By: David Tennenhouse & Kaniz Mahdi
As our world grows more interconnected, we are at the precipice of a new chapter in digital technology. The ever-increasing fusion of mass-scale connectivity, artificial intelligence, and autonomous machines will enable digital experiences unlike anything we’ve seen before. To get there though, we will need a different breed of communication networks than exists today. One that’s smarter, more reliable, and more secure. A network that can re-architect itself on the fly to adapt to newly discovered threats and constantly evolving needs.
VMware is excited to partner with the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Defense (DoD) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on a historic Public Private Partnership that brings together technology leaders from cloud, networking and wireless industries to shape this next chapter of networking evolution. Resilient and Intelligent Next-Generation Systems (RINGS), is an industry first initiative that takes a multi-sector, multi-disciplinary approach to building the foundation for the future of communications. It is expected to provide $40 million in grants for advanced studies guided by multi-dimensional research vectors targeting various facets of this foundation.
These research vectors range from advancement of enabling technologies, such as terra-hertz communication, to embedded security, resiliency and scalability of the underpinning edge to cloud continuum, and discovery of new applications paradigms taking shape with the evolution of XR, such as the spatial web.
A Focus on Resiliency
As we move from 5G, to 6G and beyond, communications services will grow more tightly intertwined into our daily lives. As they do, it will become ever more important that these services are reliable and secure. One of the core goals of RINGS is to inspire innovation to drastically reduce the vulnerable attack surface of our critical systems. Indeed, while most current systems are built for performance first, resiliency second, RINGS will invert this inside-out model.
This philosophical shift aligns with VMware’s own vision for NextG, which we believe requires a different approach than those used in past generations. In fact, we recently launched the Open Grid Alliance, with our industry partners, which focuses on the need to rearchitect the internet from the outside-in, as opposed to the inside-out. We have long argued that resiliency cannot be bolted on after the fact. Rather, it must be a product of the security, adaptability, autonomy, and reliability that systems are baked in from the ground up – intrinsic security, software-defined control, and dynamic automation are the bedrock of our service provider portfolio. By entrenching these principles at the core of NextG innovation, RINGS will not only help create more secure communications networks, but it will also ensure the ease of continued growth and innovation for tomorrow’s services.
We believe the key to improving resiliency is virtualization (see Kaniz’s recent blog on the topic). It is virtualization, after all, that abstracts away the complexities of heterogeneous underlying technologies and allows us to unify disparate services within a cohesive whole. Inside NextG systems, virtualization enables adaptation, federation, and optimization of heterogeneous elements to improve network resiliency and performance.
A Focus on Intelligence
As global communication networks evolve through 5G, 6G and beyond, the number of connections will increase exponentially. The network will need to become increasingly distributed to enable new services that are more customized and on-demand. At the same time, to deliver these next-generation services, networks will need to operate not just holistically but collectively. To this end, the RINGS calls for cooperative research innovation and which will most likely lead to the importance of open standards – critical pieces to enable universally autonomous networks.
The foundation of universal autonomy is intelligence—and not just intelligence that lives in a centralized data center or cloud, but intelligence that can be distributed anywhere and everywhere. It is this distributed intelligence that will allow us to bridge the gap between physical and digital worlds. It will enable us to progress from today’s networks, which are optimized for human-to-human and human-to-machine connections, to ones that facilitate autonomous machine-to-machine communication at massive scales. Across networks, clouds, and geographies, NextG systems will autonomously distribute intelligence everywhere, all the way to the user, to enable highly interactive immersive experiences merging digital and physical worlds.
Ready to Engage?
As we lay the groundwork for unprecedented digital experiences of tomorrow, there has never been a more exciting time to be in the communications industry. If you would like to participate in shaping the next generation of communication networks, RINGS has issued its first call for proposals from the research community. Visit now to apply for grants, which are expected to be issued in early 2022. The NSF will also hold a webinar on RINGS for researchers who are interested in applying on May 27, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Pacific. Check back here for the registration link, which will be posted as soon as it is available.