In order for edge infrastructure to scale operationally and economically novel mechanisms and tools for managing services that are deployed across a fleet of edge cloud nodes. This is where the SMO or Service Management and Orchestration concept comes into play. Emerging frameworks from semiconductor, software, and increasingly OEMs are beginning to assume the important role of stitching together constellation of edge clouds.
Edge Service Management & Orchestration (SMO)
The topic of SMO frameworks have become popularized in the telecoms world largely due to O-RAN or the Open-RAN Alliance’s initiative to revamp some older SON or self-organizing network concepts infusing them with new layers of intelligent automation needed to manage and scale out an edge-native infrastructure.
The future of edge computing will have domain intersect with the telco networks. While the role and varieties of telcos are expected to diversify with new breeds of MVNOs and private network operators both industrial and enterprise, the new cloud-based edge infrastructure will have very close ties with the evolution of cellular networks toward 5G and beyond.
There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, the telco networks including the RAN are becoming software-defined and cloud-native.
Secondly, we are seeing the network, especially the 5G network infrastructure, become the first real edge cloud infrastructure. Specifically, the radio access network or RAN is making this edge cloud evolution thanks to MEC or Multi-Access edge computing.
Intelligent automation and zero touch operations
So why do we need SMO engines for edge-native computing?
The networks and the constellation of edge clouds will be challenging to manage manually. Intelligent automation is seen as a key to scaling out the network and edge infrastructure.
The radio access network is a great example of edge-native infrastructure evolution because managing distributed compute nodes across a RAN is super complicated. Many will argue, particularly network engineers, the RAN is the most technically challenge edge application implying the most demanding distributed computing architecture and infrastructure.
The network engineers are not wrong. The RAN and the technologies that go into are so advanced that they are driving the leading edge of the semiconductor industry. Consider the smartphone and the new breed of high-performance vRAN or virtual RAN edge servers. They use leading-edge chips manufactured with the most advanced process technology.
The 5G RAN is also driving innovation in advanced edge cloud service and assurance management and orchestration. The hope is to be able to introduce a level of automation that will help operators realize zero-touch operations, which is a big buzzword in the telco industry at the moment. This basically means your edge infrastructure is smart enough to run itself. No human intervention required. It will self-heal, self-optimize, self-manage, and self-operate itself.
This is the future of the edge-native computing.
What does this mean for the C-Suite?
SMO is a pretty technical concept. Most of the C-Suite won’t get it or care. The CIO should be concerned. Traditionally, CIOs don’t get too engaged with the technical aspects of the cellular and telco stuff. Most IT houses have outsourced their infrastructure competencies and have replace them with consultants and vendor managers. CIOs who are poised to own and manage an edge-native infrastructure will want to get up to speed on SMO concepts. A good first step may be to get a sense what the mobile operators and a growing number of edge cloud service providers are doing with SMO.
As IT and CT converge more and more, and cellular technologies and associated edge cloud computing become as much a telco thing as an enterprise or industrial IT/OT thing, CIOs are on notice. You can’t hide from this stuff much longer if you are.