-defined, automated, cloud-native infrastructures in the era of 5G and the edge will only be possible with data plane acceleration technologies.

The bottom line, according to Analysys Mason, is that “Acceleration technologies will be pivotal to this transformation by enabling operators to meet the performance, latency, QoS, subscriber density and security requirements of existing and future applications with optimum TCO (total cost of ownership).”

Analysys Mason came to the same conclusion as an increasing number of vendors and service providers, that FPGA-based systems are the best choice for achieving this acceleration, thanks to their programmability.

When it comes to enabling the edge, it will be solutions such as Ethernity’s Router-on-NIC that help to enable acceleration, leveraging the capabilities of an FPGA-based SmartNIC to provide switch/router functionality and an NFVI gateway. The Router-on-NIC is really the ultimate solution for 5G UPF Acceleration, which the more enlightened leaders in the telecom industry already recognize as the key to achieving the potential of the edge and the performance benchmarks of 5G.

So as much as it may be the Year of the Edge, 2020 will also be the Year of Acceleration.

By Brian Klaff