Transforming Enterprise IT
with On-Demand Connectivity

By: Ihab Mahna, David Pollington

Agility in the provision of cloud resources like AWS, GCP, and Azure and application development on mobile devices has created a multibillion-dollar consumer app business.

Modern enterprise apps targeting new revenue opportunities, cost efficiency, automation and resiliency now require similar agility, and not only from the cloud but also from connectivity.

In particular, the trend toward automation in Industry 4.0 sectors such as smart manufacturing, warehousing, mining, and ports is driving increased demand for connectivity that is high performance but also more configurable to support rapid application development and evolution.

Seeking the best of both worlds

Agility is required not only in defining and configuring connectivity to match a particular task, but also to be able to dynamically update the intent of connectivity to meet the transient app needs.

For example, in a manufacturing or warehouse environment, an enterprise might need a mixture of connectivity tailored to different groups of devices: ultra-reliable high bandwidth connectivity for controlling machinery on a production line, and high-density interconnectivity for a multitude of service robots, cobots, and autonomously operated forklift trucks.

Essentially, enterprises are seeking the best of both worlds—the functionality, performance, and reliability of 5G twinned with the flexibility, control, and ease of use that they’ve grown accustomed to with their existing Wi-Fi deployments and cloud services. One-size-fits-all over subscribed connectivity is no longer fit for this new type of enterprise application.

5G slicing and control

While a public 5G network may meet some of these needs with respect to high throughput and low latency, it’s essentially best effort with no quality of service (QoS) guarantees and no ability for the enterprise to stipulate and control the connectivity provided.

To address this shortfall, 5G introduces the notion of slices that enable the public 5G network resources to be segmented by the mobile network operator (MNO) to provide what is essentially a virtual network to the enterprise customer. These slices, however, are predefined and provide little flexibility for customization, and hence may be too constraining for some enterprises. The slices are also statically defined, whereas what many enterprises really want is an ability to control and manage their connectivity and QoS requirements on a more dynamic basis to map resources to an application or device as circumstances change (as in adaptive slicing). There is no way to adapt these slices without giving the application using it the control and automation tools to drive it. 

Advancing agility through 5G MPN

For 5G to be relevant and useful to enterprises, and especially for supporting a wide range of Industry 4.0 applications, it will be necessary to provide fine-grained control over slice configuration and management to ensure predictable performance and reliability matched to device and application needs, and an ability to make changes on the fly. In addition, the concept of slicing needs to expand end-to-end to include edge service, IoT services, Wi-Fi, and private LAN.  Some of these domains are administratively outside the scope of MNOs’ operations.

This can be achieved through the deployment of localized 5G infrastructure, dedicated to the enterprise application DevOps teams—in essence, a 5G mobile private network (MPN) on-premises that is owned and operated by the enterprise.

Not only does a 5G MPN give an enterprise more control and flexibility, but it also affords them higher levels of privacy and security by allowing them to operate their own infrastructure rather than sharing infrastructure within a public network. For some mission-critical applications, this is especially paramount, but for manufacturers in general, high security is a key driver for choosing an MPN over utilizing a public 5G network slice. Deploying private 5G is now the top priority of IT decision-makers in medium-sized enterprises according to a recent analysis by Technalysis Research. Additionally, 76 percent of manufacturers plan to deploy 5G MPNs by 2024, according to Accedian

Enterprises have a range of options open to them and the flexibility to decide whether to go with an MNO or managed services provider (MSP) that can fully design, deploy and configure the MPN for them (for instance, for school campuses), or a partner that simply builds and deploys the MPN infrastructure dimensioned to the enterprise’s requirements and leaves configuration to the enterprise to manage along with day-to-day operations (for example, in smart manufacturing, ports, mining, and so on).


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