SASE and Edge 5G and 6G Open Ecosystem

Reimagining the Edge with an Open Grid

VMware is pleased to congratulate Kaniz Mahdi, Vice President of Advanced Technologies, on being named among the “Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Technology” by the 2021 National Diversity & Leadership Conference. At VMware, Mahdi is responsible for crafting our long-term vision for tomorrow’s distributed edge. In this role, she explores some of the most challenging—and interesting—ideas that will define tomorrow’s digital experiences. As part of this work, she is spearheading VMware’s participation in the newly announced Open Grid Alliance.

In today’s technology landscape, all the action is happening at the edge: 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR/VR), connected vehicles, and so on and so forth. The list of interactive applications enabled by distributed edge computing keeps getting longer. And yet, when we look closely at many of them, we reach an unavoidable conclusion: There is no single location for the edge: It’s nowhere, but everywhere. 

To unleash transformative innovations at the edge, what we need is a fungible edge. One that stitches together the right level of compute resources, in the right place, at the right time, driven by the application’s intent. As exciting as emerging edge technologies from hyperscale cloud providers and telecommunications service providers might be, the truth of the matter is that it’s near impossible for one technology provider to deliver this vision; the edge is just too distributed, too dynamic, and too heterogenous for a singular service provider to tackle it all.

 A truly fungible edge is best delivered when stakeholders at all levels of the hardware and software stack work collaboratively to build the end construct. VMware is working with technology leaders across multiple industries to make this vision a reality, and it’s about to upend the way we think about the edge—and eventually the Internet itself.

The Case for the Open Grid

If you’ve read my recent blogs about the ATIS Next G Alliance and the work being done to prepare for 6G, you’ll notice a common theme: Today’s networks just can’t do some of the things we need it to do to unleash tomorrow’s most innovative applications. The Internet was designed for almost exactly the opposite of what those applications require. That is, it’s built from the inside out, with most intelligence delivered from huge, centralized data centers. But now, billions of things generating petabytes of data are pulling the Internet’s center of gravity to the edge.

These internet-connected things are not just the low power sensors of yesterday, these are the voice assistants of today, the robo genies of tomorrow, and highly interactive XR gadgets embedded in our automated lives of the near future.

In my 6G blog noted above, we introduced a stepwise plan for evolution of the edge by bridging the wireless, cloud and networking industries with an open ecosystem approach. This approach would enable the vastly interactive experiences of the 5G era while also paving a way for the fully immersive experiences being shaped by the fusion of XR with our daily lives. A quick recap of our stated ambition:

  1. Begin by virtualizing the data center to build a logical pool of adaptive compute resources spanning multiple geographies.
  2. Compliment this by virtualizing the networking to make the network invisible to the user.
  3. Next, virtualize the edge, bringing together disparate providers in a compute grid that provides just the right level of compute, in the right place, at the right time, driven by the application intent.
  4. With the compute grid in place, take on the more interesting challenge of virtualizing the control to enable universal autonomy with an ‘intelligence grid’, our ultimate ambition with the Open Grid.

This is a significant undertaking that is not possible with just one company, or one industry, or an academic institution. It will require deep collaboration across the wireless, cloud and networking industries in concert with industry ecosystems and the academia. To this end, we’re happy to announce the launch of the Open Grid Alliance.

Welcome to the Open Grid

The Open Grid will be a software-defined system that stretches across the globe to support multi-cloud services via fungible resources that are employed when and where they are needed, on demand, and with guarantees and SLAs. The Open Grid combines all of the necessary components to support the next generation of applications. It contemplates the complete stack, from the fiber in the ground to the AI and applications that deliver value to the end user.

The Open Grid Alliance brings together industry’s best and brightest to attack this problem. The alliance will advance a manifesto and a set of guiding principles for the formation of an Open Grid. This includes the basic infrastructure elements such as compute, connect, and store, but also the sophisticated time-sensitive capabilities needed for real-time sense and act. Crucially, this vision won’t involve just one provider’s technologies. It will combine many technologies and vendors working together in a neutral framework where all participants can benefit from their contributions, while individual stakeholders can innovate in unique and differentiated ways.  

An Analogy with the Electric Grid

You can think of the Open Grid as similar, in some ways, to the power grid.

In the power grid, energy is generated and transferred from many sources (wind, solar, traditional power plants, etc.). When you need electricity to turn on your light, you flip the switch, and the electric grid provides what you need. Meanwhile, the rest of the pooled energy – collected from many sources including consumers – remains available for other consumers to get what they need.

The Open Grid will bring the same approach to distributed edge computing. It will act as a neutral marketplace where diverse participants publish their available compute resources, as well as their services and requirements. Then, when a user or application needs those resources, the Open Grid will stitch them together dynamically and extend “one-hop” connectivity wherever it’s needed.

With the Open Grid, developers won’t have to worry about underlying infrastructure components. They’ll just express the application’s requirements, and the Open Grid will meet them. Consumers will get better services, since their applications can access far more available compute resources. Enterprises will get better distributed technical capabilities. And cloud and telecom service providers will gain new revenue streams as well as new tools to stitch together next-generation experiences for their customers.

Open Grid Experiences

What can you do with the Open Grid? The possibilities are limitless. Of course, it becomes much easier to access state-of-the-art compute capabilities anywhere and everywhere. This will be particularly important in places farthest away from major urban hubs, or in markets like Europe and the Middle East, where many more parties are involved in the infrastructure underpinning new services. But the Open Grid can do much more.

There are new technologies emerging which create massive distributed digital representations of the physical world. Effectively, the Open Grid becomes the plumbing for ubiquitous, highly accurate global real-time AR experiences. Or, more prosaically, imagine a next-generation sports stadium that offers state-of-the-art digital experiences for tens of thousands of spectators—at least, on gameday. What happens to all those edge resources on the many days of the month when the stadium sits empty? With the Open Grid, that spare edge compute capacity can be reallocated, even as the system ensures the stadium always has the guaranteed resources it needs.  

Stay Tuned

We’re just at the beginning of the Open Grid journey. Given the hidden complexities of systems at hand, and the breadth of scope, this initiative is likely to unfold over many years, but it’s starting right now.

Today, VMware joined with Vapor IO, Dell, Drivenets, MobiledgeX, and Packet Fabric to officially launch the Open Grid Alliance. We’re taking concrete steps to reimagine the edge and unleash the next generation of immersive experiences with the Open Grid, and we’re hoping you’ll join us for the journey.

Be sure to learn more by reading the press release and visiting


  • TITLE – Building the Open Grid
  • DATE/TIME – April 27, 2021 | 10:00AM CT – 10:45AM
  • Cole Crawford, Founder & CEO of Vapor IO, and myself, Kaniz Mahdi, Vice President Advanced Technologies of VMware, discuss our vision for the Grid, the founding of the Open Grid Alliance, and the applications that Grid technologies and the Grid ecosystem will enable. 



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