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Intel is driving the buildout of the edge with open systems

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Intel is driving the buildout of the edge with open



The Center of Data Gravity is Shifting, Fast 

Technology infrastructure and services are moving to the edge. Data gravity, a term first coined by software engineer Dave McCrory, describes the attraction between large data sets and related applications and services. With the proliferation of connected devices, the epicenter of compute is likewise moving from the data center and closer to the edge. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2025 more than 50% of enterprise-managed data will be created and processed outside the data center or cloud. 


The Future is Edge Native: It’s Time to Get Ready  

This gravitational pull toward the edge is no accident, but rather the consequence of society shifts—like supply chain bottlenecks, increased security needs, the new normal of hybrid work. It’s also being driven by the cost and latency of backhauling data to the cloud, as well as regulations about what can be stored in the cloud.   

Businesses across sectors are investing in AI-enabled automation to compete. This puts the need for edge computing squarely in focus—to process AI/inferencing workloads efficiently and securely with the ultra-low latency required by edge applications. Moreover, growing demand for streaming video and hybrid work is adding to the imperative for a secure distributed computing infrastructure that scales outside of the data center.    

For example, the retail sector is investing heavily in automation to alleviate labor shortages, reduce inventory loss and improve customer experiences. If you have a cashier less checkout store like Nourish and Bloom, you cannot afford to have your store functioning if the Internet connectivity to the store goes down. You will want to make sure that the automated visual checkout AI and software runs natively at the edge to ensure reliability. Similar examples abound in sectors ranging from industrial, healthcare, agriculture, and retail to defense and entire cities.  

To meet rapidly evolving business needs at the edge, we need to prepare for advanced computing in edge environments where operational failures—e.g., security breaches, power outages, etc.—are not black swan events like they are in the data center.  

At Intel, we believe every enterprise will develop an “Edge-Native” strategy and deploy compute in a distributed manner across many locations and instances: at the on-prem edge, at the telco and co-lo edges, in private datacenters and in public clouds.  

But the big question is: how does the industry build out a distributed compute infrastructure at the edge without gross inefficiencies inherent to organic growth? 


Open Systems are the Antidote to Fragmentation 

As businesses demand more agile solutions and services with lower TCO, all of us in the industry will face pressure to create more value from harder earned investment. In the buildout of the edge, closed platforms, incompatible stacks and point solutions may address customers’ immediate needs, but the long-term impact will stymie scale, ecosystem innovation and ultimately business outcomes.  

Our customers shouldn’t bear the costs of a fragmented edge market.  

The trend toward multi-cloud, hybrid, standards-based open platforms needs to accelerate, along with the development of novel business models and new partnerships, if we’re to thrive in an era of heightened risk aversion.   

Intel is embracing an open systems approach to building a common infrastructure for distributing computing. We’re delivering open software and flexible hardware that enables our partners and their customers to focus on business results and extend the lifespan of tech investments across generations of hardware. Smart Edge, our edge-native networking platform built on an open architecture, is part of that commitment to empowering a vibrant edge ecosystem.  


The New Release of Intel Smart Edge  

Growing pains in the buildout of the edge are unavoidable. At Intel we’re looking to help enterprises, governments and telcos accelerate the deployment of edge technologies without also erecting barriers to interoperability and scale. This means a commitment to open systems, flexible hardware and ecosystem empowerment that, in effect, strengthens the edge market as it matures.  

Intel Smart Edge is one example of Intel’s vision for the edge--and while it won’t solve all the challenges of the edge, it’s a step in the right direction. Built on an open architecture, Smart Edge is an edge-native distributed computing platform with software for multi-edge nodes and edge controller. It enables deployment and management of container-based workloads with cloud-like ease, resiliency and security at the edge. Smart Edge integrates compute-intensive workloads like AI, media, and software-defined networking functions, powered by pre-validated blueprints and solutions provided by Intel and a robust partner ecosystem.   

Smart Edge removes edge-networking barriers for the ecosystem by addressing needs of three types of constituents:  

  • Enabling edge application developers to create new verticalized services  
  • Enabling edge infrastructure developers and platform providers to offer new services like Private 5G wireless and SASE  
  • Delivering supported turnkey edge solutions to enterprises that are highly optimized for Xeon  

It delivers advanced resiliency and security on an open architecture for private 5G networks, enabling manufacturers, health systems and government to operate continuously in rugged and power-constrained environments. Built on a unified code base, the new release removes hardware and networking barriers to ecosystem innovation and product lifecycles. This includes seamless portability of edge applications across the Smart Edge portfolio for developers, edge platform builders and enterprises. 

The new release of Smart Edge for enterprises also includes:  

  • Non-technical management: Simplified user interface, wizard based 5G core deployment, embedded and easily accessible documentation, open APIs and one touch provisioning to enable non-technical personnel to administer private 5G networks in the field ​ 
  • Operational resiliency for Private 5G Networks:  Advanced resiliency capabilities for continuous operations in air-gapped environments, allowing edge nodes to operate independently of each other and of the controller to combat unreliable environments, Zero-Touch provisioning that supports deployment at scale, Autonomous Node Registration for operating in air-gapped Environments, and edge Node provisioning which is adaptable to new hardware platforms 
  • Robust Zero-Trust Security Measures: Robust zero-trust security features to prevent and mitigate threats. Optimized for Intel Software Guard Extensions (Intel® SGX), including secure memory enclaves and remote platform attestation. This also includes Mutual Trust Authentication and secure onboarding of applications. 
  • Ecosystem Portability: Extend software investments to new Intel hardware without re-development, Portability across CNCF certified deployments including all versions of the Smart Edge portfolio, VM Based support for Legacy Enterprise Apps


Lockheed Martin + Intel  

These features of the new Smart Edge release are not abstractions.  

