There used to be a time not too long ago where the ‘cool’ gadgets to own were drones. Typically, these drones were about 12 inches long and were fairly lightweight. They were fun to operate around the neighborhood with the ability to fly up to about 200 feet in the sky and had a total flight time of around 10-15 minutes before they had to be recharged. Most of these drones also had a small camera attached that allowed me to take decent pictures of the neighborhood landscape.
Today, drones have become much more than a weekend hobby. The use of smart drones has enabled enterprises across multiple vertical segments to transform their operational models and offer new services. Within transportation and logistics, drones can carry cargo or payloads between sites, and just recently, Amazon has been exploring delivery of goods via drones.
Another use case for drones is monitoring and surveillance. Drones can be used to provide autonomous patrolling of a property, provide security for a specific geo-fenced area, or used to respond to alarms or emergencies in areas where a disaster or accident may have occurred. A great company that VMware is partnering with at MWC, Nightingale Security, provides drone security, or as the experts call it, Robotic Aerial Security (RAS). Nightingale Security is at the forefront of RAS, with capabilities to fly programmed, autonomous missions around a defined perimeter and help security teams lower response times, and gain invaluable insight into potential threats.
CSPs finding new revenues in the sky
So, what do drones have to do with Mobile World Congress, and specifically, how does VMware play a role in supporting drone services?
CSPs have the potential to provide a service, that will open up new opportunities are key to the deployment of drones. However, to be successful, CSPs need to rethink how they can transform their network architecture to support these new services.
Let’s take an example of mission critical drone flights. Drones are capturing hundreds of pictures, streaming ultra-HD videos, and collecting flight data and analytics that will need to be transmitted in real-time back to the base station. Each flight mission could potentially be sending hundreds of gigabits of data back to the base station over the mobile network. For CSPs, this requires a network that can process this data in real-time, can store this data, and in many instances also provide real-time analytics, so that the drone pilots can make decisions or react immediately to threats and emergencies.
For CSPs to successfully support these use cases, they need to ensure that these drones are operating on a network that provides ultra-low latency, ultra-high performance and be highly reliable.
5G, NFV, IoT, Network Slicing and Multi-Access Edge Computing
Yes, I just listed all the buzz words that we will be talking about non-stop at MWC. However, for CSPs to deliver a network that can provide the scale, reliability, performance and flexibility to support drones then they will have to check all of the above.
The promise of 5G networks is not just high data rates, spectral efficiency, ultra-low latency, or even supporting the massive number of devices connected to the network. The real value of 5G networks is to provide a platform that will deliver innovative applications and services and provide a flexible virtualized network environment, where they will have the ability to deploy an on-demand network offering tailored services to meet the unique use cases. 5G and NFV provides a flexible architecture that gives CSPs the ability to customize services tailored to the specific requirements of each service they deploy.
The concept of network slicing provides the ability to partition multiple virtual networks from a single network, providing optimal support for different types of services to serve multiple customer segments. The key benefit of network slicing is that CSPs can deploy a network slice that will provide the connectivity, high availability and reliability, along with tuning specific network parameters to support ultra-low latency requirements for a specific service. The other advantage with network slicing is ensuring complete security and isolation so that no other resource or outside threat can impact that network slice. Think again of the mission critical drone services that require flying missions securely and without any service interruption.
As discussed, drones will be generating a significant amount of data and HD video. In many cases, each flight mission can potentially send hundreds of gigabits over the mobile network.
However, delivering and processing hundreds of gigabits of data is not always feasible within the core data center, and could disrupt or degrade the quality of service for the drone mission. This is why CSPs require a Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) architecture that will allow them to rapidly process content at the very edge of the network (closer to the drone), delivering an experience that not only provides the ultra-responsiveness as demanded by drone services, but also will optimize operational efficiencies and reduce costs as it reduces the amount of data that would otherwise have to be backhauled to the core data center.
Flying drone missions
At VMware, we have partnered with Affirmed Networks and Globetouch, to highlight how CSPs can transform their networks and provide end-to-end global coverage providing global connectivity services for IoT devices and platforms.
We will be showing live drone missions, with actual drones flying in San Francisco, CA providing live HD video streams to our booth in Barcelona over the mobile network. Within a single demo, we are able to bring together all the capabilities of network slicing, Multi-Access Edge Computing, NFV and IoT, and show how CSPs can deliver new services, while delivering the highest Quality of Service levels in the network.
It will definitely be a great experience and we can’t wait to show the smartest eye in the sky!
VMware will be in Hall 3, Stand 3K10.