At the recent VMware Explore conference, a key focus was the emerging edge computing industry. VMware, best known as a data center company, has built a strong edge portfolio, enabling companies to run workloads in bandwidth- or processor-constrained environments.
VMware’s announcement is well-timed, as the edge is where the action is. It’s so vital to enterprise success that ZK Research sees the market doubling—from about $50 billion annually to more than $100 billion—over the next five years.
Much of that will come from the industries where IT and OT (operational technology) are coming together, such as manufacturing and warehousing. Other verticals such as healthcare and retail are looking to use the edge to process information where the data is versus having to backhaul information to a centralized cloud.
Edge Computing Key Announcements
The announcement included:
- VMware edge orchestration capabilities for multiple edge services.
- A retail edge industry solution for customer engagement, loss prevention, and point-of-sale transformation.
- VMware Edge managed connectivity service, which will soon be available to wireless service providers looking to deliver private 4G/5G services to enterprises.
In his keynote, Sanjay Uppal, VMware’s Senior VP and General Manager of Service Provider and Edge, said, “The growing demand for edge computing across industries is driving the need for automation and orchestration. The VMware Edge Cloud Orchestrator is a powerful new tool that extends our proven network automation and orchestration capabilities to help organizations install, configure, operate, and maintain their edge deployments more securely and cost-effectively.”
Critical elements of the announcement:
VMware Edge Cloud Orchestrator
Formerly known as the VMware SASE Orchestrator, the company’s Edge Cloud Orchestrator aims to unify management for VMware SASE and the VMware Edge Compute Stack.
Jörg Spindler, Global Head of Manufacturing Engineering at Audi, said in a press release that his company is looking to take its automation at its global factories to the next level with a scalable edge infrastructure. “VMware Edge Compute Stack (ECS) and the VMware Edge Cloud Orchestrator (VECO) will offer a scalable way for Audi to operate a distributed edge infrastructure, manage resources more efficiently, and lower its operations costs.”
VMware Edge Compute Stack
Based on the company’s Project Keswick, the Edge Compute Stack enables edge administrators to work with VMware to develop use cases with simplified lifecycle management of VM and container-based applications and infrastructure.
The company believes that customers can consolidate hardware and modernize applications at a speed that matches their business needs. The overall goal is to reduce infrastructure and management overhead so that customers can scale edge operations.
VMware Retail Edge
Retail stores can use VMware Retail Edge to build, run, manage, connect, and protect their business services across all locations to reduce in-store infrastructure costs and management.
According to VMware, retailers can remotely deploy and maintain applications on demand and accelerate the deployment of next-gen AI apps. Retail Edge will integrate with partners to support various retail needs, including customer engagement and loss prevention. Given that the budget for edge may fall outside IT purchasing, rolling out vertical solutions is the right approach.
In the future, I expect to see other industry-specific edges such as transportation, warehousing, and healthcare.
VMware Private Mobile Network
This managed connectivity service aims to speed up edge digital transformation and remove the complexity associated with private mobile. VMware is working with wireless providers Betacom, Boingo Wireless, and Federated Wireless in a beta program ahead of general availability sometime this quarter.
Dr. Derek Peterson, CTO at Boingo, said, “Boingo is collaborating with VMware to enhance our managed private 5G networks that connect mobile and IoT devices at airports, stadiums, and large venues. VMware’s Private Mobile Network simplifies network integration and management, helping us accelerate deployments.”
Also see: Top Edge Companies
Support for Edge Use Cases
VMware says that its edge solutions will support use cases across:
- Manufacturing: autonomous vehicles, digital twins, inventory management, safety, and security.
- Retail: loss prevention, inventory management, safety, security, and computer vision.
- Energy: increased production visibility and efficiency, reduced unplanned downtime, maintain regulatory compliance.
- Healthcare: IoT wearables, smart utilities, and surgical robotics.
In the Expo Hall, VMware had a Ford F-150 police vehicle with its edge appliance in it that would make license plate scanning and other video analytics much faster than having to punch numbers into a computer manually.
Competitive Advantage and the Broadcom Acquisition
While there are many edge providers, VMware does have an interesting advantage. Its software-defined data center solution is one of the most widely deployed. It can use its position in the data center and position the edge as an extension of the data center as part of its multi-cloud vision. This would enable VMware customers to manage the edge using the data center’s operational model.
One of the concerns I had going into Explore was that the pending acquisition by Broadcom could slow down innovation, but that does not appear to be the case. With competition only increasing in the coming years, it will be interesting to see how Broadcom’s acquisition—and the integration of Broadcom’s software group into VMware—will change the company.
For now, the focus on the edge is extending VMware’s reach, and this latest announcement is an essential and necessary step in the journey to multi-cloud.