Right now, Lockheed Martin and Intel are working together to extend 5G networking and computing service meshes across rugged military environments. This partnership is one of many Lockheed Martin is pursuing with leading technology companies, like Intel, to bridge commercial technologies into future DOD capabilities. In this instance, Lockheed Martin’s 5G.MIL® Hybrid Base Stations running the Intel® Smart Edge platform supports ubiquitous communications between military personnel and current and emerging platforms such as satellites, aircraft, ships, and ground vehicles.​ 

Lockheed Martin is leveraging Intel advanced processor technologies and innovations to put cloud capabilities in areas of tactical need. This ensures data-driven decision-making across all domains in support of national security efforts.​ 

We expect more to come from the buildout of the tactical edge.  


Enabling the broader ecosystem  

Our efforts extend beyond a single release.  

Intel has always been a trusted advisor with deep partnerships and a rich history of building robust and mature ecosystems—pulling together various parts of our supply chain, such as OEMs, ODMs, system integrators, ISVs, and others. And now we are bringing in communication and cloud service providers, and enterprise customers, into our collaborative efforts.  

Our ecosystem numbers speak for themselves. We have 27,000 Intel® Partner Alliance members, of which, 1,300 are IoT-focused. And we have 500-plus members in our Intel® Network Builders ecosystem.  

This is the most proven ecosystem in the industry that we enable in numerous ways. Not just by supplying silicon and software but, for example, also bringing them into one of our partner labs to help optimize their software or benefit from Intel’s scale initiatives, in the form of Intel® Market Ready Solutions and Intel® RFP Ready Kits. Smart Edge also offers experiences kits and reference implementations for some of the most in-demand use cases, like private 5G wireless and SASE, to help partners get to market faster.  

Smart Edge is already gaining traction in the market even in the nascency of distributed computing:  

  • Powering edge computing for Smart Cities, Private Wireless, and Intelligent Infrastructure with Nearby Computing’s Nearby One MEC platform 
  • Securing high-throughput, low-latency workloads at the far edges of the network where sub-5 millisecond latencies are the new normal—with zScaler and Supermicro’s zero-trust security-based solutions, like SASE and Secure Service Edge  
  • Enabling telcos to offer a SASE solutions to enterprises that is performance-optimized on Intel® Smart Edge with Rafay’s Kubernetes Operations Platform 
  • Safer roads for drivers and pedestrians with Capgemini’s 5G Smart RSU  solution running on their ENSCONCE edge server    


Open Infrastructure at the New Frontier  

But Smart Edge is only the beginning as we mature Intel’s edge strategy and offering to help lower the cost of innovation. We envision a future built on a shared distributed compute infrastructure and common software framework, where workloads can be placed where they can run most efficiently. And the tools needed to develop, test, and quickly deploy applications will be integrated. A future where enterprises can readily reconfigure manufacturing lines in response to supply chain fluctuations; where networks are software-defined and agile to scale with demand; and where innovators are freed from hardware and network complexities to focus on business logic.  

Open systems are essential to building this infrastructure and lowering the cost of innovation, affording customers the competitive agility they need to compete in the new frontier at the edge.  


About the Author
Vice President, Data Platforms Group, General Manager, Smart Edge Platforms Division Intel Corporation Renu N. Navale is vice president in the Data Platforms Group and general manager of the Smart Edge Platforms Division at Intel Corporation. She is responsible for overall strategy, software and platforms that strengthen Intel’s presence in the network edge computing business sector. She also leads ecosystem enabling for the Network Platforms Group (NPG) to accelerate network and edge transformation, and she fosters scale and industrywide collaboration through open source initiatives. Navale joined Intel in 2004 with extensive experience in networking and software. During her Intel career, she has held positions in strategic planning, product management, software marketing and engineering, and in 2015, she earned an Intel Achievement Award, the company’s highest recognition. In 2019, Navale was a finalist for the Edge Computing Woman of Year industry award from Edge Computing World and State of Edge. She also serves on the board of LFEdge, an industry initiative focused on creating an open source community for Edge. Before assuming her current role in 2017, Navale served as technical assistant and chief of staff to the vice president and general manager of NPG. Earlier in her Intel career, she oversaw the creation and launch of the Intel Network Builders program. Her tenure at Intel also includes managing the strategic planning team in the Internet of Things Group’s automotive division, where she led autonomous driving and connected car strategies. Before joining Intel, Navale worked on wireless, VoIP, and network management technologies at Nokia Networks. Her achievements were recognized twice with the company’s highest award for software design and innovation during her eight-year tenure. Navale holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering from Bangalore University in India, a master’s degree in computer science and engineering from Arizona State University, and an MBA degree from the Thunderbird School of Global Management. She has published multiple papers on topics related to wireless technologies. An active champion of STEM education, Navale volunteers as a programming coach and science fair mentor and judge. She is currently on the advisory board for the SciTech Institute and the Girls Innovation Academy to promote STEM education. She also champions diversity and inclusion efforts for NPG as part of the People First initiative.