Lenovo, Cellnex and Nearby Computing Deliver Edge Solutions for Mobile Operators

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  June 17, 2020

Edge computing is evolving rapidly, partly because of ongoing improvements in the underlying technologies and partly because our understanding of what it takes to develop and deliver successful solutions continues to mature. That is especially true in the case of emerging commercial applications, like the next gen video processing that is central to emerging 5G mobile applications, like those that support entertainment events and initiatives for smart cities and communities.

For those reasons, the recent edge computing announcement from Lenovo, Cellnex and Nearby Computing is well-worth considering. The trio’s new offering maximizes the experience and contributions of all three companies, resulting in a valuable solution for mobile operators and enterprises leveraging mobile infrastructures. Let’s look at what Lenovo and its partners are up to.

The problem and promise of edge computing

Why are so many vendors and their customers focusing on computing on the network edge? Because it can help overcome some particularly thorny IT complexity and cost issues. Organizations are gleaning increasingly massive volumes of data from far flung locations, remote sensors and vehicles and people in transit. Those resources are potentially valuable but moving vast chunks of information to data centers on premises or in public clouds is both difficult and expensive, resulting in high bandwidth and backhauling costs.

Edge computing can resolve those issues by performing essential data collection, sorting and analytics tasks, then sending along far more compact files for further analysis and resolution. Sounds great, right? But it’s harder than it seems. Edge computing facilities are usually cramped for space and are often located far away from deployment, support and maintenance personnel.

As a result, successful edge solutions are typically designed from the get-go for specific use cases, feature highly compact form factors and robust hardware components, and can be effectively orchestrated and managed from afar.

How Lenovo, Cellnex and Nearby approach the edge

Lenovo, Cellnex and Nearby have overcome these challenges in a jointly developed converged edge solution that combines and maximizes the companies’ expertise and innovative technologies.

The new offering is designed to enable the mobile operator customers that Cellnex works with in Spain, Italy, Netherlands, France, Switzerland, the UK, Ireland and Portugal to capture lower total cost of ownership (TCO) while also supporting new visual use cases for vertical segments and consumer markets. The offering can be customized and optimized for location-specific requirements across edge of network environments. In addition, it is highly scalable and can be configured for deployments covering wide or smaller areas.

The new solution is based on Lenovo’s ThinkSystem SE350, an edge-specific server with innovative security features that the company introduced last August. The SE350 is highly compact and far narrower and shallower than conventional 1U servers. Systems leverage Intel’s Xeon-D CPUs, and can be configured with up to 16 cores, 256GB of RAM and 16TB of internal solid-state storage. The SE350 also supports NVIDIA Tesla T4 GPUs for performing Edge Inferencing and AI functions. When combined with Lenovo Open Cloud Automation (LOC-A) (discussed in this Pund-IT commentary), customers can easily integrate their SE350 edge workloads with both VMware and Red Hat-based clouds, and automate the end-to-end management of those environments.

The new offering incorporates Nearby Computing’s orchestration for edge computing solutions, including node provisioning, application onboarding and lifecycle management. The three companies also worked closely with Intel to architect the new offering in a modular and flexible way. The solution leverages the Intel distribution of the OpenVINO toolkit for AI inferencing, and the companies also plan to adopt Intel’s OpenNESS (Open Networks Edge Services Software) which abstracts network complexity and simplifies developer tasks for incorporating network-as-a-service capabilities.

Final analysis

Due to its inherent variables, edge of network computing is well-suited to strategic partnerships. Working with partners that are intimately acquainted with the requirements of a given use case and the needs of customers in specific industries and markets can significantly reduce risk and increase the likelihood of a joint project’s success.

That is exactly what Lenovo has done by joining forces with Cellnex and Nearby Computing. Working together, along with an assist from Intel, should result in a solution that meets the discrete requirements of Cellnex’s mobile operator customers. At the same time, this solution and the partnership behind it underscore the value of Lenovo’s investments in edge computing and the ThinkSystem SE350. This latest effort clearly qualifies as a feather in Lenovo’s edge-of-network computing cap, but it certainly won’t be the last.

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